Amin Kef Sesay: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2022:
Yesterday, 4th April 2022, marked four years since President Bio and his government took office in Sierra Leone. With the economy in bad shape due largely to both internal governance and financial management issues and international economic factors outside of the control of the Government, there are fundamental development issues that should fully engage the mind and energy of the Government going forward.
The most pressing issue is the resetting of policies and strategies for real transformation in economic policy responses towards protecting and improving livelihoods for the growing population of young people and women in the informal sector; investing in education and skills development, and infrastructure as the foundation for sustained economic growth and social progress in the years to come.
Second is how to correct the long-standing weaknesses in the fundamentals of the national economy which since 2020 have become more complex.
The less-than-ideal trends in per capita income, consumer price inflation, foreign direct investment, current account deficit and the debt-to-GDP ratio show a government moving gradually towards bankruptcy if not robustly and dynamically addressed.
The full impact of COVID-related disruptions to key global supply chains, rising interest rates and liquidity crisis in major economies are being felt in Sierra Leone in terms of a huge fiscal squeeze, fuel price increase, high levels of food insecurity, youth unemployment and multidimensional poverty.
Revenue and economic growth forecasts in the 2022 budget and expectations of a more positive macroeconomic outlook in the medium term have been adjusted downwards.
Against this canvass, Government has no choice but to institute severe austerity measures and to do a lot more to eliminate inefficiencies and gaps in the allocation and management of public finances.
What Sierra Leone’s key political actors do this year will determine whether the country successfully hold elections in 2023 in a manner that helps to advance the process of democratic consolidation in the ensuing years.
Since 2018, we have seen evidence of ‘tit-for-tat’ rather than ‘give-and-take’ politics, to the detriment of accelerated pursuit of the nation’s development priorities.
Protagonists across political divides and political leaders of all shades at the national, regional, district, and community levels must always remember that two wrongs do not make a right and an eye for an eye leaves both parties blind.
As the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said in his 2022 New Year’s Day message: “Moments of great difficulty are also moments of great opportunity to come together in solidarity; to unite behind solutions that can benefit all people and to move forward — together — with hope in what our human family can accomplish.”
Thus, all Sierra Leoneans should work for the country’s unity, peace, freedom, and prosperity and put her interest above all else.
Under the letter and spirit of the setting up by this Government of the National Commission for Peace and Cohesion, there should be seen a recommitment to genuine dialogue between the leaders of the ruling party and the main opposition parties to address unresolved political grievances.
Political parties cannot continue to merely function as vehicles for winning elections. To grow peacefully and inclusively, the country must move towards a path of inclusive politics that builds bridges across ethnic, regional, gender, generational and disability status divides.
As representatives of the people from all corners of the country, traditional leaders, MPs, civil society, and the media must endeavor to serve as major contributors to the shaping of socio-economic policies and governance processes to help deliver enhanced life chances to all citizens as dividends of democracy. Continued failure to do so will continue to weaken public trust in democracy and State institutions.
Critically, the way party politics is played must be reviewed from the ruling party’s point of view, if governance of the State is to be inclusive of opposition views, opinions and contributions.