PUAWUI DR SAMA BANYA: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2019:
I am not an economist. The nearest that I dabbled in the economy of Sierra Leone was when I was Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in the One Party government of the then President Siaka Stevens.
I lasted for a year but mercifully I left with my chin up and a smile on my face. In my school days, the Prince of Wales school was the only institution that offered sixth form subjects in the country. Even at that it was only in Science subjects which again were taught only by the same great school.
It was not strange that for us who planned to be medical doctors or engineers the practice was to enter the Prince Of Wales School after the Cambridge School Certificate examination. We all flocked to King Tom where for a long time one man, Pa Constance Tuboku-Metzer taught almost all the science subjects. (Photo: Dr Sama Banya).
He was dedicated, and it was great fun to watch him demonstrate “Simple Harmonic Motion,” a “To and Fro motion.” Still we gazed and still we wondered how one head should carry all that we knew!
In order to certify the requirements for a Pass or credit in the examination, one was required to satisfy the Cambridge examiners in a General Paper as well as in The Principles of Economics as subsidiary subjects. That was the extent to which I and my contemporaries dabbled in Economics.
Our currency – the LEONE began its downward slide against the United States dollar towards the end of last year. The erstwhile government of President Koroma had in their view done everything to shore up the economy but it became a daunting task.
As if in an act of desperation, the Finance Minister introduced what was supposed to be an austerity budget. Among the measures was a moratorium on spending, on new recruitment into the public service, etc.
But the measures were not worth the paper on which they were printed. In hindsight it was business as before, because as far as the APC ministers and their cronies were concerned the measures only applied to the rest of us.
One only needs to read Lara Taylor-Pearce’s annual audit reports which continued to be treated with absolute disdain.
While the government was screaming about moratorium on recruitment it had surreptitiously brought through the back door some thirty recruits into the Foreign Service, and with no reference to the Public Service Commission.
By the time the Bio administration took over the reins of government, not only was the kitty empty but the new government inherited an almost insurmountable external as well as internal debt burden.
This, the government is now valiantly trying to unburden and at the same time carry out much needed and much applauded development strides in education, health, infrastructure, etc.
While this is going on APC and their followers came up with what they hoped would be an embarrassment to the new administration. Yes, their slogan was “di gron don dry,” meaning that the kitty was empty and there was nothing on which people would rely.
From the general response, whoever coined the expression must be walking around with their head down.
A regular APC apologist – Mohamed One Drop, or is it Two drops made a ridicule of the state of the economy and of the free fall of the Leone in particular. Of course the Leone continues to depreciate against a generally weak United States dollar. Are we in a kind of quagmire? And if so what is the solution?
First it must be admitted that in Professor Kelfala Kallon the Bank Governor and J J Saffa the Minister of Finance (Photo), one is bold to state that the economy is in the hands of two knowledgeable, efficient and reliable individuals.
They may themselves be wondering “What Next?”. Here comes Puawui the aging fool who is daring to tread where angels are keeping off. In the first place my own suggestions are not wholly original.
Over the years I have been close friends of business people, mainly importers but also some exporters of our produce and minerals. I have always maintained my friendship regardless of my status and they and I have frank discussions on many subjects, but especially on the current state of the economy.
From those exchanges my advice to both our financial gurus is to resist any temptation to increase taxes. Samuel Jibao and Jeneba Sillah-Bangura are you with your uncle?
Such a step may prove to be counterproductive and to benefit mostly smugglers. On the contrary, the government should take the bold step to impose a thirty percent duty on the export of iron ore, cocoa and coffee, rutile and bauxite, yes fish products, etc.
What a real bonanza that would bring. Just think about it.