John Baimba Sesay
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 May 2014
Removed from governance some seven years ago, it is just normal to image how the opposition may be trying to negatively portray the workings and successes of the Government in the most untruthful manner.
For them, since President Koroma and his Government were elected, nothing is happening.
A new trend has been manufactured – taking their mendacious propaganda on cyber space, though with indications of a broken house from within.
Come to think of it, it would appear a fractured opposition trying to seek the attention of the populace, in the midst of tremendous and tangible developments, spearheaded by the current administration of President Koroma.
Don’t get me wrong. I know, in a democracy, all stakeholders have a critical role to play. These include, but not limited to civil society groups as well as political parties.
In fact, opposition parties are expected to play a constructive role, by not simply criticizing, or out rightly undermining Government’s work, but putting forward better alternatives or suggestions to challenging issues.
President Koroma inherited a literally broken nation. From its economy, to infrastructure, fight against corruption to youth unemployment, Sierra Leone was on the brink.
But since 2007, there has been the herculean task of meeting a plethora of challenges, the ones listed above not being least.
Elected on a platform of ‘Change’, the Government was committed to meeting the goals outlined in the ‘Change’ trajectory.
Take agriculture for instance. By 2007, the state of agriculture was one requiring instantaneous consideration, especially for a country where the sector accounts for over 45% of her Gross Domestic Product; employing over two-thirds of the population, and generating about a quarter of total export income.
There also, was a clear paradoxical situation. Food security was the then Government’s driving mantra, given a pledge made by former President Tejan Kabbah on 19th May, 2002: “to work even harder to ensure that by 2007 no Sierra Leonean goes to bed hungry.”
In a rather ridiculous and contradictory position, the budgetary allocation for the sector was a paltry 1.6%. That itself, was unthinkable.
President Koroma and his Government came and mapped out a clear vision of working towards making the sector the ‘engine’ for socio-economic growth and development.
This was achieved through the commercialization of agriculture and the promotion of the private sector. As a result, the sector has today continued to make strides in meeting present day needs of the people.
The Government also ensured an increased budgetary allocation to the sector from a derisory 1.6% in 2007 to over 10%.
There is the prioritization of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) as an investment plan, aimed at kick-starting the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme (NSADP).
Also, Government, as part of its effort to improve farmers’ access to financial services, constructed and equipped additional Financial Services Associations (FSAs or Village Banks) across the country.
The health sector saw some new initiatives, with the introduction of the Free Health Care Initiative for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age five in April of 2010, amongst other measures by Government, aimed at improving the health sector.
There also has been the active participation of the private sector in the transformation process of the country.
By 2010, President Koroma underscored that his Government was “underpinning the success of our Agenda for Change through strong partnerships with the private sector”.
Government then ensured private sector development was placed at the centre of the country’s transformation drive. What followed was the implementation of a robust private sector participation in the country’s economy.
This then resulted in the formulation of a National Private Sector Development Strategy; development of a National Export Strategy; privatization of the Freetown Port aimed at realizing its modernization, ensuring an improved turn-round in terms of ships, and decrease in freight and insurance costs.
A Public Private Partnership Unit in the office of the President has been established to assist MDAs in structuring and negotiating agreements.
Infrastructure is another key governance success of this government. A developed infrastructure helps in ensuring economic growth. Good roads lead to improved agricultural productivity. So far, Sierra Leone is on track with the following development:
Reconstruction work on the Lumley-Tokeh Road (21Km); the Freetown-Conakry Highway (86Km), consisting of the Rogbere – Pamlap road (78km;Pamlap – Faremoryah road (8km) reconstructed with a new common border post between Sierra Leone and Guinea, at Pamlap.
The reconstruction of the Lungi – Port Loko Road (62Km) and 30 Km of feeder roads in the Lungi township; the recently commissioned Regent-Grafton Road; coupled with ongoing mobilization of resources for the construction of the Mamamah Airport, expected to commence soon.
The democratic credentials of the Government and President are as outstanding as the President’s desire to see Sierra Leone on top of the apex of development.
His legacies and achievements shall form the bases upon which a fresh mandate will be sought from Sierra Leoneans by the governing party in 2018.
His commitment towards leaving a working decentralization process is laudable and should be commended.
However, we cannot overemphasize the fact, that as a nation, we have not reached our desired target. There are challenges, and this, the President knows.
Thus, in his blueprint for national development – the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, he recognized these challenges, and has designed the AfP “for Sierra Leone to overcome challenges to its economic development; the relatively undiversified nature of the economy, with high unemployment; a recent rate of economic growth which is too low to have the desired impact on poverty; potential external shocks such as inflationary pressures from international food and fuel prices; potential fluctuations in international prices of commodity exports; the possibility of “Dutch Disease”, that is distortion to the economy caused by an appreciating exchange rate due to earnings from commodity exports; high domestic debt; and low domestic revenues.”
The President’s vision is to take the country to a middle-income country by 2035, thereby becoming a nation that “would have gender equality, a well-educated, healthy population, good governance and rule of law, well-developed infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, with private-sector, export-led growth generating wide employment opportunities; there would be good environmental protection, and responsible natural resource exploitation”
These countless gains notwithstanding, there are a few who just think, nothing is happening in Sierra Leone.
They do this to score political points, but it is a gimmick that won’t work. Sierra Leoneans are not shaken; they are not moved by the propaganda that is being dished out.