Dr. Dennis Bright: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 March 2021:
The news in Sierra Leone today is dominated by allegations and counter-allegations of big time corruption in high places. Meanwhile the ordinary man or woman in this country continues to suffer big time from the rising cost of living and an income that is either standing still or even falling.
People are more concerned about finding the basic things for the family to survive than about the “egregious” corruption by big political personalities that is rocking the State at this time.
Since 2018, the National Grand Coalition party (NGC) has been insisting on the need for Government to pay attention to the issue of hardship in the country and the increasing number of families who are going without food due to the galloping prices of basic foodstuffs.
One senior personality in Government described our action in bringing this up as “mere politics”; almost as if we were inventing a problem that does not exist. Others would simply brush it aside because, as they say, hardship was not created by them, and they would recite the number of plans they have, the school fees that government is paying, the corruption that they are fighting and the unfairness of critics who they say do not appreciate the strides they are making.
This Government has gone stone deaf; and they just cannot see that people are starving!!! As we have been doing before, today we return to the market, and compare the prices of basic food items since 2018.
This is not beef steak and chips, chicken nuggets, shrimp cocktail, barracuda steak, lobsters and great Californian wine that successful people swallow every day in beach restaurants and hangouts. This is garri, rice, bonga, palm oil, plassas, maggi, items that Mammy Fatu needs to put a small pot of soup together so that her children or grandchildren will not starve.
Everything has gone up in prices. And since 2018 the lowest increase has been the price of garri (40% increase) whereas the highest is the price of pepper which increased by 471%.
Another striking aspect is that apart from the case of palm oil, it is cheaper to buy large quantities than in small units which is what the majority of poor people can afford and which cost more. For instance, whereas the price of rice per bag increased by 53%, the price of a cup of rice increased by 67%.
Similarly, the price of a bag of onions between 2018 and 2021 increased by 75% but the price of one onion for the same period increased by 100%. It can be argued of course that this is the normal difference between wholesale and retail but it seems as if the poorer you are the more expensive life becomes for you.
Throughout this period, one indicator of improved income is the rise in the minimum wage from Le 500,000.00 to Le 600,000.00. But this increase is only 20% and does not even match the lowest price increase of 40%, which is for garri.
The situation is serious. In a single income family of four (Papa, Mama and two children) earning the minimum wage, survival is a miracle. If they cook rice and soup at home costing approximately Le 40,000 per day the wage will last for only 15 days. They will have to resort to cookery and if each family member eats only a plate of cookery per day, the monthly bill for food alone will be Le 620,000.00 that is Le 20,000 more than the monthly income.
And yet these people need clothes to cover their naked ness; they have the landlord on their backs all the time; they need transport to go to work or to school; they need light; the whole family is thrown into panic when someone is sick and needs to be taken to the hospital; the family must provide school uniforms for the children and lunch.
The “Hands off our girls” project is crumbling due to the economic situation wherein mothers and daughters are forced to do shameful things while fathers look away helplessly because they do not have the means to protect their dignity.
It is in this same country that we hear about hundreds of millions of leones being spent on furniture, travels, coffee and hosting fine ladies! It is in this same country that we hear of 1.748 billion leones being spent for media and event promotion services. In this country, where a total sum of 3.116 billion leones could be spent on a two-day launching program.
And as children of the poor continue to struggle for food, I ask the question: where is our conscience? What has happened to us?
I am just returning from a trip to the provinces. This time I spent the night not in a big town or city guest house or hotel, but in the bedroom of a peasant in a village who was so happy to offer me hospitality in his “home”. What I saw there was deprivation, emptiness and a lack of hope. They are totally forgotten by the rest of us who hail from those parts but who have completely abandoned them to their condition.
When we go up there, we do not really visit them, we barely see them, and we only wait for the experience to end and return back home to Hill Station or Spur Loop or Adonkia, to wash ourselves clean of the dirt. When they die unnecessary deaths due to lack of basic health care, we will send kassankay or even attend the funeral so that the people will see us and say that we “are with them”.
The fact is this: we do not love our tribesmen, we hate them and make sure that they stay poor so that we can use them to elect us to the high places. They starve while we choke with the good things of life. But our poor countrymen and women still believe in God, they go regularly to the mosques or chapels, and they pray.
Someday, the suffering we have abandoned them to will become a curse upon all those who neglect them while promising to make their lives better. God day!!! The NGC is not proposing solutions anymore.
All we have been suggesting to the Government has been treated with royal contempt by people who think that only they know how to run this country. So, while they move, we sit with our people, and wait!
About the author
Dr. Dennis Bright is Chairman and Leader of opposition NGC party in Sierra Leone.
Thanks to the National Grand Coalition for the survey. Sierra Leoneans are really in a state of deprivation. The issue of food security is very important for peace to prevail in any nation. When people are in constant deprivation, there is every tendencies for conflict to prevail. As a nation we should not neglect good security.
Maybe I should be worried about other parties but not NGC party. I personally believe that their leader KKY has regretted it. I can’t even imagine, KKY will depart SLPP because of an ordinary nomination. I believe if his late father the real late Honorable YumKela was alive today this won’t happen. He was looking for leadership now he has one, leader of NGC period. I don’t believe this man would allow APC to use him to attack SLPP just because he doesn’t like Bio. A man with potential to become a future leader has almost destroyed everything. If KKY knows and understands how APC blames him for losing the 2018 polls, he will keep far from them. Attacking SLPP won’t solve your problem, instead increases it more.
Pontificating about our nation’s economic woes and blaming market forces alone for them may have its merits and may come across as an impressive analytical piece. The problem though is that we are talking here about a country where those currently in power are as Dr Bright rightly puts it, stone deaf, cocksure of their own omniscience and infallibility and thus incapable of accepting well-meaning criticism and only too ready to dismiss such criticism as partisan nonsense.
Furthermore, these are politicians (including the very leader and his wife) who are being accused and perhaps not without justification, of lining their depthless pockets at the expense of the rest of us. I would have thought that any sound economic commentary worth its name would recognise how the impersonal law of demand and supply and the impersonal forces of economic globalism and our corrupt political leaders’ financial vapirism intersect and intertwine to create a decidedly unlivable economic climate for our people.
To sweep under the carpet Bio and his government growing ever fatter at our expense and blame instead everything on faceless economic laws and forces is to be unforgivably disingenuous. Believe it or not, at the very centre of our economic difficulties is human agency: the distinct and identifiable faces of those in government and their distinctly and identifiably egregious self-seeking and self-serving ways.
Bwahahaha – I have never laughed so hard in my life after reading a comment anywhere; Now here comes another SLPP sympathiser that has been able to craft his own Economic theories overnight that he believes are the principal reasons why millions of our hungry people are languishing in abject poverty today.(lol) He failed or should I say deliberately opted not to mention the rampant thefts currently going on with the support and approval of State House,and forgot also to mention how much a renegade Gold digger has now stolen from us. Answer – What role exactly did the stupefying incompetence of officials in your confused SLPP government play in all this drama our people are going through currently?
Alright, its time to bring out the Sledge hammer – Wherever Priorities are not put in perfect order and there are no coherent policies for achieving success Poverty in its most abject forms like what can be seen everywhere in our little Sierra Leone is the eventual result – all those superficial excuses about change in lifestyles,shift in peoples expectations and increases in demand and the sizes of the population are flimsy,I’ll conceived and shockingly immature.(lmao)
“To be at peace is to be empty of all desires”. The law of demand and supply is what is seriously affecting our society today. Relatively, as demand for social needs increases and the means of getting the necessary resources are scarce, it results to what people called hardship. Years back, a large population of people were contemptuous of the state they find themselves.Today due to awareness and modern technology, a large number of our population wants to live a better standard than their ancestors used to live before. And the means of matching this paradigm shift is not well structured in our society. Before we used to find so many thatched houses in our villages, but in recent times people are building houses with corrugated zinc. Before we used to have so many zinc(pan body)houses and board houses in our cities, but now every one is building modern houses.
Before we used to hear of poor teacher, poor farmer, poor Nurse, poor civil servants and more. But now, everyone is aware of the growing trend of advancement and want to upgrade their status with it. So what will you expect – hike in prices of food commodities by farmer and improper practices in work places and services. So when the farmer raise the price on food commodities, he is doing so to advance himself by meeting the growing demand of building a house with corrugated zinc, help finance the education of his children, buy Okada or car for himself. Similarly so, the teacher will want to build his own house before he gets retired and if lucky gets his own car. Likewise the nurse and other civil servants. When all these factors are put together you begin to realize why people of our days find life very unfair. Some people have chosen to be politicians and it has paid off.
Another thing to note is globalization. Before, the consumption of some of our locally produced stuff like garri, palm oil, fish and more was only in demand by ourselves. When our country people starts realizing that garri is eaten more by our neighbors than us,demand and supply increases from the opposite direction while price get hiked. Likewise palm oil and fish. If the quantities demanded are high and the means of getting the supply is low, you expect scarcity. Thus the higher the quantities demanded the higher the price and as the quantity demanded decreases the lower the price. Can we say it is the cause of government? Sierra Leone is just a country name, but I want to put it clear that we as citizens are the people that make up Sierra Leone. If we want to help solve this problem, it is high time for us to increase our production so as to be sufficiently stable for our growing population.
Its only right the opposition National Grand coalition party, call on the government to pay closer attention to the rising cost of food items, and food insecurity in the country. As Dr Denise Bright, alluded to, some senior member of this failing government suggested, by raising the issue of the rising cost of the standard of living in the country, and how struggling families are increasingly facing financial difficulties, this out of touch politician merely felt raising the issues,by Dr Bright was trying to play party politics.And this out of touch sentiments by this individual, has always been the automatic default in every topic discussed in our country. Its never about the issues that affect our lives, but the politics of the issues that affect the outcome of the political debate in the country.
You can’t divorce politics from the bread and butter issues that affect people’s lives. Politics is the main driver of change in society since the year zero. And societies are the main drivers of politics in their lives. The ability to choose their leaders, either by consent or violent means. We pray Sierra Leone stick with the former. There was a time when Conservative commentators use to say we don’t need big government. That they should be cut to a small size. But one thing Covid19 has taught the world, government intervention is a necessary evil to maintain peace and stability in society. Food security is a national security threat. Thats one of the reasons given by Doe when he overthrew the Tolbert government in Monrovia on the 12th April 1980.A hungry man is an angry man. So Bio should pay heed to the NGC Party advice.
I suppose that individual that made those outrageous remarks, doesn’t have to wake up worrying about how to feed his family. Or scratching his head, and wondering whether he’s got a job to go to or not.Or hustling in PZ or Lummley Beach, with little or no income at day’s end. And this unfortunately is the reality and mindset of our socalled political representatives in Sierra Leone. They don’t have a clue about how majority of the country’s population is living.As long as they and their families are comfortable, the rest of us can walk to the Atlantic ocean, they will not stop us. Reducing food insecurity, in the middle of this pandemic, requires government support for our local famers, and also encouraging people to make use of their small plot of land to grow Pepper and cassava, two of the items that have seen a massive increase in the food items index.
Temper…Temper – Dr Bright I understand your frustration but for you to throw in the towel at this critical moment when the stakes are very high, in my view is a totally impractical thing for you to do. It is only going to make matters worse. Who are the struggling,poor masses going to turn to when they need a prudent voice like yours on their side against the mindless arrogance,greed and cruelty of a self centred SLPP government? Withholding your pragmatic advice at this point when things are crumbling like sandcastles is not a wise thing to do.
Let me quickly remind you and others in position of authority and influence Sir that we are fast approaching the moment of Truth;The final round in a decisive fight with remorseless SLPP leaders that have now brazenly put on full display their impulsive rapacious appetite for material riches. This is not the time to cut your losses and run but a moment to summon enough courage to dig deeper and deeper in the trenches of political warfare in a gallant attempt to salvage and manage whatever is left of the quivering,failing soul of our Sierra Leone. And you must remember in order to safeguard the interests of our Sierra Leone the voice of the NGC must be heard from the peaks of mountains,and the depths of dark valleys as clear and as profound as a Trumpet signalling the beginning and the end of War.