‘People losing patience as economic hardship worsens’ – opposition NGC tells president Bio to change course

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 November 2019:

As concerns grow across the country about the state of the economy of Sierra Leone, with rising food prices and falling value of the Leone, the executives of Sierra Leone’s opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party, has today broken silence.

This morning the NGC National Secretariat held its first monthly press briefing at the party’s Headquarters in Freetown. According to the party, “this is the first in a series of press briefing designed to address issues that are affecting the common man”.

Today’s briefing, the party’s executives said, focuses on “hardship in Sierra Leone. We will be exposing the extent to which things have deteriorated in the past nineteen months and how life has become unbearable for the common man”.

After speaking to the media this morning, the Chairman of the NGC – Dennis Bright, issued a statement. This is what it says:

In 2018, the National Grand Coalition party (NGC) contested the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections in almost every corner of our country, Sierra Leone. By virtue of votes cast, the NGC stands as the third largest party in Sierra Leone with four seats in Parliament, one District Council Chairman and 19 elected councillors in Kambia, Koinadugu and Falaba districts.

Since the conclusion of the elections the NGC has been pursuing its unique style of constructive opposition. We have been supporting those policies of Government that we consider as being in the best interest of the country and opposing the negative policies and actions that may adversely affect the people of this country. We will continue to do so as this is in line with our guiding principle of putting our “Country First” in whatever we say or do.

We are here to announce to you today a new phase in our work, as an opposition party that is committed to defending the interests of the millions of voiceless people who continue to suffer in poverty.

According to the Sierra Leone Constitution political parties are established “to participate in shaping the political will of the people, to disseminate information on political ideas, and social and economic programmes of a national character…” In keeping with this purpose the NGC therefore intends to engage the press every month on critical issues and problems affecting the daily lives of the common man.

Three out of every five Sierra Leoneans today are living below the poverty line and this is the result of many years of decline, mainly due to mismanagement, corruption and bad governance. What we the political leaders need to understand is that the great call for change that we heard from the people in the 2018 election was not merely for a change of Government but for a change from the hardship they have endured for so long.

What we the political leaders need to understand is that the people are losing patience and we can no longer pretend that all is well. Hardship for the common man and woman in Sierra Leone today is not imaginary it is real. (Photo: President Bio launching his Innovation and Digitalisation Strategy last week).

It is true that the problems started long before the current regime came to power some nineteen months ago. However things are getting worse and at a rate that is becoming frightening.

There is a déjà-vu school of thought which holds that all that is happening today is not new and that with time things will work out as they have always done in the past. Perhaps they always do until they don’t.

Currently there is a wave of civil uprising, violent protests and demonstrations against Governments and political establishments that is spreading from continent to continent: Hong Kong, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Haiti, Egypt, Sudan and Guinea.

Is the misery of our people as well as their exposure to external forces at a point where they can be influenced by this global trend through the impact of the internet and social media? It is difficult to tell but we believe that is better to fix the problem than waiting to find out.

In this briefing we are inviting Government and other opposition parties to put politics aside and collectively consider how rapidly things have deteriorated, making life hard and almost unbearable for the common man.

We at the NGC consider that at this moment our country is facing a state of economic emergency and that no other priority is more urgent now than reducing the burden of hardship on the common man. To understand the cries of the people, the NGC has been studying the rise in the prices of food related items since 2018 and this is what we found:

RICE PER BAG:

Le 310,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 300,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 280,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 235,000 – IN MARCH 2018; 32% increase in price since 2018.

RICE PER CUP:

Le 2,500 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 2,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 1,700 – AS AT AUGUST 2019;  Le1,200 – IN MARCH 2018; 108% increase in price since 2018.

GARRI PER CUP:

Le 1,500 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 1,500 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 1,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019;  Le500 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 200% increase

FISH (HERRING):

Le 8,000 per dozen – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 7,000 per dozen – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019: Le 6,000 per dozen – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 1,500 per dozen – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 433% increase.

PALM OIL (PER GALLON):

Le 180,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 170,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 170,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 120,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 50% increase

PALM OIL (PER PINT):

Le 3,500 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 3,500 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 3,500 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 2,500 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 40% increase

PLASSAS (BIG TIE):

Le 10,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 10,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 5,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 3,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 233% increase

PLASSAS (SMALL TIE):

Le 1,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 1,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 1,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 500 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 100% increase

YABASS (ONIONS) PER BAG:

Le 180,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 275,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 350,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 120,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 50% increase

YABASS (UNIT PRICE):

Le 2,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 2,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le2,500 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 500 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 300% increase

BULGUR (PER CUP):

Le 5,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 5,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 4,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019;  Le2,500 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 100% increase

CHICKEN FEET (FOL FOOT) PER CARTON:

Le 200,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 180,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le170,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 125,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 60% increase

KANDA (BIG CUT):

Le 18,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 18,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 15,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 7,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 157% increase

MAGGI (UNIT):

Le 500 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 500 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 700 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 250 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 100% increase

BEEF ( PER POUND):

Le 25,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 25,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 22,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 18,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 39% increase

COOKERY (PLATE):

Le 5,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 5,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 4,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 3,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 67% increase

LAFIDI (PLATE):

Le 4,000 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 4,000 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 3,000 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 2,000 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 100% increase

USA DOLLAR ((SELLING RATE):

Le 1,020,000 = $ 100 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 1,005,000 = $100 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 980,000 = $ 100 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 750,000 = $ 100 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 36% increase in $ value vs. drop in Leones

USA DOLLAR ((BUYING RATE):

Le 1,035,000 = $ 100 – AS AT 21ST OCTOBER  2019; Le 1,015,000 = $ 100 – AS AT SEPTEMBER 2019; Le 995,000 = $ 100 – AS AT AUGUST 2019; Le 765,000 = $ 100 – PRICES IN MARCH 2018; 35% increase in $ value vs. Leones

NOTE: Prices change from market to market, within a region and across regions and the prices quoted above are merely averages.

You will realize that the most substantial increases are on the prices of very basic foodstuff:  for instance, the price of a bag of rice has risen by 32% but for those who can only afford to buy by the cup the increase is 108%.

In the case of garri which is usually the last resort for those who cannot afford rice, the increase in price is in fact 200%. So when the price of herring has increased by 433%, palm oil by 50%, onions (one piece) by 300%, plassas by 233%, kanda by 157%, maggi by 100% , cookery rice by 67% and lafidi by 100% we believe that the time for long explanations and debates on who caused it is over and the focus of the Government  should now be to find some emergency solutions to alleviate the suffering of our men, women and children.

We have estimated that a family intending to cook a basic meal for four persons (with 4 cups of rice, herring, palm oil, leaves, maggi, onions and water using charcoal) would need not less than Le 42,000 per day which works out at about Le 1,260,000 per month; considering that the minimum monthly wage is still Le 500,000, this means that the family can eat for only 12 days.

The family will need an extra Le 730,000 to eat rice for the remaining 18/19 days. This is just for food and does not include other necessary expenditure on transport, pure drinking water, rent, clothing, medicals etc. One can only imagine what our young jobless youth are going through at this time.

It will be of great benefit to all of us if the energy, attention and resources that are currently being wasted on fighting over bye elections in wards and constituencies are directed at finding ways to alleviate the hardship of our people. The Government of Sierra Leone is a legitimate one voted for by the citizens of this country; therefore it has an obligation to listen more to the people than to itself.

The Government of Sierra Leone can of course point to several initiatives it has taken to address corruption, block leakages and deal with the inadequacies in social service delivery including in the education sector. But in spite of all these efforts, the ordinary man continues to sink into greater hardship finding it difficult to survive.

We at the NGC believe that the main priority for Government today should be to focus on the economy and how to reduce hardship among the people.

As a first step it is very important that the Government brings together key economic stakeholders to examine the situation holistically, taking into account the variety of concerns and interests and finding ways in which their suggestions can contribute to re-injecting life into the economy and offer at least temporary relief for the people.

It must be recalled that less than three months into the life of this Government there was an excellent initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Finance in convening importers, exporters, retailers, bankers, insurance companies, SMEs etc. for a round table brainstorming on the economy.

But as with many other great initiatives that this Government has brought up, there has been no follow up or continuity. The officer who recorded notes during the meeting has since been sacked and has apparently left with the memory of that meeting.

As a matter of extreme urgency Government should convene these players who make the economy work to find practical solutions to the current economic difficulties our country is facing. However qualified or technocratic our politicians may be they do not have monopoly of knowledge about the intricacies of the economy and how to solve the problems.

Government has an opportunity to use the hands-on knowledge and experience of our traders and business operators, importers, bankers, contractors, retailers, insurers etc. to bring about a consensus on the way out of the current situation of hardship in Sierra Leone.

Thank you very much and see you next month (END OF STATEMENT).

15 Comments

  1. Well … I must say, Gloria is on top of things here. She is surely a woman of substance. Unlike some of us whose main objective is to propagate lies and propaganda, she is a genuine and true patriot. Keep it up, darling.

  2. This is the problem in our country. We are in denial of everything happening, all in the name of politics. Why can’t our politicians be accountable for their actions? Its time for them to unite and work together for the love of the country and its citizens. The inflation and abject poverty in our beloved country is appalling. This is disgraceful to us all. Some of us want to go home and invest but how can one do that with all the problems the country is facing? Please, please stop all the selfishness and show some love for our motherland.

    • Rugi Mans, if inflation and poverty are holding you back from investing in Sierra Leone, then I believe that you are really not interested in investing in Sierra Leone in the first place. There is no country in the world that has totally eradicated inflation and poverty. Your investment together with prudent economic policies will help lower the rates of inflation and poverty. And for those screaming about Sierra Leone, I urge you to visit Liberia and a few other West African countries. You will appreciate the fact that the government of Sierra Leone is working diligently to restore economic stability.

  3. Any right thinking citizen of that country will agree with me that the present government is doing all it takes to restore the dignity and respect the country once had. I know that the people have suffered for too long and are desperate to see or experience a turn around in their lives.

    Definitely, it is not going to be instantaneous as expected. Let us exercise a small restraint and see what happens. I know for sure that some politicians would like to use the business people to sabotage the effort of government to stabilize the cost of essential commodities in that country! Why do you think that prices of local commodities like oil, pepper etc should rise? There are cheap and myopic politicians behind the scenes!

    I personally trust the leadership of President Bio. The Team he has put together will deliver that country. SLPP is the only political party that had governed the country with sincerity. Let us wait and see!!

  4. This is because of bad policies that have been implemented by this government. As we all know, government is continuity, so let them change their bad policies.

    • If you inherited a big problem you think you cannot manage and you love you country, step down no matter what and leave before you cause more damage. I think it’s the best thing to do and to show that you love your country.

  5. I agree that the economy is going bad and it is of the essence to immediately find ways to address this economic situation. Say whatever you want to say the NGC has shown concern for the people of this country by pointing out the bad economic situation in the country. They further suggested ways to address the problem. It is better for the government to accept the reality and save this country rather than otherwise.

    • I think you are for the NGC. They are on top of their game, they have already put Sierra Leone citizens first, because without the citizens there won’t be a Presidency. It is not every Sierra Leonean citizen who is illiterate; if the elders were, their children are not. But anyone says something when they see something is not right they have to say something to show that they care and they put Sierra Leone first.

      It is about time, if you dream of coming to do better for the country you say you love, and you see there is no way you can fix the problem and the country, please, please do your self a favour do not trouble yourself, leave the job for those who can do it. No one will blame you. Just stand down in peace to let those with good management and leadership skills try to upgrade this country in peace. Sierra Leone is a small country to manage, if we have got the right people with the right skills. Sierra Leone is not for trading and it not someone’s property.

  6. Change is time consuming and requires sacrifice. Ghanaians went through the same struggles and sacrifice in the 70s.

    • Yes change is time consuming if you only have a dream. This is where education, and the appropriate knowledge comes in. How long are we all going to suffer, even worse now as it is? Ghanaians yes, during my school days, they use to come to Sierra Leone to do their shopping because there was nothing in Ghana.

      Yes we had war, Ebola Outbreak, Mudslide. BUT WITH GOOD MANAGEMENT, ALL THESE WILL be a thing of the past. Two terms in African politics is too long. It can only happen when a certain Govt is showing signs of demonstraiting an understanding of management and leadership skills, then they might be left to continue the two terms. But as it is now, we really need a change to clear up this mess in Sierra Leone. This is the 21st Century. We all need to think about this seriously; time is ticking. We need good governance.

  7. This NGC initiative is a cheap political stunt designed to get a fifteen minute of fame in a bid to revive a gradually sinking party ship. Humiliated in the 2018 elections, the NGC has woefully failed to show any semblance of a grand coalition as evident in the party’s inability to win any of the bye-elections held this year in its backyard. Yet the party has the temerity to claim to be the spokesman for Sierra Leoneans?

    Four parliamentary seats in parliament, all from Kambia, neither shows any characteristics of a national grand coalition nor the disposition of a national political presence to warrant any serious attention from Sierra Leoneans. Tellingly, president Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP don’t have to be reminded by a group of desperate men who failed to have their way in the SLPP about the state of Sierra Leone’s economy.

    It is evident that the president is putting in all his wake hours into the challenging task of injecting life into a comatose economy that was inherited from a coterie of thieves masquerading under the banner of the All People’s Congress (APC). Even a neophyte in economics knows that economic policies are constrained by time lags. So why the desperation? Has life in the opposition become unbearable? Well, that is exactly where the NGC belongs.

    • I think everyone knows what happened during the last elections. If what they did to NGC at the time had happened to SLPP, by now it would have been another war killing innocent Sierra Leoneans. But when things happen to those who are knowledgable, they let go of certain things to see how people can prove who they are. Now where are we at the moment nearly a year on? Let’s say the fact that the NGC are on top of their game, not from any cheap fame, as you may think. It is time to wake up to reality.

  8. I’m shocked that the price of OGERIE which is imported from Nigeria is not listed amongst the food items. The NGC Presidential candidate for the 2018 presidential election also promised the Okada Riders that he will build a Motor Bike factory and since he is now a member of parliament I hope he will work with our president to fulfill that promise.

    Comparing the situation to our neighboring country Guinea is very misleading because the uprising that is taking place is about upholding and respecting constitutional democracy. But if the intention of the NGC is to join the APC to disrupt the peace and tranquillity of our nation by being a copycat that’s okay, because I personally believe that majority of our people are smarter than what they believe.

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I personally believe that there is a plot to undermine this present government among the business community especially the traders and corrupt business people who are the grassroot supporters of the APC party to intentionally manipulate the prices of basic commodities and the dollar.

    The New Direction government has been trying to satisfy IMF and World Bank conditions by first paying back the bad debt out of the increased revenue collection which is one of the main condition to avoid default that will lower our credit rating, keeping our cities clean and healthy, supporting Free quality education, building our credibility by fighting corruption, encouragingly and supporting all sport disciplines, hosting international conferences, hosted the Vice President of the largest democracy in the world (India), securing our country and its borders, transforming our country by investing on our database system in all our institutions, renegotiating our bogus mining contracts and the list can go on.

    The fact is that in less than 2 years we have regained our self esteem and respect. Finally, people have to give the Minister of Finance who is also the Chairman of the Board Of Directors of the ECOWAS bank some credit and respect for his efforts in correcting the disastrous economy he inherited. And I believe that he will be the main leader in implementing the New ECO currency in a couple of months, and to also continue to be patient till 2023. And if majority of the voters decide to give the mandate back to the APC party to destroy all that have been achieved because of tribalism (which is the only card they have at the moment) so be it.

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