Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 August 2019:
An internal Sierra Leone Government memo making the rounds on social media, signed by president Bio’s Secretary, is calling on ministers and senior government officials to refrain from travelling abroad until further notice, to help reduce rising government spending.
This memo comes amid growing public disquiet, about the huge cost of the president’s travelling overseas to the tax payer, which many say has become unsustainable.
Some critics have estimated the cost of each trip made by the president at about $50,000 including per diem.
Although the leaked internal memo from State House does not say whether president Bio has also agreed to a self-imposed ban on foreign travel, the expectation is that the president will lead from the front – by example.
Sierra Leone’s economy is facing huge challenges, according to the latest World Bank report, including rising foreign debt, for which the president and his SLPP party had criticized and lampooned the former APC government of president Koroma.
While government spending is increasing, despite promises by Julius Maada Bio to curtail unnecessary government spending if elected to office, government revenue from mining export and domestic taxation has not improved much.
President Bio is now increasingly relying on foreign aid, borrowing, and the retrieval of stolen public funds by the Anti-Corruption Commission from former officials in the previous Koroma led APC government to run his government. But retrieved stolen funds is very little beer money to keep the government afloat.
The government has recently increased minimum salary for public sector workers, including teachers and nurses.
But the removal of subsidies on vital consumer products – such as petrol, electricity and water charges, as well as rising inflation, are making life very difficult for most Sierra Leoneans. Poverty is once again on the increase.
Lack of employment opportunities in the country is fast creating a nation of disaffected youths, over 70% of whom are out of work.
The country’s fishing, mining and tourism sectors are yet to receive the level of investments promised by president Bio and his government over sixteen months ago, when they won presidential elections with an uncomfortable 51% majority.
In just over three years from now (2023), Sierra Leoneans will go to the polls to decide whether to keep president Bio at State House, or bring in a new tenant who can do better.
Hence, any public outcry about frivolous spending by government officials, would make for an unhappy reading by the president, who has now decided to curb ministerial overseas travelling. But does this ban include himself? Will he lead by example?
This latest move by the president, could help ease growing pressure on the demand for foreign currencies, caused by ministerial visits abroad.
Sierra Leone’s currency – the Leone, has lost over 30% of its value since 2017. The governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone – Professor Kelfala Kallon, is running short of ideas as to how to turn the currency around.
Speaking on national radio this morning, the information minister said that president Bio is waging war on three fronts: Poverty, revenue leakages, and corruption. Sierra Leoneans are eagerly waiting to see a positive outcome on all fronts, soon.
I personally believe that President Bio has done a wonderful job within the past year of rebranding Sierra Leone which was popularly known for over two decades for war, disease and disaster. I was finally proud to see our leader celebrated instead of tolerated around the world. The respect, admiration and Love shown by respected leaders in our region towards our president will definitely boost the morale and self esteem of many Sierra Leoneans. In Krio we always say “RESPECT PASS BELLY FULL“.
Our nation is now considered as an innovative nation and an almost corrupt free nation. And I personally believe that if we stay focused and not be distracted by the doomsayers, our country will definitely regain its past glory. Finally the step taken by President Bio ( father of our nation) on the travel restriction is a step in the right direction; and the timing is appropriate since it’s not the campaign season and this is also an indication to show that he is a listener. May the Almighty continue to give him wisdom and understanding.
This was what I have been asking ever since. Now that the government has come to its senses, the right thing has been done. Thanks to the president. We are behind him one hundred percent for such bold steps to heal the economy.
Although more needs to be done, this is one of many significant steps to help re-bounce the economy. We might team up with him sometime down the road, if he continues on this path. GOD help the Sierra Leone economy.
I believe it is the right option to reduce the amount spent on government travelling.
it’s not so bad for the President to go on tours because one will not expect him to sit and fold hands and feet and leave everything to fate. However, it’s the allowance he is getting that seems to be the concern to all. If he can cut down the travelling like twice per year, he is not gonna get issues with the citizens. Above all, he has had gains from his trip abroad, for himself and country.
I like this forum, especially the manner in which issues are analyzed.
The cost of the phone ENT perdiem traveling allowances like seriously, is a waste to our country’s economy. Ambassadors, foreign ministers and information ministers can be more appropriate to do the travelling than the president himself, when it comes to going around the world to convince investors.
More expecially, their perdiem and travelling allowance is not as high, compared to that of the president. And off course, the ambassadors are in those countries already and will require no perdiem and traveling allowances.
The president has unavoidable traveling that every Sierra leonean is expecting from him, as mandated by law, like the ecowas leadership meeting, Africa leadership meeting, mano River, etc. So we are pleading to his Excellency to kindly behave properly as to how he spends our money; and not to enrich himself by using the government’s travelling budget.
president Bio is good young leader who played a vital role in our democracy. So let us give him a chance. Sierra Leone needs a leader like him, after long sufering and corruption since pa sheki. I think he is the right man to lead Sierra Leone to success. So lets respects our democracy. God bless Sierra Leone.
It was austerity during the last regime… I know JJ Saffa is not only good at explaining how to get the economy working on Radio Democracy 98.1 but he is also an expert at work. When I listened to him prior the 2018 elections, he made fixing the economy seem so simple in our ears.
Yes, he told us the bread and butter issues are what truly matter. But since he was given the mantle of leadership to breathe life into the economy, I have seen no major progress from this former IMF technocrat.
We want to see the beautiful policies he espoused during those radio discussion programs on 98.1 at work now to save our nose diving economy. I truly don’t want your job brother, I want to see you deliver on your promises. This, you go fix am Paopa!
I trust the arithmetic skills of JJ Saffa! He will get this economy turned around. The bread and butter issues are what we want to see being handled by you and your cohorts. Show us you can! Show us it was not sugar-coated ‘vibes’. Show us it was not all political sweet talk.
I strongly believe you can offer an answer after listening to your recorded interviews over and over again on 98.1. May be we need to help you listen to those tapes to refresh your memory on how to get this economy buoyant again.
The Leone is sinking and not even the IMF and Harvard experts at the Ministry of Finance can fix this. No they can but they were just being complacent. They thought it could be fixed by sitting in their offices known only to the big guys in town.
Please walk down the streets of Freetown and listen again to the men and women who campaigned with you, and for you, for a change of regime. See if things have changed for the good or for the worse. See if prosperity has knocked on their doors or austerity is hitting hard.
As for the Agriculture Ministry I just don’t know what they are doing. They even have Public Relations Officer? Tell us what is happening in that Ministry. What have they done so far with our fertile lands? Have they encouraged our Youth into agriculture?
I heard the Ministers should be compelled to have farms to retain their offices as this will help in achieving food self-sufficiency; has this been done?
No travels until we all fix the broken, ailing and ageing economy. Please let this temporal freezing order be extended to all, including the boss.
Let the international community come to our rescue, we the citizens are suffering.
Fellow Sierra Leonean and brother Maxwell Bakarr, thank you very much for taking the time to read my piece. Whenever this happens, I take the opportunity to profusely thank The Telegraph for serving as such a welcome conduit through which all Sierra Leoneans, whatever opinions they may hold, to express them without fear or favour.
On the $50,000 issue, please read the article again of the “concerned Sierra Leonean”. It is an estimated figure, but when one considers the fact that it is not always feasible for the President to travel on a commercial Scheduled flight it may well not be too far from the truth. Remember, the cost of using a private jet falls anywhere between $1,300 and $13,00 per flying hour. Add to this the other inevitable expenses such as lodging,food,ground transportation, etc,and you are staring at a huge bill.
I should also draw your attention to the fact that in all languages there is such a thing as similitude,metaphors,tongue-in -the cheek expressions and so on, which may be employed for emphasis which should not be taken literally.So my saying that President Bio seems to be out of the country every other day should carefully be contextualised for the sole purpose to discern that it simply means that he travels too often.
Yes Tanzania and Sierra Leone are two different countries,but there is one thing they share in common:They are both developing nations with virtually the same problems. What I wrote about the the Tanzanian President was simply to point out to President Bio that he did not have to travel everywhere to drum up business for Sierra Leone, but must copy the example of president Magafuli who is so determined to control public spending that he mostly uses his foreign minister and ambassadors to contact probable foreign investors.
For example, I learned recently that a German company was about to start producing fertilisers in Tanzania. Did President Magufili have to travel to Berlin,the German capital, to woo the investors? Never. His ambassador in that country did the job. The German Embassy in Tanzania must have corroborated what the investors were told by the Ambassador. So my brother Maxwell, do you get the point that if President Bio gets his house in order, investors will come knocking at the door to his office every day?
Finally my brother, let me draw your attention to what I have always said: I detest both SLPP and APC, although there are individuals in both of them that I like politically. I like President Bio because of his unyielding stance against corruption and his desire to bring progress to our nation. But does this mean that I won’t criticise him and play the role of a typical toady to him? You can bet your life this shall never happen. I am a Sierra Leonean first and a free spirit.
If the article is inaccurate, what then should be the role of the President’s Communication Unit?
This is good to know, but please Mr president try help the youths with employment. Its really unfair for the youths of Sierra Leone to be suffering this way, with all the minerals the country have.
Very interesting. How can a president ban ministers for travelling when he needs to set an example to himself. The president needs to quite his travel trips for now and use the balance resources to build up the economy. Every single trip his excellency embarked on will cost huge amount of dollars which is very wrong.
This is not politics but national issue that is affecting every Sierra Leonean in and across the globe. If our natural resources was used in an appropriate manner and managed in good way, by now Sierra Leone would’ve been a great country in Africa, and a tourist destination.
Brother Santhkie Sorie, What are the sources of your information that: “President Bio seems to be out of the country every other day under the guise of trying to attract foreign investment to the country at an average cost of $50,000 for each trip”.
Unless if you want to tell us that you are privy to every movement of the president, I will have no choice but to conclude that you are being hyperbolic to score a cheap political point. When we criticize, it is incumbent upon us do so constructively. Otherwise we run the risk of creating unnecessary hysteria.
Additionally, you and I do not not know the magnitude of significance associated with the president’s trips overseas. Therefore, to suggest that ambassadors and high commissioners should represent the president is foolhardy.
I also don’t understand why Bio should be compared to John Mangufuli of Tanzania when conditions in Tanzania and Sierra Leone are not the same. Consequently, a one size fits all attitude can only represent the worst attitude that can be applied to governance.
Lastly, I would like to suggest that until we have all the pertinent data about president Bio’s trips, we must refrain from arriving at unjust conclusions about the president’s activities. Let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt.
A memo signed by the President’s secretary, not by the President himself, even though the gravity of its importance cannot be overemphasised,when one juxtaposes it with the very difficult straits in which we find ourselves economically. Let’s hope that it is a genuine memo.
But the irony of the memo cannot, should not be evaded or overlooked. President Bio seems to be out of the country every other day under the guise of trying to attract foreign investment to the country at an average cost of $50,000 for each trip – a cost that is borne by tax payers, including those who cannot afford one square meal a day. The centre of the irony,if it needs to be pointed out, is that the memo only affects ministers and others, not the President. How come, since a single trip by the President has to be more than ten ministers travelling out of the country at the same time?
It is quite likely that the $50,000 being tossed around does not come close to the actual cost of each trip the President embarks on, especially if he uses a private jet or a non-schedule flight. Is this the President’s subtle way of making money on the side, on the backs of tax payers, through the per diem he legitimately receives given his fight against corruption?
The pillar of Economics is that resources are scarce but that if applied or used judiciously they will yield maximum benefit; abuse them, and you will find yourself below the poverty line constantly. This is where Sierra Leone finds itself, for with all our God-given resources we are still classed as one of the poorest nations in the world. Therefore, President Bio has to understand that by travelling so much he is depleting the country’s limited resources. He has High Commissioners, Ambassadors and other representatives all over the place – why does he not get them to do some honest work, only travelling if he must?
The best natural Economist that I know at the moment is President John Magufuli of Tanzania. He hardly travels outside of his country. When he recently flew to South Africa for the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaposa it was very big news. He drives to neighbouring countries and he has slashed his Presidential entourage. His foreign minister does all the travelling when it is necessary, otherwise his foreign emissaries are expected to do the job, if they want to keep their job, A few months ago he dismissed his High Commissioner to Canada for doing a poor job. This is raw, unrefined leadership, considering the fact that the man is a trained engineer. To me he has no business in engineering. He is a double PhD holder in Economics. President Bio should emulate him.
This is a good move from the president in order to steady the state resources.