President Bio’s message of hope for a better New Year – 2020

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 January 2020

Today, the world celebrates the beginning of a new decade with hope of a better future, driven by economic progress, new technology and increased wealth creation. But for the people of Sierra Leone, there is little hope of a better and brighter future.

The people of Sierra Leone have experienced ten years of economic struggle, with rising and chronic unemployment, low economic growth, alarmingly high government borrowing, rising cost of living, low investments in key sectors of the economy, and collapse of the value of the currency – the Leone.

Although successive governments promised to do all it takes to transform the country from a poverty stricken and foreign aid dependent nation, it seems the political will to take tough policy decisions, and put country before selfish, partisan interests is in short supply.

When president Julius Maada Bio was elected in March 2018, he too promised to end the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone. He promised to change how the country is governed. He promised to end impunity and lawlessness. He promised a New Direction.

But how much has changed in Sierra Leone since March 2018?

The country now has a free education programme for all state-run primary and secondary schools, which critics say is being crippled by lack of funding, low teacher morale, and growing household poverty.

There is also a new government mantra in town. Instead of the former president Koroma’s “attitudinal change and my government is running the country like a business” chorus from State house, president Bio’s mantra – “we are building the nation’s human capital” is yet to gain traction.

President Bio says investing in developing the country’s human capital is key to the country’s economic future, and its chances of capitalising and benefiting from the fourth industrial revolution pioneered by new advanced technology and innovation. Fine words indeed.

While many in Sierra Leone would agree with him, there are just too many hungry people in the country; far too many children are still dying before their fifth birthday; most adults dying before their 50th birthday due to poor health and poverty.

Access to clean drinking water and electricity, are posing immense difficulty for the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans across the country.

And with over 70% of adults out of work, including thousands of qualified university and college graduates, president Bio’s dream of taking the people of Sierra Leone to the promised land by investing in a technological revolution is proving hard to sell.

Far too many farmers are struggling to increase their production yield due to lack of investment finance, use of low productivity seeds, lack of modern farming techniques, and weak supply and value chain structures.

Far too many small and medium sized businesses are struggling to survive.

In his second New Year’s message to the people of Sierra Leone, president Bio is calling for the people, not only to be patient, but to be the change that they too would like to see in the country.

This is what he said today:

Fellow citizens, welcome to a new year – a time to   bid   farewell   to   2019   and   a   time   to   look forward to 2020. As   we   look   back   into   2019,   we   were   shackled with high domestic and foreign debt repayments, unfavourable   mining   lease   agreements,   low domestic   productivity,   high   youth unemployment,   high   inflation   and   currency depreciation.

Throughout   the   year,   our confidence   and   optimism   as   a   nation   were shaken   by   mild   economic   turbulence   and unavoidable shocks we inherited.

Typically, Sierra Leoneans have made light of the situation with the usual humorous jibe, “the gron dry”.

But in 2019, we also made huge progress. We   launched   the   medium   term   national development   plan;   increased   domestic   revenue mobilisation   by   streamlining   and   automating revenue   collection   and   deposit   processes; clarified and reduced the tax and duty burden on businesses; made it easier to establish and run a business   including   providing   aftercare   at   the highest   levels   and   provided   more   support   for small to medium enterprises. We do this with the firm belief that private enterprise is the engine for economic expansion.

As we look forward into 2020, our Country is at peace   with   falling   crime   rates,   lower   prison populations and no security threat. At Bintumani 3,   Sierra   Leoneans   suggested   ways   to   further lower   tensions   and   establish   a   permanent infrastructure   for   peace.

We   have   moved   to repeal   criminal   libel   laws   that   successive governments had used to suppress free speech. We   continue   to   open   up   civic   spaces   and   we encourage our citizens to speak up and make our democracy stronger and better.

In spite of the cynicism about foreign travel, we have,   through   those   travels   transformed   the reputation and image of Sierra Leone abroad by comprehensively telling our friends and partners who we really are and where we are taking our nation. And they have   watched our unrelenting and determined fight against corruption.

We passed the MCC’s “Control of Corruption” indicator with very high scores.   They   have   watched   us   crack   down   on fraud   and   waste   and   reform   public   institutions and practices. And you know what, the IMF, EU, DFID, World Bank and our international partners have all expressed   confidence   in   what   we   are doing and they have re-engaged fully.

We have actively promoted   business   in   Sierra   Leone through   various   investment   conferences   and foreign   delegations   have visited   our country   to explore investment opportunities.

The   fisheries,   tourism,   and   agricultural   sectors are   set   for   significant   foreign   private   sector investments in the near future. We are focused on   rice-sufficiency,   cash   crop   production   and agricultural value-chain addition.

As   we   go   into   2020,   more   than   two   million children,   especially   girls,   have   access   to   free quality   education,   free   teaching   and   learning materials, expanded healthcare services, school buses and free school feeding in some areas.

We have   intensified   our   national   campaign   against early   child   marriage,   introduced   robust enforcement   and tougher   sentencing guidelines for sexual and gender-based violence.

Teenage pregnancy, menstrual health and hygiene are no longer taboo topics. Our women are   at   the   centre   of   our   country’s   future development and security and we have recruited more women into our armed forces than at any time in our country’s history.

We   are   investing   heavily   in   STEM   disciplines especially for girls and through the Directorate of Science,   Technology,   and   Innovation,   we   are harnessing the power of data and technology to support   governance,   business,   healthcare, education, and agriculture.

We recently launched the   first   drone   corridor   in   West   Africa   and   the first   block-chain-based   national   digital   identity platform   that   will   improve   financial   inclusion among other benefits.

Soon,   we   will   convene   a   national   forum   on   the future   of   education.   We   do   so   mindful   of   our national   development   priorities   and   goals   and knowing   that   for   our   children   to   lead   and participate   in   the   Fourth   Industrial   Revolution and the global economy, they must be equipped with a 21st century education.

We enter 2020 in a Sierra Leone where mothers in   labour   and   critically   ill-cases   can   now   be rushed   into   a   nearby   hospital   or   community health centre by an ambulance they can call toll-free   from   the   comfort   of   their   homes.

We   will continue   work   on   lowering   maternal   mortality rates,   expanding   primary   healthcare,   training and   recruiting   more   healthcare   workers,   and refurbishing   or   building   new   health   centres   all over the country.

In 2020,   we will   turn   sod   for the   construction   of an   ultramodern   diagnostic health Centre using funds recovered from corrupt officials as seed money. Our public sanitation and waste disposal   investments have   yielded   public health benefits.

We   enter   2020 with   a renewed   commitment   to fighting   climate   change   while   improving   clean energy access in off-grid rural areas and tackling energy   poverty   through   the   nearly-completed regional grid and other new initiatives.

We   enter   2020   with   extensive   judicial   reforms that   have   led   to   more   access   to   justice.   Our social protection   programmes   continue   to support   vulnerable   families   and   we   have launched   a   $50   million   urban-mobility   project.

We are also rehabilitating key trunk roads from Kailahun to Freetown and building new bridges nationwide.   Big   impact   and   high-value infrastructural projects will commence in 2020.

Our   youth   empowerment   projects   and   our support   for   sports   development,   especially   the Sierra   Leone   Premier   League,   have   been   very significant.

Fellow   citizens,   together   we   have   started   an inspiring   journey.   The   challenges   are   huge   but they are not insurmountable. Your expectations are high but they can be met. Your aspirations are boundless but they can be fulfilled. Nothing is impossible, even the miracles you expect us to perform.

Therefore, I call for your relentless optimism and hard work to develop our nation. If you share my belief   that   we   can   make   Sierra   Leone   a   better place, I urge you to share the responsibility with me for doing so with a firm commitment to make, act and be the change you want to see.

My family and I  wish you  all  a  happy  and prosperous New Year. I thank you.

You can watch the broadcast here:

16 Comments

  1. Its utterly absurd,and outright ridiculous to hear some eerie minded, totally out of touch Caterpillar quoting the legendary Old Steven’s opinion on Vigilance. Now since it has now become the newest annoying attitude of SLPP supporters to use words and phrases they don’t quite understand, let me explain clearly to you guys what Vigilance is. Vigilance is another word for watchfulness, carefulness, circumspection, and attentiveness. Its sole, main and intrinsic purpose is for it to be used specifically to draw attention, only and purposefully to situations,and conditions where dangers, problems and difficulties are imminent or likely to arise.

    Now answer this: What dangers, difficulties and problems does your authoritarian mindset really believe and think liberal speech and the inalienable rights of freedom of expression can possibly expedite, cause or create in any authentic democratic society in the world?

    “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance” Old Stevens took this words directly from Thomas Jefferson,and it means citizens must ensure that the freedom of the Press,and independence of the judiciary are not compromised,tainted,and reduced by government interferences,as our morbidly obese President is doing now.(lol) The Chief Justice is in a headlock,rendered totally useless,incapacitated by constantly being bullied, abused, and used as a puppet to advance the policies,and agendas of an inept, criminal,and lawless government.

    Vigilance demands that this has to stop. Now, lastly here’s my New Year gift to everyone on this glorious forum. “Everyone has the right to Freedom of Expression, and opinion, this right includes Freedom to hold opinions without interferences,and to seek,receive,and impart information,and ideas through any media,regardless of FRONTIERS”…Beautiful words, indeed! Solid Foundations for any Democracy still crawling in its infancy to build on. (Its called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – article 19) Enough said! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  2. Even if you bring Ernest B. Koroma again, he will not see power in Sierra Leone because he put the country in a mess before leaving. He tribalised the nation and damaged it. So it cannot be change over night.

    Am a bit happy with the commission of enquiry screening this so called APC; and we are appealing to the government for those found guilty of corrupt acts in the past administration to refund the state and go to jail at the same. They brought the hardship in the country. Their offspring are making a lot of comments on social media, so let their uncles, aunties, father and mother pay for their numerous corrupt acts.

  3. We are slowly moving in the right direction and I’m confident that we will get the foundations necessary for a sustainable development. Bear in mind that this government came to power on the 04.04.2018 and today is the 01.01.2020. Their style is not mine but they have done some good planning that future governments will benefit from.

    As someone in the planning sector, I know that it takes time to set things right. I’ll advise our government to put more energy in agriculture and heavily engage our traditional leaders (chiefdoms) in the planning and execution. They must also reduce the number of petty trading especially in our youth population and engage this number in farming. It is very easy to plan and execute!

    We will Prevail!

  4. PHEW, the WISHY-WASHY New Year’s message is finally out. What a WISHY-WASHY New Year’s message in DECADES. The first WISHY-WASHY message was during NPRC JUNTA RULE. There is nothing decisive in the President’s message to relieve the suffering masses of their problems. The President did not talk about making Sierra Leone a place/country “worth living in” this time around. He realized that Sierra Leone is not a SLUMP.

    It’s a country worth living in. All he was aiming at is to “GET SALONE SORTED”. The President should have asked us to be patient because, he is trying to “GET SALONE SORTED”. He did not ask. No problem. Chief Sam Sumana is going to “GET SALONE SORTED” if he wins the APC LEADERSHIP election.

    From the President’s New Year’s speech, there are many pieces of PUZZLES that need to be SORTED out. Concerning the President’s development projects, he referred everything to the NEAR FUTURE. No TIMELINE or DATE. Can you imagine? CLUMSY. The NEAR FUTURE will never come in my view. It will only come when “THE GRON GEH EYE”. Those waiting will wait forever. The President talked about his government’s policies on TAX which only help the RICH and WEALTHY BUSINESS PEOPLE.

    I was surprised that the President did not talk about other areas like the increase of LICENCES for TRAWLERS and particularly LICENCES on the boats of LOCAL FISHERMEN which have lead to the increase of the PRICE of the PEOPLE’S only AFFORDABLE source of PROTEIN. DENY.

    This MISERY is going to continue until we “GET SALONE SORTED”. The only way to get us out of this MESS is to “GET SALONE SORTED” by appealing to the APC to make sure they elect Chief Sam Sumana as their next LEADER to clear this HORRIBLE MESS.
    The President also talked about the IMF, DFID etc. He even said the IMF are happy with his policies. AUSTERITY that brings unending suffering on the people? FINE. Just wait. Another DEBT PACKAGE will be announced soon. A NEW YEAR’s DEBT PRESENT.

    More comments will follow. GOD BLESS our country and GOD help “GET SALONE SORTED”

  5. As expected, our president has once again given a highly fine tuned speech, encompassing many of the criteria and optimism needed by a country whose citizens have given up hope after successive governments over the years making promise after promise but nothing to show for. As a Sierra Leonean, i indeed applaud this regime’s effort in building the human capital via investment in the educational sector.

    As we begin this new year, my hope is, the regime will focus in ruling the country as a government rather than a political party. The government must be seen as serving the interest of all Sierra Leoneans, not just party supporters and other interested partners. So far, the fight against corruption, legal justice, the rule of law, employment opportunities and a host of other things has been mainly political. The new year should be match with more realistic actions rather than good speeches by the president.

  6. It’s rather unfortunate for President Bio to inherit this amount of problems after he chose to sacrifice his life to defend the Flag and people of our nation, rather than pursue university education after successfully completing his secondary school education at the prestigious Bo School.

    The 11 years civil war which started under the one party dictatorship of the APC government took a toll on all sectors of our country which resulted in the complete breakdown and destruction of the entire system. President Bio took the bold step to topple the one party dictatorship and initiated peace talks with the rebel leader which was the foundation for the peace and democracy that brought him back to power through the ballot box.

    Unfortunately the New system that was painfully built by late President Kabba was again destroyed from 2007 to 2018 through corruption and mismanagement – example: Debt Free Economy, selling our shares of the Sierra Rutile, Mortgaging our Iron Ore to flyby investors, Education, Justice System and Law Enforcement. Even the special court that should have served as monument for the establishment of peace and justice was completely ruined. Now the few systems that the former President Koroma tried to maintain should be built upon in order to get our country back on its feet.

    I hope and pray that the New Direction government and the people of our country will win the fight against illiteracy and corruption which will eventually transform the whole system that will last for centuries.

    • I don’t get the logic behind Mr. Alusine Fallay’s reasoning in mentioning President Bio with the NPRC JUNTA DARK DAYS. It does not make sense and is not helpful to the President in my view. What would Mr. Alusine Fallay say to people who believe that the overthrow of the APC by the NPRC was UNDEMOCRATIC?

      Mr. Alusine Fallay said in his comment and I quote “President Bio took the bold step to topple the one party dictatorship”. Was the NPRC a DEMOCRATIC or DICTATORSHIP regime? Please reply Mr Alusine Fallay. GOD BLESS YOU.

    • This guy is becoming desperate and somewhat erratic. Is he already suffering from the Sam-sumana factor? He seems to have lost all his ideas and is trying to paraphrase or twist anything that comes to his mind that will give credence to SLPP’s way of thinking. For instance, he is insinuating that President Bio “rather than pursue university education after successfully completing his secondary school education” he decided “to sacrifice his life to defend the flag and people of our nation”. But the last time I checked, Julius Bio dropped out from school, and decided to join the army. He did not achieve enough grades to qualify for sixth form studies or university entrance.

      Mr Falay also seeks to deceive many of us by implying that former President Ernest Bai Koroma did not accomplish any type of development for the country, but instead only maintained a few of the relics that late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah successfully constructed. Take it easy man … and don’t try to manufacture or fabricate the truth. The bottom line is former President Koroma has set a record – in terms of the development of the country – that would be difficult to break by any past or future President. Give the man his dues – even though he is not waving the green flag, and hence not your demigod.

      By the way, was the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) not a splinter group of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)? Was there any relationship between Maada Bio and late Foday Sankoh? The truth will come out, one day.

  7. Let me first of all say “PRAISE BE TO GOD” and “ALHAMDULILLA” for enabling us see and live our lives this NEW YEAR. This just tells everyone how GREAT GOD/ALLAH is. “GOD IS GREAT”! and “ALLAHUAKBAR”!. Let’s just say thanks to the ALMIGHTY GOD/ALLAH and ask for his blessings/protection now and FOREVER. GOD BLESS this PLATFORM and all FORUMITES. AMEN AND AMEN.

  8. Here we go again, another boring speech full of flimsy self praises and superficial perceptions, far removed from every day reality. What’s your plan Mr President for removing millions of our people from the clutches of abject poverty and starvation? This fact remains unchanged – this President is serious about the wrong things (lol) He’s resolute about borrowing high interests loans, about fleecing and milking the system dry, discreetly and tarnishing the reputation, credibility and image of our beloved nation through his outright contempt and disdain for the rule of law and international ties and obligations.

    He is a lawless leader that lacks the abilities to sensibly reason and persuade investors to adopt Sierra Leone as their second home, as a place where they could become legitimate stakeholders in the future prosperity of our beloved nation. Again, the man is unskilful and inconsistent. He says one thing and practices another. He resembles a Head fisherman, surrounded by a staggering,inebriated,unproductive crew with nets torn and a boat full of holes, plugged here and there, badly in need of repair that is leaking profusely, yet being overlooked and ignored.

    Priorities are not in order, never has been and never will be for this morbidly obese, Pot belly, inept, delusional, lackadaisical President and his wayward team…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • When people speak from patriotic point you can sense and see the realities of the country’s situation but when naive people speak you sense and see the portrayal of their political ideology. When a man prays for his household to fail, consider him to be a witch; and when a man is so passionate about pessimism, consider him as failure.

      You can bring the change you want to see by renewing your minds and finding something to do. By this we can still hope for the better and make Sierra Leone a better place to live.

  9. Mr. Editor, in president Bio’s End Of Year speech, he laid out some salient points why the country should feel optimistic and stay resilient to the many vagaries of surviving as a nation. Indeed, he said this in reference to criminal liability for journalists to adhere to pivotal tenants of stellar journalism, thus, “We have moved to repeal criminal libel laws, that successive governments had used to suppress free speech”.

    Hold on Mr. President, not so fast. There are several reasons why successive governments have repeatedly refused to cancel this criminality carte blanche. How about individual citizen’s own subjugation to desist from pure and malicious propaganda, by attacking other people’s reputations, moral, ethical and even debase body shaming of politicians, and other prominent citizens in society at large.

    Witness the frequent attacks on the president by shamefully attacking him because of his looks, body weight, height, appetite, type of food he consumes, and even the proportion of food on his plate compared to other citizens. This is petty, at best.

    The same criteria that is been applied to journalists to observe decorum, desist from personal attacks, among others, must apply to anyone to frivolously engage in personal attacks by attempting to embarrass any other person, particularly government officials, especially, the president.

    Don’t tell me it is censorship, because it is not. The venerable Siaka Sevens once said, and I quote, “The price of freedom is vigilance”.

    In this regard, the editor of this newspaper must take responsibility as to what can be included in his paper by establishing stringent guidelines as to what is acceptable to write and hence to be published. Newspapers are in the business of informing the public, not shaming and harassing anyone on the bases of their political ideology. Happy New Year.

    • “The same criteria that is been applied to journalists to observe decorum, desist from personal attacks, among others, must apply to anyone to frivolously engage in personal attacks by attempting to embarrass any other person, particularly government officials, especially, the president.” – Murray Sandy.

      Mr Sandy, reading your comment, I really do hope Sierra Leone does not become a fascist State. What you describe today as frivolous attacks on public officials are no different from what public officials including former president Koroma were subjected to by supporters of the opposition SLPP who are now in power. Why do you want to move the goalpost. It’s all part of our cherished liberal democracy.

      Please feel free to respond accordingly to those comments you believe are expressing views that are contrary to your values and principles. Thank you.

    • “Witness the frequent attacks on the president by shamefully attacking him because of his looks, body weight, height, appetite, type of food he consumes, and even the proportion of food on his plate compared to other citizens. This is petty, at best.” In what context that the people of Sierra Leone concerning themselves with their president’s eating habit petty?

      If the man can’t govern his overarching belly to a relatively normal size, then what makes you think that he can govern a nation consisting of seven million people?

      All jokes aside Mr. Sandy. We the people of Sierra Leone need the president to physically be in the best shape possible, always. It is imperative that he does that. And although being a healthy president does not automatically makes for an ideal leader, Bio would at least be in a better position to see things clearly, and possibly make better leadership judgements when doing his job.

    • Mr. Murray Sandy. With all due respect. Let’s stop this SLPP “FOO FOO WAN POT” losing POLITICS. I respect your views but, things are changing rapidly because, the SLPP is failing to deliver the GOODS. Just promises. JACK OF ALL TRADES AND MASTER OF NONE.

      Forget about defending the President’s GOOD LIVING STATUS. What he eats, wears or does, do not matter to the suffering masses. The only advice I will give is for you to join me “GET SALONE SORTED”. You can help by talking with APC members, PARLIAMENTARIANS, family or friends to do all they could to elect Chief Sam Sumana as LEADER and “GET SALONE SORTED”. This be a better and noble thing to do than to defend the President’s “GOOD LIVING” STATUS. I hope you listen to my advice.
      MAY GOD BLESS YOU.

  10. President Bio – the country has heard a lot of blaspheming. Stop the rhetoric and face the causes of the chaos in the country, and deliver optimal solutions.

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