President Bio’s New Year’s address to the nation – ‘2021 will be better’

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 January 2021:

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone has delivered his 2021 New Year’s address to the nation. Wishing the seven million people of Sierra Leone a happy New Year, after much criticism of abuse of power and human rights, stifling of democracy and poor management of the country’s economy, the president is quite upbeat in his message.

He spoke about the achievements of his government in the face of a global coronavirus pandemic, that has devastated the lives of millions of people across the world, which appears to have impacted far less on Sierra Leone than previously expected.

“Our focus has been on saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” the president said.

Highlighting some of the key strategies put in place in 2020, in order to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and society at large, president Bio said: “Through our Quick Action Economic Response Programme, we launched a 500 billion Leones Special Credit Facility through the Bank of Sierra Leone to support the production, importation, and distribution of essential commodities; deferred taxes by the National Revenue Authority on businesses; provided cash transfers to persons with disabilities, informal sector workers, and other vulnerable groups and households right across all sixteen districts; provided safety net support to 2,368 workers in the tourism and hospitality industry; allotted microfinance support to thousands of women in the informal economy right across the country; and designed the National Micro-Finance Programme for small and medium enterprises.”

There is no doubt, Sierra Leone’s economy has been on comatose ‘life-support’ – kept alive largely by the international community, the IMF and World Bank, for as long as anyone cares to remember, leading to massive youth unemployment of over 70%, increasing abject poverty, and a deep sense of malaise and hopelessness among the wider population.

But despite the widespread sense of apathy and despondence across the country, president Bio today told the people of Sierra Leone that: “2021 will be better because we know and believe that dogged hard work and focus breed success. Let us all continue striving even harder to make our Sierra Leone a more peaceful, more resilient, and more prosperous nation.”

So, how is 2021 going to be different, many in Sierra Leone will be asking themselves today – 1st of January 2021, having listened to the same promises year after year – since president Bio took office in 2018.

It seems the president is pinning his hopes this time on job and wealth creation.

“We end 2020 with a less complicated business landscape and more engagement with the private sector on business reforms. We have secured funding for improving the Doing Business Environment. We are reviewing the industry policy for the development of the Special Economic Zone, enacted the Consumer Protection Act, developed a national trade strategy, and reviewed the Cooperative Policy for rejuvenating rural community entrepreneurship.

“Four manufacturing companies – Jolaks, Sierra Leone Flour Mill, Sonocco, Gold Brewery – will soon start producing key consumer goods in Sierra Leone. These factories will support job creation, skills transfer, and revenue generation.

“The National Investment Board, a one stop-shop for investors, will also facilitate more such investments. We are transitioning into more integrated and electronically-mediated business registration, operations, and records systems.

“These reforms are being complemented with significant investments in modern digital technology infrastructure, an expanded fibre-optic backbone, and greater ICT penetration that will serve as a cross-cutting enabler for the development of other sectors of the economy and for public service delivery. “

But cynics and critics of the government say that the president must do more to shore-up confidence in his government’s ability to manage the country’s affairs – most especially the economy, law and order, corruption across government, and democratic good governance.

With a ministerial cabinet lacking in quality and competence, many in Sierra Leone are less optimistic about the government’s ability to turn the country’s fortunes around in 2021. Many are looking to a complete change of ministers and heads of government departments.  Many would like to see a clean sweep of the cobwebs at State House.

You can read the president’s full speech below:

“Fellow Citizens, 2020 has been an exceptional year – a year in which the raging worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 1.7 million people including our fellow Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad; a year in which worldwide healthcare systems and economies have struggled; and, a year in which worldwide anxiety and fear have shaken hopes for the future.

We took a licking like all countries in the world and in the sub-region, but we have kept on ticking as a nation. We have demonstrated our unity, resilience, and perseverance as a nation. We have showcased leadership with empathy; churned out opportunity out of adversity; and continued keeping our promises to the nation for progressive and accountable governance of the state.

In 2020, Sierra Leone has been recognised the world over for simply doing the right things really well.

We collectively resolved two years ago that our nation must no longer be defined by the stigma of the past – as a helplessly corrupt nation, vulnerable to pestilence, prone to bloody wars, wracked by human trafficking and illegal migrations, and creaking under the burden of bad governance and failure.

Our international standing, image, and respectability as a nation have continued to improve in 2020. For the first time in our nation’s history, one of our nation’s best judges, Justice Miatta Samba, beat out worldwide competition to be elected judge on the International Criminal Court.

After a decade and more, we paid our dues to major international institutions and we have deepened and heightened our multilateral engagements with nations and institutions all over the world. We continue to provide continental leadership for the C-10 for the much overdue reform of the United Nations Security Council.

Our international governance and transparency assessments throughout 2020 have been outstanding.

This year, the Millennium Cooperation Challenge (MCC) selected our nation as compact eligible after we passed a record 13 indicators, including the control of corruption indicator and the indicator on political and human rights.

We passed the EITI, assessed for the first time ever to Tier 2 for the Trafficking in Persons’ assessment by the US State Department, and made progress in the United Nations and World Bank human development indicators.

Our competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been praised by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organisation, the African Peer Review Mechanism and more. We have been cited for being innovative, proactive, and predicating our successful policies on data, science, technology, and expert advice.

Through a central coordinating unit, NACOVERC, we quickly set up ancillary coordinating units in each district, established 6 testing labs, 21 treatment centres with at least one in each district, made available at least 1,000 beds, and ramped up surveillance, contact tracing, and social mobilisation in short order.

We have also provided health insurance for over 11,000 workers. Consequently, we have kept case fatalities ratios very low.

Throughout, our focus has been on saving lives and protecting livelihoods. Through our Quick Action Economic Response Programme, we launched a 500 billion Leones Special Credit Facility through the Bank of Sierra Leone to support the production, importation, and distribution of essential commodities; deferred taxes by the National Revenue Authority on businesses; provided cash transfers to persons with disabilities, informal sector workers, and other vulnerable groups and households right across all sixteen districts; provided safety net support to 2,368 workers in the tourism and hospitality industry; allotted microfinance support to thousands of women in the informal economy right across the country; and designed the National Micro-Finance Programme for small and medium enterprises.

We end 2020 with a less complicated business landscape and more engagement with the private sector on business reforms. We have secured funding for improving the Doing Business Environment.

We are reviewing the industry policy for the development of the Special Economic Zone, enacted the Consumer Protection Act, developed a national trade strategy, and reviewed the Cooperative Policy for rejuvenating rural community entrepreneurship.

Four manufacturing companies – Jolaks, Sierra Leone Flour Mill, Sonocco, Gold Brewery – will soon start producing key consumer goods in Sierra Leone. These factories will support job creation, skills transfer, and revenue generation.

The National Investment Board, a onestop-shop for investors, will also facilitate more such investments. We are transitioning into more integrated and electronically-mediated business registration, operations, and records systems.

These reforms are being complemented with significant investments in modern digital technology infrastructure, an expanded fibre-optic backbone, and greater ICT penetration that will serve as a cross-cutting enabler for the development of other sectors of the economy and for public service delivery.

In 2020, Government has deepened its fight against corruption and strengthened the judicial system to support business development. We have stabilised the prices of petroleum products and increased revenue in the downstream petroleum sector with far-reaching reforms that will improve our strategic reserves and make the sector more profitable. Our overall macroeconomic picture is not as bleak as anticipated at the onset of COVID-19.

In 2020, we completed the Nationwide Airborne Geophysical Survey and we are now developing an Enterprise Geo-Scientific Information Management System. We have strengthened governance of the mines and minerals sector and formalised artisanal mining.

In spite of COVID, three major mineral rights holders (Koidu Limited, Sierra Rutile/Iluka, and Sierra Mineral Holdings) continued uninterrupted operations. Four more large-scale mining projects will soon start with Wongor Investment and Mining Corporation, Kingho Mining Company Limited, the Tongo-Tonguma Kimberlite Project operated by Sierra Diamonds Limited, and Meya Mining Limited.

In 2020, we have rehabilitated or upgraded trunk roads to all-weather roads to facilitate access to markets for rural farmers. We are building bridges, surfacing or completely rehabilitating over a thousand kilometres of major trunk road, and over a hundred kilometres of urban and city roads nationwide.

In 2020, we have also increased installed energy generation capacity, upgraded and expanded the transmission and distribution network, started work on restoring electricity to seven district headquarter townships, and advanced work on the CLSG line that will benefit an additional 39 communities. This is in addition to off-grid solar installations in various communities, right across the country.

Talking about agriculture, my government remains committed to implementing the key priorities of rice self-sufficiency, crop diversification, livestock development, and sustainable forest management and diversification as articulated in the National Agricultural Transformational Plan (2023).

Due to the pandemic, the government focused on intensifying staple crop production in order to mitigate anticipated food shortages in the country.

Among other initiatives, Government acquired equipment for more mechanisation, designed better agricultural financing instruments, improved seeds and seedlings for rice and cash crops, and provided for more private sector engagement in agricultural production.

In 2020, we also launched a $54 million commercial rice production investment at Rhombe, Port Loko district and significantly advanced rice value chain investments in the south and the north of the country.

In the fisheries sector, we developed a comprehensive fisheries management and sustainability plan, invested in inshore patrol craft and other surveillance technologies, provided advanced fishing vessels and equipment for youth and women in the artisanal sector, scaled-up investments in sanitary fish processing at both artisanal and industrial levels, and expedited arrangements for the construction of a 55-Million dollar Fish Harbour Complex.

We have not relented on creating the right environment for tourism-sector investments in various parts of the country. We have broken sod on the new Lungi International Airport terminal and other imminent investments on Sherbro Island as part of that comprehensive package.

In 2020, we also commenced the construction of a water treatment plant and distribution networks in Bonthe and other headquarter towns.

We have significantly improved medical infrastructure and increased bed capacity at maternal and child health units, upgraded medical and diagnostic medical equipment, recruited and trained thousands of more nurses and enhanced their conditions of service, transformed patient referral and transportation services through the National Emergency Medical services, streamlined and expanded nationwide medical supplies, and improved blood supply services.

Preliminary data indicates that we have reduced maternal and child mortality as well as overall morbidity from common illnesses.

We have maintained public education financing at 22% of the budget and set up a Multi-Donor Trust Fund of about $72M in partnership with the World Bank, GPE, EU, Irish Aid and FCDO. Over 2.6 million pupils are direct beneficiaries of our continuing investments in increased access to education.

We have developed more school infrastructure especially through partnerships with the private sector and development partners, provided free school feeding for vulnerable school populations, recruited more teachers with improved service conditions, and improved quality teaching and learning.

A school catchment analysis, a new 5-year Education Sector Plan, and a new Education Act that responds to the needs of the future are on our immediate agenda.

We are working on transformative higher education reforms and skills development training across  the country. Even during COVID-19, we paid for all transition examinations at all levels, revised the school curriculum, and held a national forum on the future of education in Sierra Leone if we are to compete in the global economy.

In 2020, we created more safe spaces for girls, overturned the ban on pregnant girls from attending school, and introduced a policy of Radical Inclusion in line with our principles of universal access.

In 2020, we strengthened the Sexual Offences Act, introduced one-stop centres for rape survivors, established Sexual Offences Model Courts to fast-track cases of sexual and gender-based violence, launched a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment policy, and furthered more dialogue with women’s groups, civil society, and advocacy organisations.

We have put more unemployed urban youth to work in 2020 through various employment initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Youth.

In 2020, we have initiated a new disaster management agency to lead on our resilience strategies as a nation and we have built more public safety infrastructure in fire stations in district headquarter towns.

In 2020, we have expunged the seditious criminal libel law and amended the Independent Media Commission Act to guarantee free speech; no journalist is in jail for seditious libel offenses; and my Government has sustained a structured engagement with civil society and rights groups.

We have also maintained the moratorium on the death penalty and set up a technical committee to advise on the recommendations of the Justice Cowan-led constitutional review process.

So in spite of COVID-19, we have made great progress because of our relentless optimism and resilience in the face of adversity. We are indeed one nation and one people with a zeal that never tires.

2021 will be better because we know and believe that dogged hard work and focus breed success. Let us all continue striving even harder to make our Sierra Leone a more peaceful, more resilient, and more prosperous nation. I wish everyone a happy New Year.”

12 Comments

  1. Justice Abdulai Koroma served as a judge at International Court of Justice(ICJ) not ICC. ICJ and ICC are different judicial institutions.

  2. It would be good if people can read up before making wild statements about inaccuracies of what the president stated about “Justice Miatta Samba, beat out worldwide competition to be elected judge on the International Criminal Court”. Please note that International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent tribunal that has been created to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

    Basically, ICC focuses on the two bodies of international law that deal with the treatment of individuals, the human rights and humanitarian law. The ICC is different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The main difference is that ICJ settles arguments between countries, but the ICC punishes people. It is not only in the context of jurisdiction but ICC has the authority to prosecute and punish individuals and groups of people for human rights abuses.

    This is a huge difference. Please read up before criticising the president. It is good to be objectively critical rather than being emotionally biased due to political differences.

    • My Goodness! It appears Mr Smart is not that smart after all;He has copied and pasted the same old tiresome comment once again? You can’t be serious.On this glorious forum Sir,;we celebrate authenticity and creativity;the opportunity to put mediocrity on display will not be welcome here,try looking elsewhere, in some sensational or tabloid online newspapers glued and stuck in the Stone age.(lol)Elevate your game if you are going to support an inept corrupt Prezo.

  3. There is nothing to read up on here; the facts remain lucid and clear the Old soldier without a mission is a serial fake news peddler – no two ways about it. It is an offense against Truth and Justice and no one should be allowed to get away with such a deplorable act. Here are his fallacious words once again; “For the FIRST time in our NATIONS history, one of the nations best Judges Justice MIATTA SAMBA, beat out Worldwide competition to be elected Judge in the International Criminal Court.”(lol) An outright brazen, deplorable lie!

    Miatta Samba was not the first Sierra Leonean Judge to serve on the International Criminal Court – Justice Abdul Koroma served honourably before her, so please do not come tip-toeing on this glorious forum and try to put a positive spin on a totally repulsive, misleading act that was purposefully designed to deceive our poor, struggling, gullible uneducated masses. Clear enough?(lol)

  4. Happy New Year to you too President Bio and May the Almighty continue to bless you with wisdom and understanding so you can continue the path of Peace, Security and Credibility in our beloved country. I personally believe that there are still some challenges based on the fact that the new direction government inherited the worst economy since independence due to the 11 years misrule of the destructive APC party that ended in austerity. Unfortunately they are still contesting the 2018 presidential election results; and were engaged in making our country ungovernable based on the fact that the COI was established to return our stolen monies.

    Thankfully our gallant security forces succeeded in quelling most of the RIOTS planned and orchestrated by the terrorist APC party last year but unfortunately the coronavirus struck in the first quarter of the 2020 year of delivery. Despite these challenges, Sierra Leone has been recognized as one of the most peaceful and credible country in Africa, and based on this foundation our country is now on the path of rapid developmental change as indicated in the presidential speech.
    Through the hard work and commitment to the people, the new direction government have earned $400 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is like winning the World Football Championship from FIFA.

    The respect that our country has earned has resulted in the selection of not only the first Sierra Leonean judge Miatta Samba to the ICC (which is different from the ICJ when in 1994 the first Sierra Leonean selected was justice Abdul Koroma) but also the first Speaker to the ECOWAS Parliament Honorable Sidi Yayah Tunis. Happy New Year to the Proprietor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the pundits and the entire readers of this credible newspaper. May Almighty continue to bless us with good health and longevity during this pandemic.

    • Happy New Year to you too Mr Fallay, and to all our prolific commentators, including Stargazer, Mr Matturi, Young4na, Mr Reinhard, Mr Jalloh, Mr Brima Sesay, Mr Dalby, Adewale John, Ms Patricia, Ms Fatmata Conteh, Dr Aboud, Alimamy Turay, Santhkie Sorie, Hashim, Med Sillah, Levi Fofana, and many, many others. Wishing you all a prosperous and much better Year ahead.

  5. Dear Editor Sir,
    Just a correction or an ADDENDUM or CORRECTION to President Bio’s New Year’s speech to the nation, where he said: “For the first time in our nation’s history, one of our nation’s best judges, Justice Miatta Samba, beat out worldwide competition to be elected judge on the International Criminal Court”.

    That statement is categorically inaccurate. Justice Abdul Koroma from Sierra Leone served the International Court of Justice from 1994 to 2012. You can do your research. Not really complicating! The fundamental difference between the ICC and the ICJ are matters of Jurisdictions and functions and are both under the United Nations Charter: Not as a matter of one superior over the other.

    Ahmed Lamin Koroma, ahmedmasaio@yahoo.com. Virginia, USA.

    • Thank you Mr Koroma – I am sure President Bio will read your correction and take note. We understand he is an avid reader of the Sierra Leone Telegraph. Have a blessed New Year.

    • A siting President with all the monetary resources, intellectual and technical know-how and assistance at his disposal has ended up making the silliest mistake no one ever imagined was possible, claiming for the first time in our nation’s history that a Sierra Leonean Judge Miatta Samba has been elected Judge on the International Criminal Court.

      Hahahaha…the Old soldier never expected he would get caught red-handed trying to spread fake news; Yup, pants down and all. Sincerest thanks for the correction Mr Koroma, you were right on the money.

  6. Now this: “Our focus has been on saving lives and protecting livelihoods;” said the President – What a brazen shameless disgraceful lie to utter after slaughtering 40 unarmed prisoners and countless innocent unarmed youths. And the outright deplorable lies never seem to end even in the beginning of a brand new year. Here goes the corrupt old soldier once again, “In 2020, Sierra Leone has been recognized the world over for simply doing the right things very well.” Hahahaha how can people with no regard for the Rule of Law and individual freedoms utter such a false statement?

    These deranged individuals are the ones that have been tirelessly harassing, bullying and intimidating the opposition and the media; they have relentlessly promoted discord, stoked the fires of hatred and created economic hardships and insecurities through their ineptitude and rampant thieving attitudes. How many times have International bodies being compelled to intervene as they engaged stupidly in witch hunts cautioning them to show restraint and tread softly? A shameless speech full of calculated ‘Red herrings’ delusions, and cunning simulations that have been designed to trick our uneducated, struggling poor people.

    Its the oldest trick in the book of losers and under-performing leaders – Keep their hopes high and ears open and heads ringing with tempting, appealing promises of a prosperous future to come and they will become as timid and as obedient as fragile ewe lambs. Lies – thats all it is – Don’t believe a word the SLPP or their Old crooked soldier without a mission says to you.(lol)

    • Thanks Mr Thomas, for your acknowledgement and giving us Sierra Leoneans this noble platform in your online newspaper to express our opinions on the state of our country’s political, social and economics issues affecting our country. Long may it continue. As always the Sierra Leone Telegraph have shown to be the most blanched and impartial online newspaper, free from political dogmas, on issues affecting our country.

      Whatever your political persuasion, in the Sierra Leone Telegraph, there is always a room for you to pitch your tent and make your opinions known. The Sierra Leone Telegraph have also offered you a platform to argue your point of view that you think is right for the future development of our country. Its up to our elected representatives to take on board some of these suggestions as they craft policies that directly affect you and me.

      Sierra Leone Telegraph has become not only the voice of the voiceless, but the true representation of all shades of opinions about issues that are currently affecting our country under Bio. May God bless Sierra-Leone.

    • It would be good if people can read up before making wild statements about inaccuracies of what the president stated about “Justice Miatta Samba, beat out worldwide competition to be elected judge on the International Criminal Court”. Please note that International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent tribunal that has been created to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Basically, ICC focuses on the two bodies of international law that deal with the treatment of individuals, the human rights and humanitarian law.

      The ICC is different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The main difference is that ICJ settles arguments between countries, but the ICC punishes people. It is not only in the context of jurisdiction, but ICC has the authority to prosecute and punish individuals and groups of people for human rights abuses. This is a huge difference. Please read up before criticising the president. It is good to be objectively critical, rather than being emotionally biased due to political differences.

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