President Koroma takes lesson in China on economic development

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 June 2013  

dubai6aSierra Leone may be one of the poorest nations in the world, but with the possibility of becoming an oil rich nation, it is the dream of every forward looking Sierra Leonean who thinks beyond the immediate problem of eradicating abject poverty, disease  and illiteracy to see the creation of a new province or capital city.

Freetown has truly served its primary colonial purpose. Established by the colonial British government to further its own economic and social needs, which never in the first place took into consideration the aspirations and future needs of Sierra Leoneans themselves, the capital is now looking tired, dishevelled and grumpy.

But with president koroma presently in China, there is hope he would return home with answers. Will he?

Freetown was created to house no more than 200,000 people. But after fifty years of independence, its basic infrastructure systems – water, electricity, sewage, refuse disposal and roads, are all bursting in the seams.

Filthy freetown 2012Lack of good governance and investment, and poor maintenance culture do not help either.

The city is no longer the convivial place to live, work and play. It is overpopulated, environmentally challenged, socially tensed and falling apart.

Successive governments have struggled to find solutions to put things right, and the present government is overwhelmed, by the enormity of the task of meeting the basic needs of the more than two million people now living in the city.

And it is worryingly clear that if these poor conditions continue, there will be a catastrophic social explosion, as disease, poor sanitation, environmental decay, inter-communal disputes, violence and youth crime worsen.

Also, whilst the psychological impact of living and working in Freetown may not be a priority for government, there is little doubt the growing prevalence of mental illness in the capital.

new heavy handed policing in saloneThe daily grind of eking out a living; looking for employment – where 80% of youths are out of work; managing  chronically high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and lung disease – brought on by poverty and environmental decay, will take more than a paper ‘Agenda for Change’ or ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ to solve.

Something – anything, has to be done to create a better life for all of the people of Sierra Leone in their respective regions.

President Koroma says he has the answers, he knows what he is doing and the people trust him to solve the problem. He is currently in China looking for Chinese investments that could develop industries in Sierra Leone and create jobs.

president koroma in china - briefingBut the president is also in China to learn some serious lessons about economic development, especially inclusive economic development that ensures that the fruits of economic growth are fairly distributed and enjoyed by all.

Yesterday – 29 June, president Koroma visited Hainan Province in Southern China, where he saw at first hand, the vision of progressive politicians and citizens in developing a province that is not only fit for human habitation, work and play, but is one of the driving engines behind China’s global economic success.

Sierra Leone government information officials – Jarrah Kawusu-Konte and John Baimba Sesay report from Hainan Province, South China: 

hainan 3Hainan Province is located at the southernmost part of China, which was established in 1988 as the youngest province of the country.

With a population of 9.0 million, Hainan covers a land area of 35,400 square kilometers and exercises jurisdiction over a sea area of 2 million square kilometers.

In 2009, the State Council of China formally designated Hainan as an international tourist destination, which aims to develop Hainan – within 10 years, into China’s pilot area for tourism reform, a world-class island resort.

Their vision is to transform Hainan into China’s model for eco-friendly development, the platform for international economic cooperation and cultural exchanges, the service headquarter for South China Sea development and the national base for modern tropical agriculture.

hainan 1Hainan boasts of wonderful eco-environment resources and sound infrastructural facilities. Its air and water quality is among the best in China. The province’s forestry coverage ratio has reached 61.9%.

In terms of infrastructure, road network, the around-the-island expressways and three east-west and four north-south highways, have made the island a three-hour traffic circle.

The two main airports – Haikou Meilan International Airport and Sanya Phoenix International Airport, are two major passenger airports in China.

Boao Airport, with a total investment of RMB 1.1 billion, has started land expropriation and is scheduled for operation by the end of 2015.

In addition, the East Ring High Speed Railway has been completed and will start operation at the end of 2010. The construction of West Ring High Speed Railway started in 2012 and will be put into use by 2014. The Qiongzhou Strait Channel Project is underway.

Hainan is now showing strong momentum for economic and social development.

Three pillar industries have taken shape: a tourism-led modern service industry, a petrochemical industry, and a highly efficient tropical agriculture, growing tropical fruits and vegetables.

In 2012, the province’s GDP totalled RMB 285.5 billion, and the local fiscal revenue reached RMB 40.9 billion, with a growth rate of 9.1% and 20.4% respectively.

Last year, the province received over 33.0 million overnight-stay tourists, up by 10.6%.

Sanya is a famous tropical seaside tourist city in China. It covers a land area of 1918.37 square kilometers and a sea area of 3500 square kilometers. With a coastline stretching 258.65 kilometers, it has 19 harbours and 10 major islets.

The city is comprised of two districts and six towns, with a total population of 581,400, of which 42% are ethnic minorities, such as Li, Miao and Hui ethnic groups.

hainan 2Abundant in tropical and tourism resources, Sanya displays its natural beauty with crystal clear seas, blue skies, green mountains and winding rivers just like Sierra Leone.

It features two national five -star tourist areas – Nanshan Buddhist Tourism Zone, and the Daxiao Dongtian Taoist Tourism Zone. It also has five national top class scenic spots -Yalong Bay, Tianya-Haijiao, West Islet, Dadonghai Bay and Wuzhizhou Islet.

Sanya can proudly boast of many advantages: an average annual temperature of 26 degrees C, air quality ranking among the world’s best, sparkling clear seas, white sandy beaches, and 68% forest coverage ratio in the whole city with 45.31% in urban area.

With a sound ecological system, an healthy environment, excellent tourism industry, and its unique appeal, Sanya has won numerous awards.