Sierra Leone Afrobarometer survey – the people have spoken

Andrew Keili: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 August 2020:

The people have spoken. I recall an incident in the 2010/2011 campaign for the SLPP flagbearership in Kenema. All of us 19 aspirants were present at a gathering of our supporters and the general SLPP membership at the Holy Trinity hall. Our Chairman, John Oponjo Benjamin “summarised” his speech in one hour and only gave each one of the aspirants 5 minutes to make our sales pitch to the audience, advising us that” brevity is the soul of wit”.

The speaking sequence was balloted for and aspirants tried their hardest to appeal to people in the five allotted minutes, with the audience listening intently. When it was Maada Bio’s turn – I think he was sixth, there was a sudden invasion of masked devils into the hall and on to the stage, led by a wily J.J. Saffa. A well-proportioned Bondo devil nearly knocked me over – I suspect I know who was under the mask! Gorbois, Gafa gortuis, Jobais and other Mende masked devils danced around Maada Bio, holding his hands high and Gorbois made their usual fun. To say the rest of us were shocked will be an understatement.

Creating the impression, he was the inevitable leader, his speech was short – “The people have spoken!” The people have spoken!”. There was pandemonium and everything was brought to an abrupt halt. The dancing continued with no more speeches. I recall Alpha Wurie, muttering underneath his breath – “Which kine nonsense dis?” I laugh my head off anytime I recall this incident. (Photo: President Julius Maada Bio).

Well, the people have spoken on the performance of this government. The recent Afrobarometer report – “Di gron still dry – Sierra Leoneans increasingly concerned about the economy” by the respected Institute of Governance Reforms (IGR) makes for an interesting read.

Afrobarometer is a non-partisan, Pan-African research institution conducting public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, the economy, and society in more than 30 countries. People were interviewed on various issues bordering on the performance of government.

Nobody can better IGR’s report, so I will only attempt to comment on some of the issues raised to bring some awareness on what people really think about the performance of government.

Issue 1 – The country is not going in the right direction

Only one-third of Sierra Leoneans (32%) say the country is going “in the right direction,” a 13-percentage-point decline compared to 2018 (45%).  It is worrisome for only a third of the population to have a favourable view of the country’s direction. This inevitably means many ruling party supporters are included amongst those who do not have a favourable view of the country’s direction.

Issue 2 – The economic situation is bad, and poverty is rife

Just one in 10 Sierra Leoneans (11%) describe the country’s economic condition as “fairly good” or “very good.” Negative assessments (84%) have almost doubled since 2012 (46%). The government receives lower approval ratings on its economic performance than on other issues. Fewer than two in 10 respondents say the government is doing a good job of handling the economy (19%), improving living standards of the poor (15%), narrowing income gaps (10%), creating jobs (10%), and keeping prices stable (7%). A preponderantly high proportion of people frequently went without cash income, experienced medical care shortages and shortages of clean water and food.

In an earlier study in IGC’s SIERRAPOL – “Stop the blame game: Take responsibility” the pooling seems to indicate that unemployment, shortage of food and rising prices of essential commodities are the greatest worry for a majority of citizens. Only ten percent of citizens believed the government was doing well in managing prices of goods. Similar low percentage were recorded for government’s ability in making food available (14.5 percent) and providing jobs (24.7 percent).

These are alarming figures that bear out the poverty statistics. We simply cannot feed ourselves! Food prices have remained high. Our poverty statistics indicate households spend on average 63% of their total expenditure on food. It is ironical that our very own food producers-the farmers are the most food insecure. The incidence of poverty is highest in the agricultural sector, with about 79% of those engaged in the sector being poor.

The New Direction manifesto went to great lengths to indicate how the SLPP would improve the economy. To be fair, some of the promises have been implemented with relative success, but it is worth mentioning others which have been given short shrift.

Apart from general macroeconomic policies outlined, the manifesto was bullish about  introducing a partial guarantee scheme to provide loans to high potential private sector entities, in order to reduce the cost of finance for investment, revamping the mining and tourism sectors, rehabilitating existing laboratories for fish quality and support accreditation to certify fish and fisheries products for export to the EU and other foreign destination and establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Export Processing Zones (EPZ. Despite the rhetoric, many of our productive sectors are on life support and some suffer from self-inflicted wounds.

The promise was also made to tackle the issue of “uncontrolled wages and salaries caused by bloated public sector through presidential appointments and establishment of commissions that largely usurp the line Ministries’ functions, unregulated wage increases, double or triple dipping of salaries and pension as well as uncoordinated recruitment across the public sector”.

Undertakings were also made to control government waste like that relating to government vehicles- “Reducing this cost (of using government vehicles) by at least 50% will make Le 3.3 trillion in 5 years. Concrete measures will include reducing spending on purchase of V8 vehicles, introducing pool vehicle system in the public sector; staff bus service for junior workers and vehicle loan system for certain categories of public sector workers”.

The New Direction manifesto made uplifting statements about “diversifying production of food, including crops and animals, on a scale sufficient enough to feed the growing population as well as providing gainful employment while maintaining the natural resource base”. Consideration would be given to “putting mechanisms in place for public and private partnership in tractor management and providing support for rehabilitation of existing plantations and establishment of new ones”.

Promises were also made to “support Njala University and proven poultry farmers to establish and expand on hatcheries that will ensure the supply of adequate day-old chicks to meet the growing demand in the country”.

All very good on paper.

Issue 3-Sierra Leone remains a divided country

The perception that the country is moving in the right direction is more common in ruling party strongholds – Southern (57%) and Eastern (53%) regions – than in opposition party strongholds – Western (16%) and Northern (14%) regions. Many of the other statistics also indicate a much greater dissatisfaction in opposition strongholds.

The manifesto stated thus: “The New Direction SLPP Government will make every citizen of Sierra Leone to feel and believe they are an integral part of an inseparable and indivisible country. It will promote inclusive politics, inclusive governance, and inclusive development as the only guarantor for enduring peace and security. The next SLPP Government will launch a Presidential Initiative that will be heralded by a national conference on diversity management and rebuilding of national cohesion.”

Recent incidences and persistent utterances by diverse groups would tend to bolster the perception that national cohesion at present remains a forlorn hope. The National Peace and Reconciliation initiative seems to have stalled.

Issue 4 – So many problems to handle

While management of the economy ranks sixth among the most important problems that citizens want the government to address, food shortage/famine – which is also clearly related to economic management – is No. 1. Respondents were asked: “In your opinion, what are the most important problems facing this country that government should address?” (Respondents could give up to three answers). The results were Food shortages/famine 40 %, Education 38%, water supply 37%, Infrastructure / roads/ 37%, Health 34%, management of the economy 27%, electricity 21%, unemployment 17%, Farming/ Agriculture 7%, Loans/credit 7%.

Sierra Leone’s problems are pervasive and spread across all sectors.

Issue 5 – People are still hopeful for the future

While assessments of the present are gloomy, respondents are more hopeful about future economic prospects. Only a quarter (24%) say economic conditions are better now than a year ago, but four in 10 (42%) expect things to improve over the next 12 months. Optimism rose spectacularly in the Eastern and Southern regions (by 56 and 49 percentage points) with the change in government in 2018 but has declined in all four regions since then. It is lowest in the Northern region (31%).

There is a regional variation in the perceived direction of the country. Residents of the Southern and Eastern regions (the current ruling party’s strongholds) are more than three times as likely to express confidence that the country is moving in the right direction.

This report should be required reading and assimilation by anyone who wants this government to succeed. It is obvious that with only a third of people being satisfied with our direction as a country and with so many perceptions on various issues, bordering on the negative, it behoves the government to take another look at its performance.

To understand why some countries are mired in poverty, it is necessary to look beyond broad macroeconomic policies, such as interest rates and budget deficits, and also consider the myriad laws, investment regulations, and other issues that hold back productivity of industries and thus the nation’s prosperity.

The private sector needs to grow. We are just not producing enough to have a vibrant economy that will address our myriad needs. Dissatisfaction with the direction of the country by two thirds of the populace is a serious issue. It is obvious that the statements made in our local parlance – “D gron dry” and “Man den nor gladi” are not vacuous statements. They really reflect the people’s views.

The people have spoken and now the “talk and do” SLPP government must listen, talk less and do! Ponder my thoughts.

13 Comments

  1. Well done, we hope this is not political. But if this can make the government do more its fine. But for the two years of governance of the SLPP,we have seen some serious commitments. For example; we have seen a steady flow of electricity in the country. The common man can make his/her life better if can invest in a freezer for cold water and cold drinks, microwave for making small snacks to sell in their corners to keep life going. But we see most sierra leoneans solely depending on government to better their lives. Can this survey also ask how many young people have engaged themselves in improving their lives?

    Government provides electricity, have you taken advantage in improving your life? Government gives free education – did you take advantage? Look at all our young boys in the streets of Freetown selling mints, chewing gum etc for the whole of the day and take the little money they have to marry young girls and bring them to the city. These people would have contributed more in thier small communities in farming etc. My conclusion is that these surveys must be more expanded in their findings.

    • I will start by dissecting your comment from your last reply. Talking about youngsters who haven’t the right guidance, do you not think it is the duty of the right minded (the government to be precise) to help deliver the lost souls by trying all means possible and necessary to improve their lives? But when aid project comes to improve these poor and lost souls’ lives, how many of them have benefited from it? Is it not the same authorities who embezzle these monies? It is such a shame in this 21st century that you may wish so small for your fellow brothers. What life will you get by selling cold water in retail sale?

      In case you don’t know the monies the government is receiving are tax monies by citizens. These monies are supposed to be put in proper use for the life of a citizen to be better and excellent. Has the government decided to invest in developmental projects and the citizens refusing any of them? No! I think before blaming the children of the home for not undertaking their responsibilities why not ask the parents first what or whether they have done their part? I see a government and citizen responsibility ration as a 70:30. Do you know how many are unemployed overseas like UK and other Overseas countries that are paid unemployment benefits on monthly basis?

      Are citizens the ones collecting taxes in their pockets? Citizens pay taxes and government collect taxes. It is our sole right to ask what our monies been used for? It is not about depending on government.

  2. I have been saying this since I became a member of this noble forum that: His excellency president Julius Maada Bio has missed a great opportunity. To be given the mantle to govern a country is a very big opportunity every sober minded individual will be proud of and willing to do to the best of his or her ability to make a positive development for his or her people. So far with this administration, there is so much to decry…What a missed opportunity. Even though we still have 3 more years to go but hmmm – yai nor dae tote bot e know evi load.

  3. Ok guys now let’s do this. Instead of keep blaming and asking what Sierra Leone can do for us,why not ask ourselves (in the diaspora) what kind of go-fund-me page to create to help build a massive housing complex that looks like quarters in kroobay? Why cant we put a soberly minded Sierra Leonean like the chief editor of this noble newspaper Mr A R Thomas in charge of collecting these funds to help change the lives of the people of kroobay? Even if it takes 3 to 5 years to complete such a project (a housing scheme of 3 bedrooms per bloc) it will worth the wait and the kroobay community will really appreciate it. Why can’t we do that?

    It’s high time we start to put up tangible humanitarian ideas together to showcase what unity and love Sierra Leoneans abroad (US,UK,EUR,AUS,CHI,etc) can do to help out poor families in our home country. Let us show the political leaders what we as patriot of mama salone can do. Successive governments have passed, none has ever been able to focus their infrastructural developmental schemes towards kroobay. Except for authors, writers, journalists etc to showcase it whenever they want to pin point a case of reality check so to speak.

    Imagine what a contribution of just $100, £100, €100, ¥100, can amount to, from 1000 people or more, within 3yrs time frame. That will be a huge amount of money. Kroobay is a small community. Ten or Fifteen 3 bedroom buildings will be a good start to changing the lives of our people out there.

    Who is with me here on this one…Guys what do you think?

    • Mr S Jalloh your idea is great. Suffice to say tbe vast majority of the diaspora support our communities in Sierra Leone in terms of remittance that reaches many families around the country. We do more for our country than our educated African slave masters do for our country. It is the responsibility of the government to provide the tools, so people can strive and make a living. The first rule of government is to provide peace and security. In the absence of that, the first casualties of chaos is human lives and established business. You are talking about Kroobay, what about the other suffering families in the provinces or hard to reach places in the country.

      You are talking about 100 dollars. Imagine we managed to raise five hundred thousand dollars, that is no way comparable to the millons of dollars in aid money this government and the previous government squandered for elephant projects. What ever your good intentions, which I don’t doubt, we cannot replace the service government is supposed to render to its people. At the moment the “BIONOMICS” is not working for everyone. We don’t need slogans – we need change of attitudes the way our country is governed.

      If we tackle corruption, we will build all the highways, housing, education for all, agriculture, and electricity. Who will guarantee, if such a fund comes to fruition the government with its failed economic policies will not dip into it. BIONOMICS IS NOT WORKING and his one-direction government is not working. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  4. I prefer the APC or the SLPP to the NGC. The country would have been in total mess if the NGC was elected into the presidency. Its leaders are more clueless about governance than any other political party in Sierra Leone. It was a suprise to me Kandeh Yomkella being a first time voter. Not surprised also about Andrew Keili the reason why the SLPP youth wing kicked him and his boss kandeh out of their party. Sierra Leone politics has become regionalised, the afrobarometer survey report does not reflect the true report.

    Take a survey about the SLPP performance in the north of Sierra Leone, maybe only 20% of northerners will say this government is doing well. Do the same survey in the south-east of the country, 90-95% will say the SLPP is doing well.
    On the other hand, doing a survey in the southeast about the APC if they were in governance, maybe only 5 – 10% will say that the APC is doing well, same applies to the north, vice versa. How will you come to a rational conclusion with this regional high and low outcomes without bias? To me, this report is nothing to talk home about.

  5. I personally believe that by 2023, after total lawlessness has been drastically reduced, most Sierra Leoneans will stop living in fear which is responsible for the low score about the right direction, because of the threat of another war by the APC. The survey in the stronghold of the government is better due to the Mining and Agricultural activities, are showing some signs of improvement while this is opposite of opposition strongholds.

    The citizens will never gamble their future by electing the APC party, who are against the Free quality education that they are currently enjoying – no school fees, free core textbooks, school feeding program, Air condition School buses in all the district headquarters to name but few. That is the real “Bread and Butter” issue in any country that have the potential to grow.

    Spraying or distributing theft monies that is meant for the development of our nation, will only keep our country in the lowest level of Human Capital Development Index. Finally, a race can only be determined in the end, by the grace of the Almighty, by the end of the 5 years mandate given to the New Direction government, the perception of the majority of the voters will be more favorable.

  6. See – this is exactly the reason why we need more patriots like Editor Abdul Rashid Thomas that are totally unafraid and uncompromising when it comes to highlighting the truth with firmness,exactness and precision. This picture, although totally heartbreaking and disturbing, compliments the writers analysis perfectly like a brilliant red rose surrounded by captivating lustrous green leaves. It speaks volumes about the plight of our people. It says, see for yourselves deniers of truth what abject poverty looks like and what it truly means to be left behind, shackled to filth, squalor and complete despair with no breathing space or the slightest forms of respite in sight. Gentlemen, because of you the truth wears a glittering crown for the world to see today – Bravo!

    • That photo is from the archives of the Sierra Leone Telegraph. If you are not new to this newsletter, you will know that it has been used several times during the Koroma era. But anyway, as someone once pointed out yourself, sahr Mature and the myopic Young4na only came out of your red pigeon holes to participate in critical issues because your paymasters are no longer getting the free money to spray on you ‘owaii, osaii”.

      The economy is bad. That is true. Bio seems incapable of getting a grip over it? That is also true. But that picture is not new and I Hold the editor no grudge for using it to tell his story. Other editors will give it a byeline to tell their readers about the origin of the photo. But editors varies and varied. Some give the metadata of images in their articles some do not.

      To succeed Maada Bio should move JJ Saffa far off from the finance ministry. Like the former justice minister, he is a theoretical economic guru. That is not needed to change the fortune of an economy that was on self induced coma when they inherited it.

  7. While I do not normally buy into survey reports, because of several flawed factors, I honestly believe that president Bio is a one term president. Yes he has so many brilliant ideas, but those ideas would only yield dividend in the long term. Unfortunately for president Bio, he has played exactly in the hands of those who have been against him since he expressed his desire to rule the country in 2005. And because he has lost that front, all his brilliant ideas are not going to help us in the short term.

    The fear for most progressive Sierra Leoneans is that the APC Samura Kamara is the likely beneficiary if is to take power in 2023. Like the current Minister of Finance JJ Saffa, Samura Kamara is one of the worst ministers of finance that the country has had. Thanks to president Koroma, he had the guts and he moved him from that ministry to the foreign ministry. Bio on the other hand seems loyal to JJ Saffa than the country and his party that risks everything give him a chance.

    If Bio does not handle the bread and butter issues from now until December 2022, the people should speak loud and clear. That is to give him ejectment notice. My father’s party the APC has been bad for Sierra Leone. My grandfather’s party the SLPP has not been good either. Would Sierra Leoneans make a better decision next time. If it is the APC or SLPP let them look for a unifier. That is the first step for our development stride. May Allah help us

  8. “The people have spoken” was well written by Mr Andrew Keili. However, we should look at all former and current participants of the political landscape, to honestly and sincerely come together for the love of Mama Salone, to end this pandemic disease called poverty that pervaids the country. We need to ask ourselves what part have we played for such dismal conditions the country is facing. Do we not also hold the populace accountable?

    Freetown and the other major cities and towns are heavily populated. Most people are avoiding rural areas. Maybe Mr Keili, you need to start with educating our people that “country” is where you reap what you sow. There is nothing to reap in Freetown! Until human resources are utilized in the vital agricultural sector, poverty and diseases will continue to be pervasive. The country that does not feed itself is on the wrong track. I suggest government should focus first on agriculture more than any other area of development.
    God bless Sierra Leone.

  9. In the context of this report, it confirms all what we know about the present life and struggles of every family in Sierra leone. Even if president Bio is preaching to the converted, they know within themselves, life is not as rosy as he will have us believe. The danger of course, we tend to only concentrate about the struggling masses in the towns and cities. The people in the rural areas or the “RURAL POOR ” that makes up the vast majority of the population, are totally forgotten in poverty reduction initiatives.

    In that context, I will say lasting peace cannot be achieved, unless a large proportion of the country finds ways to break out of the cycle of poverty. Although the report says, the government had achieved some of its manifesto commitments, like free education, which is welcome, at the same time one cannot help thinking, is like president Bio is giving away with one hand and taking back with the other.

    His government has created more obstacles and hoops, that we have to navigate to make ends meet. To that end, the vast majority of our country men and women, have given up even in the pretence of trying. Hence the growing number of religious denominations in the country. Hope is an inbuilt mechanism or human instincts we have, to sustain our very survival. Even that is under threat from president Bio’s government. If these people could charge us for the air that we breathe, they will not hesitate. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  10. Have they started packing their suitcases to “get SALONE sorted”? I hope they do. God bless Mr Andrew Keili for his brilliant analysis.

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