Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 June 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Trade and Industry – Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, last week informed the media that parliament has enacted the Consumer Protection Act, which should now clearly spell out the legal relationship between the buyer and seller in every commercial transaction, as well as rights to legal redress when things go wrong.
But in a country where there is little faith in the justice system, there is deep scepticism about the extent to which this legislation will protect the rights of the average consumer.
Minister Sandy also said that Sierra Leone is still spending over $240 million annually on the import of rice from abroad which is affecting local farmers’ incentive to invest in production, as well as perpetuating the cycle of overreliance on food imports.
He said that the Ministry of Trade has reviewed its policy through the support of development partners, and that the World Bank has supported 35 more SMEs engaged in value chain production. $1.4 million dollars has so far been spent on this project.
Despite electoral promises made by President Bio in 2018 to address the growing food crisis in the country, there is still no sign of things getting any better as millions of people continue to face hunger and malnutrition.
Sandy also informed the media that the Ministry of Trade is working round the clock to improve the environment, process and climate of ‘doing business’ in the country. It is now possible to register a new business within 24 hours, he said.
The government’s much talked about ‘Munafa’ Micro Credit Scheme is charging interest rate of 9%, and is being managed by what the minister referred to as ‘reputable financial service providers’.
But the government is yet to publish data on who is receiving the finance as well as the regional spread; and what types of businesses are being supported and their growth potential.
As concerns grow across the country over the rising costs of imported goods in the markets, minister Sandy blames what he said is the “huge increase in global freight charges and shortage of shipping containers around the world which government has no control over”. This he said is responsible for the steady increase in prices of essential commodities including foods.
But he said that despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government through its ‘Quick Action Economic Response Program’ is ensuring the availability of essential commodities in the country.
The first question(rhetorical really) is-who’s spending 240m on rice imports? If the tax on 240m worth of rice was close to 45% you’d see greater investment in local production. I think if the ministries (trade/agric) truly believe their strategy can reverse the dependence on foreign rice imports, they should execute a ‘surge’; invest heavily in rice production over 4 growing seasons. It would mean; setting a 2 yr deadline for rice imports before upward revised tax; subsidize the majority of farmers using production incentives(tools etc).
Basically we need to starve a little if we want a salone producing 50% of its domestic rice needs. The early rice importers in south west Asia spent no longer than a decade acquiring hardy rice strains for local production- see where they are now; they’re the mega companies exporting rice to Sierra Leone, possibly their most lucrative source of high yield hardy rice strains.
What is Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, our Trades Minister trying to tell us something that we’ve never had from this incompetent and out of touch Bio government, for which he is one the primary pillars and movers for any decision making process carried out by this failed government, that have so far delivered nothing since they were elected in office.? There manifesto promise of fighting corruption, and their efforts or the lack of it, is not worth the paper it was written on. More like the same taxi different driver.
Maybe if he, or Bio have put their thinking hats on, and hit the ground running from day one, and agreed with the immediate priorities that needed addressing to shift the dail for development, instead of pressing the red regressive default button we all know is going to take us back where we started, by investing in agriculture, supporting ordinary famers, not your socalled farming ministers, revive the horticultural industry, liaise with rice producing countries, like Japan and most South East Asian countries that export their rice to us, training for our famers, help students in the field of training in agriculture and above all eles make markets accessible for farm products, storage facilities,construct good roads, electricity, to optimise the use of storage facilities, give notice for the years ahead for the gradual restriction of rice import, or impose heavy tax duties on some of this staples foods, we are capable off producing in our own countries. When the west imposed sanctions on Russia, it has the oppsite side effects, especially on agricultural products.
The Russian government mobilised there population and told them, now we’ve been cut loose, we have to be food self sufficient and not rely on anyone to feed our people . And thats what they have achieved. Now Iam not calling for economics sanctions against our country, but if Russia and Iran or Cuba, can do it with economic sanctions hanging over there heads, why can’t we that enjoy the benifets of good relationships with the international community get a grip and sort out our food shortages? All we are treated to this one direction government highway is sign posted with, Nepotism, Corruption, Gerrymandering, Tribalism, Regionalism and worst a government that don’t seek the opinion of the general population, when they make decisions that affects all of us. What happens to opinion polls? Don’t worry Bio have all the answers.