Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 December 2019:
In August this year, the new Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone – Hu Zhangliang, met president Bio at State House in Freetown, where he informed president Bio about a range of support that the Chinese government has approved for the country.
The ambassador said that the Chinese government will help develop the country’s international Lungi Airport, after president Bio took the bold decision to cancel a $400 million loan agreement signed by former president Koroma with China to build a new international airport.
In particular, China says they will modernise the airport’s VIP lounge, which recently was the subject of much fracas between the opposition APC and the government, after former president Koroma was denied access to the lounge. (Photo: President Bio meets new Chinese ambassador to Sierra Leone at State House in August 2019).
“In terms of improving the capability of receiving state guests, my government is considering to help your government set up a VIP convoy with bikes, cars and support cars. And I believe that all of these will be delivered by February 2020. We are also looking at the rehabilitation of the VIP Lounge at the Lungi International Airport,” he said.
Last week, the Chinese government made good on its promise, well ahead of the schedule delivery deadline date of February 2020.
According to Sierra Leone’s State House report, the government of president Bio last Monday 23 December 2019, received a large consignment of VIP logistic support, from the Chinese embassy in Freetown.
Receiving and inspecting the consignment from ambassador – Hu Zhangliang at the Ministry of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation (MFAIC) in Tower Hill, Freetown, president Bio expressed delight and gratitude.
This massive Christmas present from the Chinese government which according to Sierra Leone’s minister of foreign affairs cost over $1 million, comprises a fleet of 31 luxurious vehicles.
The Chinese ambassador said the vehicles should help the Sierra Leone government “give foreign VIP visitors to the country a diplomatic and dignified welcome”.
The fleet includes 5 VVIP vehicles, 5 protocol vehicles, 5 official vehicles, 3 large coaches, 1 Ambulance, 2 supporting cars and 10 VIP police escort motor bikes.
You can watch the president receiving the vehicles here:
Mr Maxwell Bakarr, if we get off our backside and start thinking critically about our current economic predicament,we shall get the IMF off our back and run our economy the way it suits us best. We don’t have to answer to the IMF with our hands folded behind our back. This is why our government needs a lecture from all of us that are well meaning with a basic understanding of Economics. We can leave the intricate parts to the likes of Dr Yumkella who has a proven track record in the field.
Sadly Maxwell, you misunderstood my statements on Opportunity Cost. Opportunity Cost is not synonymous with subsidy because it deals with the alternative forgone to meet or satisfy something else; whereas subsidy refers to when a consumer is made to pay just a percentage of something while the government carries the rest of the cost. Technically, the government runs a budget deficit to meet its obligation to the consumer.
To have got the Chinese to send a couple of ships laden with rice instead of luxurious cars has no odour of subsidy about it. For the President to cut down on his foreign travels for another purpose in the economy does not amount to a subsidy either. For the Ministry of Trade and Industry to set up a fund to help Sierra Leoneans start the same business which foreigners are into is a world away from being a subsidy.
Some of the missing billions from various government institutions as revealed by the Auditor-general, if recovered, can be used to set up the fund. There is so much we can do for ourselves if we let our brain do a few hours of work, with the administration’s finance and economic team at the forefront, if their PhDs are worth the papers they are written on.
Thank you very much Mr Bakarr for letting us know that the practice of presidents travelling the world with a blank cheque is not new, only that it was kept under wraps, until human frailty forced Jacob Saffa to let the cat out of the bag – which has now bolted into the dark. I wonder how President Bio now views his financier behind the scenes.
“For the Ministry of Trade and Industry to set up a fund to help Sierra Leoneans start the same business which foreigners are into is a world away from being a subsidy.” Santhkie Sorie.
Mr. Santhkie Sorie, implicit in your suggestion is the desire for a welfare state as a force in income redistribution. Unfortunately, such policy recommendations can only lead to economic stagnation and negative growth. Government does not create wealth in a free market economy. It is the private sector that creates wealth. Government’s role should be limited to creating the enabling environment for the private sector to flourish.
The big cities of Sierra Leone now have Microfinance institutions that are engaged in the business of providing small business loans to aspiring entrepreneurs. On a recent visit, a friend of mine informed me that his niece had borrowed eight million Leones from a Microfinance institution in Freetown last year to invest in a fish business and that she was doing very well. Great news.
Government always does a bad job at redistributing income. This is the reason why countries like the former Soviet Union collapsed and why many European countries are buried under the canopy of large budget deficits. Its big government! Not good.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, IMF conditionalities frown on the welfare state as these conditionalities are meant to streamline government expenditure while making the necessary fiscal adjustments that can lead to growth. I agree with you that prudent economic policies can save us from future trips to the IMF. But we are in the present predicament due to bad economic policies. The APC government left an empty consolidated fund. Thus, the present government had no choice but to dance with the IMF. That is our present reality. Hopefully, we will succeed in stabilizing our economy in the near future.
Maxwell Bakarr, let me start where I left off in my last piece. I don’t dislike any foreigner entering our country to do business as long as they abide by our laws and pay their taxes. What I am advocating is that our leaders must do something to encourage Sierra Leoneans to get into the same businesses that these foreigners set up,which is essentially the importation of goods and selling them to us.They have an easier access to loans from banks than indigenous people because some of them have paler skins than us and our bank managers carry an inferiority complex over them; it could also be that the managers are heavily bribed.
Whatever the case may be, a clear-eyed Minister of trade should make the determination that we should not play second fiddle to foreign entrepreneurs who can use it to further subdue us for eternity. To achieve this he should persuade his boss [the President] and the rest of his government colleagues that they should institute a special budget and office within the Ministry of trade solely geared to give soft loans to Sierra leoneans wishing to start certain businesses and who can present a sound business plan which should include employment opportunities. The multiplier effects of such a move can hardly be calculated.
When we give contracts to the Chinese,they bring in their own people to fill in most of the positions,and we wonder why the unemployment rate is so high in the country and hence crime among young people.This brings me to the case of the luxurious cars and my claim that President Bio seems to have forgotten his third form Economics and his finance minister is no better.
Maxwell, we don’t eat cars but rice,fish,palm oil, potatoes, etc, etc. When the Chinese broached the idea of giving us the luxurious cars, a president who feels for his people would have told the Chinese that he would rather they brought in two or three ship loads of rice to help ease the price of rice in the country. When foreign dignitaries come to visit, we offer them what we have and feel no shame about it. Some of them will commend us for it and report to their government that Sierra Leoneans are living within their means, which makes their future promising.
When President Bio is expected to travel,he should sit down and do the arithmetic of renting a jet as well as all other expenditure inherent in a trip and say, “good heavens, that’s a lot of money,I shall send the foreign minister instead or have our ambassador do the job; I shall use the money to boost my free education program; I can still remember what my teacher explained to me at Bo school about Opportunity cost which means that the real cost of something is the alternative foregone.” Don’t you think Maxwell, that a president who thinks like this does no harm to his popularity ? His communication unit would then be in a position to climb to the highest building in the country and say “woona see waitin President Bio dae do”? Nar man wae dae sorry for in people den”.
Your point, Mr Bakarr, that previous presidents did not account for their foreign travels is well taken with the deepest grief.It just goes to show how they regarded their country: A tool for their megalomaniac tendencies. They have their conscience to live with if they have one at all. It is people like them’ as well as their ministers and others that make me feel obliged to the Almighty that He juxtaposed life with old age and death.
I have to stop here Maxwell, it’s past my bed time. Thank you for the lively debate. I hope to continue tomorrow.
Maxwell Bakarr,this is just a starting point because of the lack of time.I cannot emphasise enough that I don’t consider myself anymore intelligent than the next man or woman.If I have a view I try to express it the best way I can.Sometimes I even ride on the comments of others to make mine;this time I rode on Asher’s.
Yes the Bio administration is replete with doctorate holders,but what are they doing to extricate the nation from its economic woes? Recently,the Minister of Finance,Jacob Saffa,a PhD holder, contrived to give the President a blank cheque whenever he travelled out of the country.Now for a country that is in diabolical economic straits how does a move like this reconcile itself with trying to lift the country out of poverty? One would expect the Minister to prey on his boss to cut down on his travels and use some of the money to order food stuffs until the first bumper harvest,to bring down prices.
And please Maxwell try not to compare the American economy to that of Sierra Leone; we are not in that league to which China,Japan and the European Union also belong – we are in the minus zero zero division.
If you have been monitoring events correctly even the United States government does intervene in the nation’s economy periodically to stabilise things,especially when it involve corporations that are considered “too big to fail”.
We cannot afford to let our entire economy be in the hands of foreigners to compromise our national security. I don’t hate the Chinese or Indians,I want us to keep an eye on all their intricate moves. To be continued.
“Recently,the Minister of Finance,Jacob Saffa,a PhD holder, contrived to give the President a blank cheque whenever he travelled out of the country.” Santhkie Sorie
Honorable Santhkie Sorie, the practice of Sierra Leonean heads of state not accounting for their expenditure during foreign travels is as old as the mountains. What the Bio government wanted to do was to formalize the practice. Should we blame the government for that? Why would you want to scold Bio for a practice that did not start with him? Should Bio not be commended for at least bringing such a practice to the attention of a gullible public and for trying to seek a legal basis for it?
Additionally, as a brilliant man, I expect you to understand that a country that borrows from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) carries the burden of adjusting its economic policies to IMF conditionalities, many of which are geared toward streamlining government expenditure and abolishing subsidies.
Thus, your suggestion that the Bio administration should order food with the objective of forcing a downward movement in prices would appear to contravene IMF conditionalities, which frown on government subsidies. Besides, is it really rocket science for a country experiencing hyperinflation to subsidize basic commodities? Would the economists in the Bio administration have to sit by idly to wait for a Santhkie Sorie lecture on an issue that is widely understood by kids in a first year economics class?
Also, my allusion to the United States was not meant to make an apple for apple comparison with Sierra Leone. However, notwithstanding the different levels of development in both countries, both countries still have free enterprise economies where the market is central in economic activity. What this means is that we can draw on the experience of the United States when we are dealing with fundamental economic issues.
Yes, the government of the United States from time to time does intervene into the economy. But this is only for the purpose of preventing market failure. The free market left by itself does not always allocate resources efficiently, hence government intervention is sometimes necessary. But this should not warrant a bias against foreign investors as you seem to be proposing. Like the United States, Sierra Leone is an open economy that encourages investors of any stripe. It follows that buttressing domestic investment at the expense of foreign investment is akin to the economic practices of Cuba and North Korea. What this creates is stagnation and negative growth.