Kabs Kanu: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 November 2023:
Lacking transparency and accountability, the SLPP Government is not informing the public about the seriousness of the financial shortfalls it is facing that have made the payment of monthly salaries and wages of public sector workers and fulfilling financial commitments to utility institutions very difficult.
The economy, to put it in layman terms, is in serious trouble and the Bio-led government is facing challenges to pay workers their salaries every month. The Government also owes many companies hefty sums and the Turkish Karpowership moored at sea, providing electricity, recently resorted to load shedding because the SLPP Government could not pay them for services rendered.
Citizens complain that the SLPP ‘s chaotic economic policies, waste of government revenue on worthless travels and useless appointments to please bootlickers, as well as the pariah international image of President Maada Bio have exacerbated the SLPP Government’s inability to generate revenue, attract foreign investments, monetary inflows from mining companies and foreign aid. These have caused a drastic decline in domestic economic activities, which are in turn causing what economists call severe financial sector turbulence, pushing the economy to the brink of collapse.
Correspondingly, the SLPP government is unable to hold down commodity prices. The cost of living continues to escalate and the price of the nation’s staple food, rice, is approaching one million Leones a bag. The costs of other commodities, from palm oil to pepper, onions, salt, fish, meat etc . have gone through the roof and not many families can now afford a square meal a day.
“Things are very brutal for us here, “ Mohamed Mansaray, a government worker, told COCORIOKO this week. “Our salaries are no longer paid on time and even when we get paid, we are not able to do anything as prices of food and rent have increased beyond our reach. We just dey manage en cut ya, put ya. “
A housewife in Bo, who gave her name as Magbondor, told COCORIOKO that families are now living by the grace of God. “When morning dawns, if God provides, me and my children eat. If he does not provide, we go to bed hungry, “ she explained . Magbondor , who refused to give her last name for fear of reprisals, appealed to relatives living in the diaspora not to relent in sending monetary assistance to families in the country because “things are terrible, “ she complained.
Many supporters of the opposition in Sierra Leone claim that the economic problems of the country have been further exacerbated because some key donor partners have scaled down on their economic assistance to the SLPP Government because of President Maada Bio’s human rights atrocities and abuse of power; and his recent rigging of the presidential and general elections, which spurred an international backlash. The Bio government is an architect of its own problems, citizens believe.
When I spoke to supporters of the ruling SLPP, they vehemently denied that aid has been cut to the Bio government. They said that the SLPP Government is doing fine economically and still enjoys the confidence of the international community. As far as they are concerned, Sierra Leone is not alone in the hardships being suffered by the people. Musa Gbow, a resident of Freetown, said that things are as bad or even worse in some of our neighboring countries . “The global economic trend is at fault for what is happening in Sierra Leone presently, “ Mr. Gbow, who refused to disclose his source of livelihood, explained.
Our reporter Yusufu Sesay claimed that when he called a government minister to seek reasons for the delay in paying salaries, the senior government minister hung up on him and told him to go find a better thing to do.
Opponents of the SLPP government said that up till now, four months after the elections, many of Sierra Leone’s traditional partners – in – progress have still not congratulated President Bio after he was declared winner of the polls because the elections lacked credibility and authenticity and this, according to them, is contributing to the SLPP government’s inability to attract international economic assistance. “When you rig an election, it comes with costs, “Johnny Pratt of Freetown pontificated to COCORIOKO.
Last week, some shop owners in Freetown kept their shutters down. According to some Freetown newspapers, the SLPP Government has imposed unreasonably heavy taxes on businesses and owners shut down their shops in protest. The National Revenue Authority (NRA) also threatened to levy fines on taxpayers who fail to integrate or complete the integration processes with the Electronic Cash Register (ECR) system.
A trader, Issa Kamara, said that “business is really bad” now in Sierra Leone and the heavy taxes will kill their businesses. “People do not buy even when we reduce prices, and we are running at tremendous loss. How can we pay these taxes? “ he complained. “Foreign currency to help us import goods are also in short supply and where available, the exchange rates are murderous because of the depreciation of the Leone. “
Some supporters of the SLPP on social media blame the business community for evading taxes and say things will improve and they ask Sierra Leoneans to give President Bio’s economic policies chance to succeed.
Meanwhile, oblivious of the bloated wage bill, President Bio continues to make appointments of supporters to positions in government that the public ridicule and consider redundant and meaningless. “How many more advisers does this president need? “ Moses Conteh joked on social media. “There is an adviser for everything. Soon, we will have presidential advisers for ogiri and Jakitomboi,” he mocked President Bio.