Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 July 2017
One of the prime reasons why citizens of democratic sovereign states enter into ‘social contract’ with their elected government, and entrust their sovereignty, individual liberty and freedom to the ruling political party is for that government to in turn promise to promote and protect their physical and economic well-being, property, as well as their civil rights and liberties.
Government, according to Locke, when elected into office should work hard to deliver on that promise; to promote the “public good,” thereby protecting property and encourage, and promote commerce.
In the circumstance where the government fails to deliver on these promises to fulfil their own side of the bargain and contract, the people have the right and liberty to vote them out of power and replace them with other actors and political parties.
This is exactly what the people of Sierra Leone did in 2007. They showed their dissatisfaction with the then SLPP government, by giving them the boot, and relegating them to the opposition.
The Sierra Leonean electorate elected the APC government in 2007, with the hope that the new face of the party, presented in the person of then opposition leader and current president Dr. (Honorary) Ernest Bai Koroma will be a better alternative to vice president Berewa who ran under the SLPP ticket to replace late president Tejan Kabba.
Nine years into his ten years term of office, he has proven to be the worst leader the country has ever elected into the presidency.
This article is the first in a series of articles that will highlight the failings of president Koroma and his APC party and government in managing the economy.
It is in support of the call made on Monday, 3rd of July 2017, by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – for Sierra Leoneans of all backgrounds and persuasion to join him in the fight to take back our country Sierra Leone from the decadence, backwardness and antiquated policies of the Koroma government.
This decadence is the result of the twin forces of incompetence and corruption – driven by tribal and ethnic hegemony which underpin the actions of the APC government and party.
This article will start with the unconscionable and poor monetary policy that is contributing to the run-away inflation and weak purchasing power of the national currency – the Leone.
Let me remind my readers that when president Koroma took office in 2007, the Leone was exchanging for Le 3000 to one U.S. dollar. The current official exchange rate is Le 6000 to one dollar, and the Black-Market rate is Le620,000 and Le640,000.
Simply put, Sierra Leoneans need more Leones today to purchase goods and services than in 2007.
This is what economists call devaluation of the Leone; and this is set to continue at an astronomical rate, if urgent intervention is not put in place to stop it.
The whole conundrum started when president Koroma removed the then Central Bank Governor Dr. Rogers from office in violation of the constitutional mandate provided by the Sierra Leone constitution.
This is because the central bank controls monetary policy, and one of the key issues about Central Banking and Monetary policy is that the central bank controls money supply, and has responsibility for keeping the value of the currency stable, and stabilize the exchange rate.
This responsibility engenders a social contract between the people and the government. Therefore, when the government decrees a piece of paper by fiat as currency, the people accept it as money, and use it in carrying out their day to day activities. Economists call it “fiat money”.
The responsibility of the government in this contract, is to keep the value of the currency stable. If the government fails to carry out this responsibility, they must be removed from office as they have failed to keep their part of the social contract. This is the situation in Sierra Leone today.
It is one of the reasons why all modern economies ensure that the central bank has autonomy, that is, it is independent from the central government so that when the government is inflating the economy (printing money without the goods and services to support the currency), the central bank should stand up against it and get the government to change course.
In line with this thinking, the bank of Sierra Leone Act prohibits political control of the central bank, and thus, the governor should be independent of political control.
However, to continue controlling the central bank and its activities, president Koroma has side-lined competent technocrats to head the central bank. Instead he has appointed political loyalists even though they do not have the right qualifications and experience to head the bank.
Current developments in the Bank of Sierra Leone will buttress my point. Just last week, The Global Times Newspaper reported that Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh has been nominated to head the Bank of Sierra Leone as Governor.
Dr. Patrick Conteh (Photo) has his PhD in Management and Finance from Walden University, an online University in the United States. He is also accredited with FCCA and an MBA.
Dr. Conteh also has a controversial banking career, as he was removed or fired from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank as Deputy Managing Director for fraudulent reasons as reported by The Global Times Newspaper.
On the other side of this coin is the current Deputy Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ibrahim Stevens. Dr. Steven has his PhD and MA in Macroeconomics from Queen Mary University in London, after graduating with a B.Sc. Economics degree from Fourah Bay College University of Sierra Leone.
Dr. Ibrahim L. Stevens has been the Deputy Governor and Director at Bank of Sierra Leone since July 24, 2014. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Bank of Sierra Leone.
According to the Bank of England website, Dr. Stevens (Photo) worked as Senior Economist in the Monetary Analysis area of the Bank of England. He was also an adviser at the Bank of England Center for Central Banking Studies.
He also provided policy relevant research and analysis to support the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. He worked on quantitative easing and large-scale asset purchases at the Bank of England before returning to join the Bank of Sierra Leone a few years ago.
The question that comes to mind when one reviews the qualifications and work experiences of these two gentlemen is: If you were president of a country running an inflation rate of 16.50 percent and trending to 17.40 in 12 months, who will you appoint to head the institution that formulates Monetary Policy?
Any sane leader will appoint Dr. Ibrahim Stevens to handle such a challenging task because of his stellar qualifications, and work experience. However, Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh is the current nominee for the job.
The reason for this type of leadership is at best based on the incompetence of the leader, as well as political party affiliation. At worse, it is due to tribal reasons, as Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh is Limba from Kamakwe and Dr. Ibrahim Stevens is Mende born and bred in Freetown.
As Dr. Yumkella rightly said in his speech on Monday, we need to “Put Sierra Leone first”, and move away from this type of primitive and parochial leadership that will take Sierra Leone to the bottom of the development index.
We must therefore continue to fight for a Sierra Leone that will respect the education and qualifications of hard working and competent Sierra Leoneans like Dr. Ibrahim Stevens, and speak up for them when their inalienable rights are trampled upon and violated in such a manner.
I must confess that I have a lot of respect for the hard work Dr. Conteh has put into his career and education to get to where he is now. I wish he had been appointed as head of the budgetary department of the ministry of finance or even minister of finance, as his dissertation is on the budgetary process in Sierra Leone.
The Central Bank Governorship is however not a good fit for him as I will bet my last dollar that Dr. Conteh will have problems understanding the inflation targeting models with their intricate and complex dynamic systems and stochastic models.
Based on the above analysis, I urge every progressive, honest and peace-loving Sierra Leonean to join forces with Dr. Kandeh Yumkella to remove this corrupt outfit and cankerworm from power through the ballot box in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections.
This naked tribalism and wilful neglect of competent Sierra Leoneans for far less qualified ones for sensitive positions like the Central Bank Governorship has no place in a modern state. We can do better.
A caveat is warranted here. I last saw Dr. Ibrahim Stevens in 1992 when I left Sierra Leone. I have not talked to him since then; neither have I communicated with him. He therefore has no role in putting this article together, and has not asked me to write this piece on his behalf.
I therefore express my profound apology to Dr. Stevens for putting him on the spot. However, it is incumbent that we stand up for hard working people such as Dr. Stevens, whose hard work and honest contributions to the development of our country is being marginalized and stepped, without due regard.
This must stop and we will work very hard to change it.