Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 January 2023:
Last Monday, President Bio of Sierra Leone presided over the oath-swearing of his new Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, amid calls for a change of government at the polls on 24th of June, as the government struggles to address the economic difficulties facing millions of people across the country.
“You are no stranger to the challenges we face as a country. But I believe that you have a team that will take you through this successfully. The world is going through a challenging time, and we are part of the world. I do appreciate that. But I also appreciate the fact that we have to find solutions for our own peculiar economic challenges,” President Bio tells minister Bangura.
With the government having failed to diversify the economy and lever the foreign investments President Bio promised five years ago, not only is unemployment continuing to rise, there are concerns also that the government’s reliance on borrowing to pay for recurring spending has taken the country’s public debt to an all-time high – from $1.4 Billion in 2018 to over $3 Billion in 2023.
Sierra Leone’s government debt is predicted to reach $4.26 Billion by 2026.
But President Bio remains sanguine. “We have registered quite a lot on so many points, but we will continue to be encumbered by the economic crunch, be it fiscal or monetary, which we have to accept,” he told his new finance minister.
“Under the circumstances, we have done extremely well. But we have to do more on the economic front. However, I take solace in the fact that you have what it takes in terms of technical know-how and the team”.
“I also ask your team to give you their fullest support, and you can be rest assured that you have my full support,” the President said.
He said that Sierra Leone will not succeed without a strong economy. “But we can fix it and move on. That is the task that has fallen squarely on your shoulders. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this fight and that we will all support you. I am sure that, with the support that you have, if you can earnestly pursue it, you can traverse this successfully. That is the goal.”
In response, Mr. Fantamadi Bangura, thanked President Bio for his leadership, saying: “The trust and confidence you have reposed in me has prepared me for this enviable position and grateful for the honour it brings to my family”.
He described his appointment as a decision taken at a crucial time in the country’s turbulent journey and five months before elections, when President Bio will be seeking a second term mandate.
“Your excellency, barely four and a half years into the administration, you delivered very solid accomplishments as promised to the people of this country in the New Direction Manifesto. Under very tenuous circumstances, both globally and also within Sierra Leone, these challenges still continue, and they are actually affecting our country and our society in different ways.
“However, we are very much aware of your vision for Sierra Leone, one that is focused on ensuring that we deliver economic sovereignty for this country. You have always got us to appreciate, and we must always utilise all our resources, both human and God-given, to ensure that we explore their potential to deliver on the aspirations of the state,” he said.
“I want to assure you that we will work with the team that we have at the economic management level, but also across government, the cabinet, and different organs of government, to ensure that we are able to earnestly engage all our partners and bring credibility to all the programmes that we have defined in the state, be it in the medium-term strategy but also on the budgetary programmes and all the other advisories,” he told the President.
Assuring President Bio, the finance minister said: “I will render this service with probity. I also want to count on your full support, His Excellency, to deliver on your expectations. Once more, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve at the highest level in this country, under your leadership”.
With cost of living in Sierra Leone running at over 40%, the value of the Leone at less than 65% its 2018 value against the Dollar, and government’s taxation receipts showing no sign of improving, both the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and the new finance minister are now on borrowed time to work economic miracles, if President Bio is to be re-elected on June 24th, 2023.
A substitution with just a few minutes to go. Is Mr Bangura the forward that can snatch Bio/SLPP from the jaws of defeat in June? We have to suspect that the new finance minister is going to run all over the place in search of funds to order basic necessities (principally rice) in uniquely large quantities to make Sierra Leonean falsely believe that at last the government is getting things right. A market flooded with basic commodities is bound to succumb to lower prices. And with Sierra Leoneans incurable mental illness of short memory they will either retain Bio in power or bring back their partners in crime (APC) in June, completely forgetting the findings of massive corruption unearthed by the Commission of Inquiry. We don’t change our ways, but we expect things to change. How many of us can recall what former Secretary General of APC, Osman Yansaneh, said earlier in 2022 that SLPP had taken corruption to an unprecedented level. It was an admission of APC corruption. NGC is the answer.
It is highly likely that Mr Bangura was brought in as a reward for being loyal to Bio behind the scenes to enable him to amass as much wealth as possible before SLPP are booted out of office. An economy like ours cannot be turned around in six months. Maada Bio is dreaming.
“We must find solutions to the country’s peculiar economic challenges “. Who could disagree with such well rehearsed ,and pointed statement from the very president that helped create the very economic mess our country finds itself today .We don’t need any economic lectures from Bio to know our lives ,and our future economic prospect have taken a huge hammer blow from this out of touch president and his so-called talented experts that seemed to go through the revolving doors of his cabinet with no one taking a blind notice of it . How comes it took Bio four years, for him to realise Bionomic haven’t worked for our country and its people . Our lives are worse of today than when he took office . What a mess it has been . Even a Nollywood script writer will not come up with such a sorry state of affairs called “Life under Bio in Sierra Leone “.Yes Covid19 played its part in underming the economic fundamentals that was in place to enhanced economic growth , but the biggest Elephant in the room that was ignored and continued to be ignored by Bio and his cronies is the wide spread and out of control corrupt practices of some members of his government ,and civil servants that continue to suck the blood out of the economic life line that was given to us by international financial institutions like the World Bank , IMF , ADB , the EU , the United States , Uk and China and many other donor nations that have given their support to Bio , only to see those monies end up fatten the bank balances of Bio’a hardcore supporters .
Good luck to our new Finance, Minister Mr Sheku A.F.Bangura .Apart from the presidency, the job of the keeper of the public purse, is one of the most difficult job to land in Sierra Leone .Once again after a series of casacading economic failures and corruption being at the very heart of it , Bio have finally handed this poison chalice job to Mr Bangura to see if he can pull a rabit out his magic hat to rescure our failing economy. Rebuilding our sluggish economy and restoring dignity not destitution for struggling families up and down the country will take many years to recover from the rigors of economic mismanagement, spearheaded by Bio and his failed government .Since taking office , there has been a series of cascading man made problems that have stunted economic growth and created a widening gap between the haves and the have not.
The cost of living crisis that has now become associated with one of biggest political and military circulation by Putin’s invasion of Ukrainian have not only shone a bright light of how our country was not prepared for any crisis , the Bio government have proved they were not good at managing any crisis of any magnitude .And we the ordinary people of Sierra Leone are left to pick up the pieces of their Almighty economic mess .When are we going to wise up and elect leaders that think country first before their own alter-ego .
That our economy is intensively unwell is not beyond rationalization. What is, the lies and feel good verbalizations, banking hope s that miracles happen to arrest and change the downhill trajectory. What may help is a robust wake up to challenging corruption that digs into the coffers leading to acute economic hemorrhage. External borrowing is unrealistic and unhealthy for economic growth. The president and his government should not underestimate the potential that diaspora investment may do to impact economic revival if given the protection to protect hard earned
Congratulation Mr. Bangura. personally I don’t know you but you seem like a perfect pick. The President has demonstrated a leadership move, and thank you Mr. President.