World Bank withdraws support for president Bio’s highly politicised mid-term census

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 December 2021:

On Tuesday, 7th December 2021, Mr. Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Africa West and Central Region, wrote a letter to Sierra Leone’s minister of finance – Denis Vandy and minister of economic development – Francis Kaikai, copied to Jacob Jusu Saffa – chief minister and Osman Sankoh – statistician general of Statistics Sierra Leone, to inform the government that the World Bank will no longer support its midterm census. (Photo above: President Bio had a frosty meeting with the Head of World Bank in Africa yesterday). 

Few weeks ago, President Bio announced on national television and radio that a mid-term census will be conducted, starting tonight – 9th December 2021. But since his announcement, there have been calls for the president not to go ahead due to technical difficulties and lack of preparedness.

“Our development partners and my government are firmly committed to ensuring objectivity, transparency, and professionalism throughout the census exercise. I therefore, urge every citizen to participate fully in this exercise.

“I therefore declare the night of 9th December 2021 as Census Night, and the 10th of December 2021, as the date for the start of electronic enumeration for the 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census for Sierra Leone,” President Bio said in November 2021.

So why is President Bio bent on having a midterm census?

“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, we are conducting this 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census for three key reasons: a. To correct the anomalies of the 2015 Population and Housing Census; b. To provide credible and reliable data that will help us plan, implement, and monitor development interventions by the Government of Sierra Leone and our development partners in respect of the current Medium-Term National Development Plan 2019-2023 and the follow up national Plan; c. To prepare us for the next Population and Housing Census,” President Bio told the people of Sierra Leone.

But opposition political parties are calling for the boycott of the census, accusing the government of using the census to redraw the country’s constituency boundaries in order to win party political advantage at the 2023 general and presidential elections.

Although the government has denied this accusation, claiming that it needs to take stock of how many people there are in the country so as to plan better for the development of the country, confidence in the government is in short supply.

What is even more alarming is that several opposition leaders in the country have been summoned or arrested by the police for speaking out against the midterm census and calling on their supporters to boycott the census.

Even the European Union has questioned the government’s midterm census, and now the World Bank has withdrawn its support, prompting questions as to whether President Bio will still go ahead.

In April this year, the World Bank was in no doubt about its support for producing quality data in Sierra Leone. This is what it said: “The World Bank is working with Sierra Leone to help produce quality and credible data that will contribute to the attainment of the national development goals of the country.

“Under the Harmonizing and Improving Statistics in West Africa Project (HISWA), a US$30 million grant was allocated to Sierra Leone to strengthen its statistical system. One of the activities supported by the project is the national Mid-Term Census, which will be implemented by Statistics Sierra Leone (Stats SL) and includes the roll out of a digital census for the first time in Sierra Leone, an important innovation that requires careful planning.

“The World Bank, Stats SL and representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, the Statistics Council, as well as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) have held several technical preparatory meetings and Stats SL is now ready to start the cartographic mapping of the entire country, the first phase of the census.

“While the census cartography phase is being implemented, the World Bank and other partners will support Stats SL in developing and finalizing the data capture application. The project will also support Stats SL to pilot the digital application developed as well as the enumeration process, before that second phase of the census.

“Beyond the Mid-Term Census, the World Bank—through the HIWSA Project—is committed to strengthening Sierra Leone’s national statistical system, so that development programs in support of the country’s Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) can be better designed, efficiently targeted, and their impact effectively evaluated.”

This is what the World Bank letter addressed to Sierra Leone’s ministers of finance and economic development on Tuesday, says:

“The World Bank earmarked financial support to help prepare and implement a mid-term population census in Sierra Leone—under the Harmonizing and Improving Statistics in West Africa (HISWA) Project (P169265) IDA Grant No. D584-SL—because these data are critical to inform economic development policy, planning and programs, and the 2015 population census exercise resulted in data of insufficient quality to do so.

“Since September 2020 our task team has been providing technical support to help prepare Statistics SL to implement a mid-term population census that would result in good quality data. Much progress was made by Statistics SL in recent months and preparatory efforts further intensified recently. To that end a roadmap laying out the final remaining steps, actions and technical verifications required was prepared and multilaterally agreed (between Statistics SL, UNFPA and the World Bank task team) during the first week of November 2021.

“To date, while work on most actions points is underway with some completed, several critical action points require further technical work to be satisfactorily addressed including evaluation of the pilot census, the field operation plan for the enumeration, and ensuring enumerators are adequately trained. All these outstanding actions are necessary and must be addressed prior to commencing data collection to minimize the risk of inadequate and poor data quality.

“There is insufficient time between now and December 10, 2021 to satisfactorily address all pending actions.

“Therefore, while our technical team remains available to provide continued preparatory support, regretfully we will be unable to provide further technical assistance nor disburse any further funds under IDA Grant No. D584-SL to support the mid-term population census following the announced inception of data collection on December 10, 2021.

“The undisbursed balance of funds earmarked to support the mid-term population census could be reallocated to other activities supported under the HISWA project following consultations with the task team.

“Yours sincerely, Pierre Laporte, Country Director Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Africa West and Central Region.”

Yesterday, the Head of the World Bank in Africa held discussions with President Bio in State House, Freetown, where they discussed World Bank’s support for the country and what State House report described yesterday as “emerging challenges”, which no doubt included the controversial midterm census, the non-payment of $50 million owed for electricity supply by the government – leaving the capital in darkness, and the controversial suspension of the country’s Auditor General – Lara Taylor-Pearce.

Presidential and general elections are due in Sierra Leone in 2023, and there are suspicions the government of President Bio is trying to use the power of incumbency unfairly to win those elections, including the use of foreign aid meant for the development of the country to pay for political campaign.

5 Comments

  1. I am appalled by commentary made by one writer on the 10th, December referring to World Bank refusal to reimburse fund for technically insensitive census. He is cementing the old diabolical partisan mentality that denigrated Sierra Leone economic development to foster. This is not about A.P.C., S.L.P.P. or any entity of opposition. Sierra Leone leaders have failed their electorates in every phase of the coin.

    The international organizations are concerned about decades of suffering of the Sierra Leone citizens, and nothing denotes bias on their action. The world financial organizations are trying to mentor Some African leaders that your policy strategies are wrong, unfounded, unethical, and corrupt. We are here to help you do the right thing for your people.

    The Truth of the matter for the refusal by the world body must be accepted by all and sundries.

    .

  2. We all want the best for our country. We don’t want our country to be permanently become the refrence point of failed and struggling country that rely on it economic survival on foreign aid. Rwanda a country that went through a genocide in 1994, in which more than eight hundred thousand Tituses and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered by their fellow countrymen and women in the name of tribal purity, fuelled by corrupt, tribalistic politicians that have no interest for the safty and welbeing of their fellow citizens. More than twenty years later, Rawanda have made a massive turn around, and under Paul Kagema have moved their country from division and identity politics to one of economic growth, opportunities for everyone in the field of education, and training.

    Underpinned by technological advancements and innovation, by making it easier for students to access to computers and other information related technologies with the aim of making no Rwandan of school age is left behind, because of their families or economic backgrounds. And that is exactly the sort of leadership we in Sierra Leone are crying out for. Bio’s flagship free education is a step in the right direction. But offering free education, without the other ingredients like teacher training, renovation of school buildings, libraries, and making sure children and their families don’t have to wake up every day worrying about where their next meal is coming from, all add up to poor delivery of service and a country not ready to move the economic Dail in the fourth industrial revolution.

    If we want to compete with countries like Ghana, Rwanda and Nigeria, we will need leaders that think outside the box. Not for short term political gains, but investing in people for the long term. We cannot and will not continue on the path that we are in and expect to make any meaningful contribution to the standard of living for ordinary families in Sierra Leone. President Maada Bio knows this. Thats why he’d been casting his nets around, by sending his vice president Julldeh Jalloh, to countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast.

  3. I personally believe that this is a tactical move by the World Bank based on the fact the destructive APC party are now INCITING for another war and destruction for our nation. They are even trying to create the impression that the World Bank who pulled the plug on them because of massive corruption, will be blamed. Thankfully, Retired Brigadier and Commander In Chief President “ Talk and Do” Bio who corrected the mistakes of the APC 25 One Party misrule by introducing democracy is about to correct the 11 years of misrule and corruption of the APC party with or without the World Bank.

  4. ” True strength is found in picking up the pieces when we find out that we are broken”. Africa is Africa. Europe is Europe. To say that Africa countries are too dependent on aids is a fact, but can be contested in present days in some parts of Africa. Today, Sierra Leone is tested to see whether it shall ever remain dependent on foreign aid. Today, Sierra Leone is tested to see whether without foreign support the country cannot mobilize its own country resources to carry out programs that is of benefit to the nation.

    We all have witnessed what my president, your president, our president Dr. Julius Maada Bio did in his start of his reign to ensure that the free quality education rolled out without any donor support at the start. I am convinced that my president, your president and our president Dr. Julius Maada Bio will conquer this obstacle ensuring that the possible become possible. This is our census (the people’s digital census).

  5. Finally the scales in the eyes of the World Bank and other international development partners are starting to fall off . Is about time in all. Turning of the tap of easy money, by this international financial institutions, is not only making the right call, but the right judgement. This is what advocates for transparency and accountability have been banging the drum about for the past few years. Since assuming office, Bio and his one direction government have received millions of dollars towards our country’s developmental goals and improving the standard of living for ordinary working people in the country. But despite all the efforts and goodwill of our international development partners, there is nothing to show for it. Living standards have have taken a massive hit.And families up and down the country are struggling to make ends meet.

    Some of it is Covid19 and its effects on our economic activities, but the bulk of the problem can squarely laid in Bio’s misguided economic policies. Bio promised to fight corruption, which is the cancer that is eating away the fabric of Sierra Leonean society, but sofar what we’ve seen and witnessed is completely different from what we are led to believe. Demands for transparency and accountability from ordinary Sierra Leoneans will never get through to our corrupt politicians, but if our international aid partners and financial institutions, that seem to propped up this government can finally be on the side of ordinary people, then our politicians will situp and listen to our demands. This president is never short of ideas of how to fleece our international development partners.

    The fact remains none of the projects he launched, and was louded for has produced the goods. In the recent China /African summit in Dakar, Senegal, Professor David Francis was on hand to present a replica of the four mile bridge between Lungi International Airport and the metropolis of Freetown. Cost of that project is estimated to be over a billion dollars. Who is paying for that? Now when one thinks Sierra-leone as a country has less than five hundred miles of paved roads, you are left with the nauseating feeling that this projects if it is given the go ahead will help Bio’s elections chances in 2023.Same like the Chinese built bridge linking The Gambia and Senegal which played a part in the reelection of Adama Barrow. Bio is making sure he pulls all the stops to make his reelection chances even greater than most people accept.

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