Twenty years after the country’s return to democratic rule in 1996, and 15 years after the RUF war officially ended in 2002, Sierra Leone by all the reliable available indicators has not made any significant upward shift away from the reality of elemental poverty affecting more than 60% of the population.
For example, per capita income still remains very low (we have no latest figure of this but it is certainly below $1, 000 per head) - too low to allow the majority of the population to save significant amounts of their incomes and to be able to invest in quality of life enhancement things like decent housing, quality education for their children, put good food on the table three times a day, afford quality health service when they fall ill, etc.
For a country that boasts of having a wealth of natural resources including vast arable, irrigable, cultivable lands the length and breadth of the country, about a dozen of mineral assets the rest of the world would wish they were endowed with, one wonders where lies the problem with growing the economy to the point where it can employ more than half of the population and to enable per capita income to reach above $5, 000 in the space of just a decade.
The perennial problem of Sierra Leone refusing to grow like a stunted under-nourished child has to do mainly with the political and economic systems exhibiting very little sincerity, honesty and prudence in how they do their thing, coupled with them making very little collaborative efforts in exploiting economically the vast land, sea and human assets the country is blessed with.
Let us see it this way. If we focus first of all on maximizing and investing very well the proceeds from the country’s mineral resources, there is no need to borrow $165 million at Shylock interest rate and onerous repayment conditions to build the Wellington to Masiaka toll road which everybody in his or right sense say is very uneconomical and a drag on the economy.
Secondly, how long more does it take for the political and economic system to understand and appreciate that a nation like Sierra Leone has no business using hundreds of millions of dollars annually to import, rice, cooking oil, chicken, pig products, eggs, onion, etc.
Thirdly, how long more does it take the political and economic system to realize and understand that what is lost annually to theft, corruption, wastage and misuse by the MDAs of scarce financial resources in just five years (as painstakingly and clearly identified and reported to Parliament, the Executive, the ACC and the Judiciary annually by the Auditor General’s Office for appropriate punitive, preventive and remedial actions) is enough to make Sierra Leone a very wealthy food and cash crop exporting economy; thereby reducing its every growing import bill, foreign debt as at the same time strengthening the value of the Leone.
In this light, let the Finance Minister save his breathe because this economy cannot be transformed in any meaningful and profitable without the political and economic system taking the first vital step of transform the corrupt, unpatriotic, exploitative, nation destroying self-serving thinking, mentality and attitude towards the country and its citizens.