By:– Bowenson Frederick Phillips
Nobody is saying this Government has not done any good. That will be most unfair. I will be the first to acknowledge that under Ernest Bai Koroma, SL has experienced an unprecedented roadworks Revolution, with all its important attendant benefits as the country opens up, and there is faster and cheaper flow of goods and services. .
But infrastructure cannot of itself be used as a propaganda tool to substitute for the totally unacceptable and avoidable spiralling cost of living. limited opportunities, and the resulting killing poverty.
ROADS WERE ALREADY ON COURSE
It must also be borne in mind that most of these road projects were already on course for Implementation as highlighted in detail in late Tejan Kabbah’s handover speech. Apart from the ones Kabbah’s government had done, though many had teething corruption problems, especially the EU funded road to the Pamlap border with Guinea.
The parameters to really know how well this or any government has done includes not only what they did, but how well, and at what cost? Also more importantly, what they could have done more than they actually did, with the resources and opportunities available, and the prevailing circumstances.
Already there are serious questions to answer regarding the QUALITY of the works. We see for example Dundas street by Samba gutter where flash floods lifted the tar like a carpet. This calls for a Technical forensic Audit, and we trust the Audit Service is working on this. More so when we hear that our roads cost EIGHT TIMES MORE per kilometer, compared to others in the subregion
Kabbah highlighted that funding had been secured for much of these roads. Yet this Government that inherited a near debt-free state, has managed to run up an unprecedented debt in excess of $1.6 BILLION, and still rising. What have they done with all that money, apart from domestic revenue?
The Auditor General is on record for stating that if we judiciously collected and utilised our revenue, we have absolutely no need to borrow. It is a FACT that foreign debt not only puts a yoke on unborn generations, but we trade our economic independence by putting on the slave shackles of debt, which only lands us to more debt thru the manipulate and disruptive policies of the Shylocks like World Bank and IMF.
Give the devil his due, Kabbah proved we can escape debt by making Sierra Leone debt free, after inheriting a war debt of $1.6 Billion, and leaving Le500 Billion surplus at the Bank of Sierra Leone.
EBK STARTED WELL
There is little doubt that this government started on the right footing. Notable among the Initiatives was the calibre of many of the starting Ministers, including former Managing Partner of the reputable audit firm KPMG, Mr David Carew as Finance Minister. Also the first ever Residential Government PLANNING retreat, I think in one of the Northern Districts.
In hindsight, it is now obvious that the plan was not only short term, but not followed. Because if a Strategic plan of at least five to ten years had been developed and implemented, beyond flamboyant political speeches, SL today would have been assured of the basics like cheap and reliable energy, internet, telephone, and Water supply NATIONWIDE.
We would have been a net exporter of food, and earning very good foreign exchange revenue, making the Leones strong.
Today we still spend over $100 million importing questionable Asian rice. Beyond the good intentions of the speeches, we see an opposite reality. Rather than being presented with tangible progress, we keep hearing excuses why this or that BASIC service has still not materialized.
Both PROSPERITY as the standard, and POSTERITY, stand to fully judge the legacy Ernest Bai Koroma is leaving. Though even now, it is clear the people, who lent power to H.E., are “FED UP en den don taya pan excuses”, yet I am CERTAIN, that the ONLY reason we may not experience an ECONOMIC MIRACLE in this final year and lap of Ernest Bai Koroma, is the continued absence of sincere, honest POLITICAL WILL.
Mr President, you can still secure a proud legacy, if you provide us practical, passionate leadership by example, and a level playing field based on economic Justice and a Merit based system that does not give undue favour to Party sympathizers. Thomas Sankara for e.g achieved the impossible in one year, by the leadership he provided Burkina Faso.
Some of us have been in the ring even before your invitation. But until your leadership sets the EXAMPLE that will crush the current culture of persecuting those who resist the Corruption culture on PRINCIPLES, it remains business as usual.
Bowenson Frederick Phillips in Freetown.