A President and his rich legacy : Ernest Koroma Provides Sierra Leone a vision , direction and an impressive head start to national development

 BY KABS KANU :

 

Anybody who is honest and is not blinded by the tinted green glasses of retrogression that bedevil Sierra Leone would admit that before President Ernest Koroma came to power in 2007, this West African nation  lacked direction and a vision. |

The country was a rudderless ship heading  nowhere . And without a vision , the people perish. Sierra Leoneans were perishing because their country lacked a direction. Not only were they  perishing in the mire of want and deprivation. They were ashamed of their nation  because Sierra Leone was a stone age country with battered infrastructure that was a veritable eyesore . The country’s roads and bridges  were death traps  and Sierra Leone was also the darkest country in the world, without light or water . Depressingly, in the face of all these problems, the country had no national development plan. And it was a major flaw in governance.

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The World Bank,  in an overview of Sierra Leone’s dilemma then , wrote  : “Sierra Leone was one of the world’s poorest countries when the civil war began in 1991. In spite of its remarkable strides and reforms since the war ended in 2002, problems of poor infrastructure — including roads and energy — low capacity, youth unemployment, high maternal and infant mortality, widespread rural impoverishment, impact of the global economic downturns, and lapses in public financial management and governance still persist. ”

 

Before  President Ernest Koroma came to power , he too saw all these problems and purposed in his mind that if he won the elections in 2007,  these were the daunting problems he will seek to change. This was how President Koroma conceived the AGENDA FOR CHANGE. The President determined that only a well-structured and well-coordinated national development plan could tackle  the myriad problems that had beset the nation . It was a very wise decision.

For any country to develop, it needs a vision and a direction. It needs to set up a road map and a blueprint  to direct  where it wants to see itself in a given number of years or decades . Those who have studied DEVELOPMENT POLICY  can give you an earful about this truism. National development is not a haphazard exercise. Even African countries like Ghana, Tanzania and Botswana,  which are  the poster kids for national development in a third world context,  could not have made it without a master plan  because a  national development vision and plan provide the platform for delivering development projects.

And this  is going to be one of  the rich legacies  President Koroma is going to leave the nation when his term expires in 2017. He went to work and  provided the nation with two road maps for sustainable socio-economic and political developments , which, if followed by his successors , will lead the nation to its destined socio-economic and political El Dorado . If we Sierra Leoneans are a serious and patriotic people like the Ghanaians, President Koroma’s master plan should  put our shoulders to the wheel to help steer our country to the higher heights , instead of us spending all our time complaining and trying to smear the character of the President and the officials of his government.

As soon as he came to power, President Koroma  launched the ambitious program known as the AGENDA FOR CHANGE. President Koroma said his overriding passion was  ”to provide for the people of Sierra Leone the basic services which many countries take for granted but which our people continue to be deprived of–available, accessible and affordable food, electricity, water, health care and jobs for our bulging youth population. ”  He was optimistic that ”With the total involvement of all and sundry, we will be able to overcome poverty and be self-sufficient in Sierra Leone,”

President Koroma was stating an obvious fact : For his agenda to succeed, he needs  the total participation of the people. He alone cannot do it. The President of a country can only be a facilitator and a catalyst for national development. His  people must work with him to help him realize his goal .

The Agenda for Change ushered in magnificent infrastructural and road developments , free health care delivery for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under 5 ; revival of agricultural and mining activities and micro and macro economic reforms. Through the Agenda For Change, Sierra Leone now has one of the three fastest growing economies in the world. According to the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Samura Kamara ,  ”Government recognised that access to reliable and affordable energy supply on a sustainable basis promotes economic development and has therefore prioritized the improvement of electricity supply throughout the country.”

The power situation is still problematic but at least President Koroma has laid the foundation for future solutions to the energy crisis by completing the Bumbuna Hydroelectricity Dam , providing a thermal plant at Kingtom , upgrading the Dodo Hydro Dam , setting the stage for building more hydro dams and providing solar power throughout the country. The emphasis on energy and  roads and infrastructural development is to facilitate effective delivery of goods and services  and  huge investments that would boost the economy and accelerate job creation.

After winning a second term in office in 2012, President Koroma upgraded the AGENDA FOR CHANGE to the AGENDA FOR PROSPERITY. In launching the Agenda For Prosperity, President Koroma told the nation : ” It is with great expectations that I today launch our Agenda for Prosperity. For the next five years, this Agenda will be our road map towards meeting our goal of becoming a middle income country and donor nation within the next 25 to 50 years. This Agenda is the firming up of the aspirations of our people. We made tremendous progress during our implementation of the Agenda for Change. We built roads everywhere, attracted billions of dollars of investment in agriculture, mining and other sectors and ensured one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We commenced the creation of a favourable environment for the private sector to thrive, established a free healthcare program for pregnant women, mothers and children under five, and more than doubled resources allocated to education. We improved electricity supply, provided funds for local government more than any other government before, ensured the reduction of poverty, and continued the consolidation of our democracy through greater respect for human rights, gender equity, and a freer press.”

 

Under the AGENDA FOR PROSPERITY, President Koroma assured the nation that : “We will do more to complete residual projects in the Agenda for Change and to address recurring and emerging challenges. We will do more to address unemployment, particularly among the youth. We all need to do more to better manage our natural resources for the good of all Sierra Leoneans, we need to do more to add value to our primary products, and we need to extend, expand and sustain the Free Health Care and Scaling-Up Nutrition initiatives. We will reform the education system to meet the emerging needs in the job market, we will finish on-going projects in roads, energy and water supply, and we will build much needed infrastructure, including the new mainland airport, railway, roads and ICT capabilities; provide a social safety net for the vulnerable population; promote good governance; ensure that the public sector is capacitated to deliver; empower our women and ensure equal opportunities for both men and women; and above all, we will sustain our fight against corruption, and provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. We prepared this Agenda for Prosperity to guide our collective aspirations to doing more to sustain the transformation of our country. We hope to draw on lessons learnt and to merge innovations with the strong economic growth we have recorded in the last five years. This new imperative calls for smart work, resilience, and discipline. It calls for the assertion of our best in our relations with each other, with work, with government resources and with our collective inheritance. We are the best nation in religious tolerance, and the friendliness of our people to strangers is second to none in the world. We must carry these attributes of being best to the productive sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism, business partnerships, financial services, education, and healthcare. We must ensure that our economy is diversified to promote inclusive and sustainable growth. We must anchor our Agenda on efforts at being globally credible and internationally competitive. This may require partnerships with internationals in building up capacities in our judiciary, our foreign ministry and other key state institutions. To be successful in the global environment we need to draw upon the best and committed within the country, the best and committed within the Diaspora and the best and committed at the global level. Implementing the Agenda for Prosperity will require concerted efforts, collaboration and coordination among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Emphasis will be placed on monitoring of projects to ensure that results are achieved on timely manner. We will continue to attract foreign direct investment by forging strong partnerships with the private sector, especially on large-scale projects. The Agenda for Prosperity is the country’s one vision and one plan. Its implementation will be guided by strong commitments by Development Partners as well as the Government.”

 

There is no doubt from these facts that President Koroma has given Sierra Leone not only a vision and a direction, but an impressive head start to nation-building and socio-economic and political transformation of our country. What we need to do now is to  put aside all tribal,  regional and partisan loyalties and help the President achieve his dream for our nation. But for Sierra Leoneans, it seems to be too much to ask.

 

A journalist, Mr. Alpha Rashid Jalloh, in an article in the Patriotic Vanguard , made an important analysis of the Agenda For Change and said something that all Sierra Leoneans should heed  : “The ‘Agenda for Change’ concept is asking Sierra Leoneans to inculcate positive attitudes to replace negative attitudes that dominated most Sierra Leoneans in pre-2007 Sierra Leone. It is saying that everything many Sierra Leoneans had been doing in pre-2007 Sierra Leone was conditioned by selfish motives. This concept is also asking you to allow the positive within you to come out.” . Yes, indeed, selfish motives that place tribe, region and partisan leanings over the national interest ! ! !  This is the main problem with our nation. We have not been able to produce enough patriotic citizens who love their nation over tribe, region and party. Instead of discovering the roles they must play to bring President Koroma’s vision and direction to reality, they are fighting doggedly to destroy the President and leading officials of his government for tribalistic, regional and partisan purposes. We have lots of patriotic Sierra Leoneans, a fact that cannot be disputed but on the flip side we have another breed of citizens who do not think Sierra Leone. And it is this canterkerous Sierra Leoneans who are determined to smear the good names of the President, officials, government and the country. They have nothing to lose because they do not love their country.

 

Will it also surprise the critics of this government  to know that even within the ministries , departments and agencies ( MDAs ) and in the diplomatic field, there are government workers with dubious agendas fighting the Ernest Koroma Government not to succeed ?  Whenever Sylvia Blyden, the Awareness Times Publisher and President Koroma’s Special Executive Assistant ( SEA ), emphasizes this point in her newspaper and Facebook, people seek to demonize her , but she is right on target with her conclusions about the enemies within. Many of our failures and challenges are orchestrated by the ENEMY CABAL WITHIN .

There are other Sierra Leoneans very desperate to get jobs with this government and because things are not moving speedily for them as they want, they are full of criticisms of the government’s policies and programs and the dedicated men and women propagating the government’s activities. When they are not blaming the government, it has to be the lackadaisical attitude of his media team. Their fingers are always pointed outwards, never inwards .

Therefore, with all these people on board, the President’s best efforts will always be faced  with challenges and hiccoughs . Whoever says that it is an easy task to rule Sierra Leone has not tried it yet to see for him/herself. Sierra Leone is a very difficult country to rule because of the kinds of citizens it has. The mentality of our people must change if we must move forward as a nation. Countries like Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda, Botswana , South Africa and others have a leg up on Sierra Leone because they have citizens more focused on what they can contribute to the development of the country. The same problems exist in their countries but they have a nationalistic and  productive mentality . Though we too can boast of citizens with nationalistic and productive mentalities, we have a significant number whose proclivity is just to destroy.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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