By Yanguba Kai-Samba
I am not against building Lungi bridge and in fact I would like to see the bridge connecting to Freetown at some future date, when there are economic growth and reduction in the country’s massive deficits.
However, the decision to go ahead with this project, at this point of multifaceted economic challenges and hardship ,is not base on sound fiscal policy.
The argument that Lungi bridge, when completed , if it was indeed, will unlock the economic potential of Sierra Leone is a fantasy economy.
Without doubt , on a scale of priority, it has to be electricity, good health facilities, good roads in towns and cities, job creation and certainly for Sierra Leone , agriculture and food security.
The 2 billion US dollars for the plan to build Lungi bridge connecting to Freetown could be better used on building the infrastructures aforementioned.
No country can talk about infrastructural development without sustainable electricity.
Electricity will attract investors to build factories ,which will go a long way to creating employment opportunities for the people.
I am not against Lungi bridge but it should not take priority over electricity , building of well equipped modern hospital and food production.
These are the perennial economic challenges that have made investors relocate their factories in countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana ect etc.
The North African state of Algeria is an industrialised economy, because of sustainable and reliable electricity.
Algeria manufacture anything from television , mobile, building materials , which they export to Europe especially to Spain ,France and Italy.
The German and French have relocated their motor manufacturing plants to Algeria,creating substantial employment for the local people.
The Turkish government also have investment company in Algeria and so are the British, Americans, Chinese and more.
Many companies in the west and in advanced economy are moving their production plants in Southeast Asia and some African countries because of the cheap labour market and cost.
It is cheaper and cost effective for the British high street shop like Marks and Spencer to build a dress making factory in Freetown .
It is cheaper for investors to open a coconut or pineapple juice producing factory in Sierra Leone , at the source of the raw materials, if the country have good roads, electricity supply , the skill labour force , good health facilities and political stability.
But Sierra Leone need to have sustainable electricity to run the machines 24/7 as well as the skill work force.
Sierra Leone economy is in dire situation and this negligence, involved by successive government, has not only compounded it, but any move to address and reverse the dismal situation must be carefully thought through and prioritise the urgency of the benefits that a chosen project will bring to the economy.
I submit that while , I would not dismiss the relevance of Lungi bridge, to pursue with it now, leaving out sustainable electricity , investment in the health sectors , roads and agriculture, is definitely unsound.
The 2 billion US dollars , the cost to build a 7 miles bridge from Lungi to Freetown, can build four modern hospitals in Freetown, Makeni, Kenema and Bo. It will, more importantly, increase the country’s electricity supply by 60 percent , which currently stands at deplorable 11 percent. It is a crime that Freetown has 10 percent of electricity supply with the entire provincial cities and towns having 1 percent.
When flight lieutenant Jerry Rawling assumed power, Ghana had only 25 percent of electricity supply grid. Under his leadership, the Italian government built and increased Ghana’s electricity capacity from 25 to 65 percent. Ghana today supply electricity to it neighbouring sister country Togo
Ghana is moving up on industrial development and will be sending satellite in space as well as using drone to transport much needed medicine to hospitals across the country.
The decision any government takes will impact on the economy and lives of the people.
Building a bridge to connect Lungi with Freetown may be a bold venture, but it is less likely, in the absence of accompanying pull factors associated with the tourist industry, to attract tourist or create commiserate jobs for the Locals.
My misgivings about spending 2 billion dollars in building Lungi bridge at this time , when the economy is weak, still as ever, dependent on handouts and loans from foreign countries and international institutions is not so much of the economic case made by proponents of this project, but it’s prompted by irrefutable empirical cases in the developed countries, which have shown that energy and electricity are the engines for economic growth .
Why not spend the 2 billion dollars to build the engine for economic growth , which is sustainable and reliable sources of energy.