By KABS KANU :
If Sierra Leoneans sit down and listen to only political zealots to help us analyze our economic situation , we will never have thorough and objective diagnosis of our economic problems . Conversely, we will never solve our problems.
Politics has permeated our country so deeply that whenever we have problems , people politicize them and look only for analytical perspectives that suit their prejudiced minds — Blame the government all the time . But situations like economic problems encountered by Third World countries often go beyond internal governmental and leadership weaknesses and variables . We expect our so-called economic experts to make this very clear to our people , but they do not, because all they want to do is blame the government for partisan reasons.
Some of us may not have degrees in Economics , but we have studied Economics at various stages and levels of our learning experiences and we know when an economic expert is not telling the whole story and is leaning more on the national partisan political dimension, for obvious reasons, than other more critical external and extraneous causes –Which are very important .
But mark my words. They will tell some of us that we do not understand Economics and we should not dabble in such economic subjects as the depreciation of the leone . But we journalists are supposed to be well-rounded , academically, and some of us have taken the time to study other subjects beyond our horizon , so we do understand basic economic principles and the various reasons that a country’s economy may face problems.
Some of the analytical statements that have been made by some of our so-called economic experts on the problem being faced by the national legal tender -The Leone- fall very short of expectations because the only concentration of these experts is partisan politics. One of them pegged the problem on the printing of more local currency by the government.
Let us forget for a moment that the President we have in the person of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is not an irresponsible and reckless person and he hardly acts unilaterally. He works in concert with financial experts and international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. Therefore, it is idiotic for anybody to think even that President Koroma would singlehandedly depreciate the value of the leone by printing more money to get us out of an economic squeeze. We have to think beyond our noses that certain people are too good to do certain things and also that certain actions by our leaders are no longer possible because we have oversight from our international development partners.
Also, we have very academically astute and grounded economic experts in the APC Government, like the present Governor of the Bank, Dr. kaifala Marah ; the current Finance Minister , Mr. Momodu Kargbo and Foreign Minister , Dr. Samura Kamara . These are gentlemen who have excelled themselves internationally working for reputable world economic institutions. It is an insult to them for a self- acclaimed economic expert to postulate that under their watch, the government printed leones outside standard procedures and in wanton and random fashion.
We thank God that for every one politicized economic expert who knows only to blame Sierra Leone’s problems on everything APC, we have many neutral and objective economic experts who frankly see and diagnose our economic problems from a broader and more realistic perspective.
It is one of such economic experts , Dr. Paul Christiani , who teaches us that ” The problems which confront us do not arise primarily from inefficiency or lack of adequate and rational planning ; they arise from structural deficiencies which are for most part inherited rather than created by us “.
Dr. Christiani tells us that public financial management is a very complex matter , riddled with considerable ramifications. Almost every measure adopted by a government is followed by repercussions which very often have far-reaching effects on the whole economy. Our so-called economic experts will not warn you of these dangers because they have a one-dimensional perspective of everything– Any problem in Sierra Leone is caused by a miscue by the APC. There are no other variables to the problem.
The problem with the Leone was inherited by this APC government . The leone has always been weak against the dollar and the pound since the late 1970s and susceptible to further depreciation –and this problem was never addressed by the NPRC and the SLPP–but it must be noted that though President Ernest Koroma inherited a shaky legal tender and a battered economy from the SLPP, he displayed exemplary brinksmanship with our economy to the extent that before the outbreak of Ebola, the IMF and World Bank , whose economic experts diagnose our problems from deeply and objectively and know better , adjudged Sierra Leone to have the third fastest growing economy in the whole world. This achievement was well celebrated in the country and the media, though detractors, who never seem to appreciate anything , had their own story. That was before we got hit but the deadly plague of Ebola which wrecked everything.
If Sierra Leone only a few years ago had the third fastest growing economy in the world, and now there are hiccoughs , is it not reasonable to believe that something more than APC ‘s handling of the economy may have happened for that same economy to begin having problems ?
Sierra Leone is suffering from the effects of the Ebola scourge and the failure of the government’s revenue base to continue expanding as it was doing before the outbreak of Ebola because of the effects of the outbreak and the well-publicized dramatic drop in the prices of our exports, including our minerals, in addition to the closing down of our mining companies DUE TO EBOLA-INSPIRED PROBLEMS as alleged by these companies .
Whatever economic problem we are encountering should not come as a surprise. It was predicted even by our development partners during the Ebola crisis. Ebola destroyed the gains of our economic revival during the President Koroma era and it was only a matter of time that we started experiencing the pinches.
Not only was our country being ravaged by Ebola. The international market was undergoing its own shocks and negative changes . Prices of mineral resources from Africa were tumbling faster than ever . Our mining companies were closing down operations because of the twin effects of Ebola and the drop in prices of mineral resources in the international market. Sierra Leone’s export earnings started suffering seriously .
Obviously, if we have low export earnings and an economy that has been devastated by a deadly plague, we have problems in expanding our revenue base and when we cannot expand our revenue base it puts immense pressure on our national currency . This could lead to a fall in the value of the currency . Why do critics of this government deliberately refuse to see and acknowledge this dimension of our economic problems ?
While one must agree that a currency also weakens when there is too much supply in the market, could it not also be because it is not being used more because service-providers demand the dollar for all their transactions ? Is it not because we are not using our own currency ?
This government is too responsible to print money at its whims and caprices, as one Professor, whose caustic and unreasonable opinions about anything APC and Northern Sierra Leone are well-known, is alleging in his interview with Mamba TV . Some of the critics of this government must try to be more realistic and broad-minded and see our problems from a broader perspective for once.
Dr. Christiani advises that given the complexity of financial issues, “A thorough discipline in the principles of Economics coupled with the capacity and desire to keep abreast of new trends in economic thinking is essential ….it is also necessary for them to understand our economic problems both microscopically and macroscopically “.
While not denying the fact that SOME of these economic experts casting all the blame on government may understand the economic principles in question , their problem is their failure to divorce pure national matters from the SLPP /APC partisan political rivalry and dysfunctional relationship .
TO BE CONTINUED