Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Expert
When the first country in the World comes up with an election result that not only surprise everyone but baffles right thinking people about the sanity of a process that would see a winner of the popular vote being relegated to second place because of a formula that should have long been become obsolete. The result of the American election has for the first time created a crisis of confidence in electioneering that far outraged those who were entangled in the chards issue, about whether the chards were hanging or botched. When one considers the prospect of tampering in this election, it becomes clear why the tried and tested way of counting ballots are held in such high esteem. The crisis of confidence stems from the pressure to report in real time, to the extent that technology has now supplanted the fixed eyes of voting agents and as such the disregard of accountability of the voting system is replaced with speed and the technical possibility of manipulation.
The fear that now grips the nation is whether it was feasible that the vote was rigged and America is left with a President whom to all intents and purposes does not ring the right bells as a responsible decision maker of the highest order. Some who are in a position to know have attested that the possibility of hackers reaching the results before they are collated at any central point is remote but doable. That technical possibility provides clear indications of a winning candidate who may benefit from a computer algorithm that turns the results in their favour in real time.
The possibility that a country as sophisticated as the United States of America can fall for such a mean trick is enough evidence of the crisis of knowledge that this brings with it. The flip side of a global technological network has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting nation. Those with the ability to do what is unfathomable may just have let themselves in to the highest office in the World. Donald Trump made no secret of his suspicion that the system can be rigged but he was playing a sinister game. His is the person to whom Assange would defer, yet he was the one claiming that the rigging would be against him, only to direct attention away from himself. Clever ploy, but then again, no one suggested that Trump was stupid, just that he was a someone who was apt to say things that he may not have reasoned well. Hilary Clinton would have won the popular vote but was eventually trumped at the final whistle when the electoral votes were counted, and Donald Trump was first to reach the magic number.
In another somewhat crisis of confidence situation that may tend to throw some light on the consternation at home, Sierra Leoneans have to contend with a fuel price increase and a price differential rationalisation with Sierra Leone’s neighbours in Guinea and Liberia, witting beneficiaries of a hitherto generous subsidy scheme that kept prices lower in Sierra Leone over the period. The local fuel price differentiator was calculated to augment the subsidy when the amount of fuel that had to be made available to commercial consumption especially the mining companies was taken into account. What was happening was that the Government subsidy was for a time usurped by the higher price differential and volumes consumed by the mining companies. However, with the reduction in mining activities and the closure of some major mining companies, the dividend that Government was getting from the commercial demand was drastically reduced. In the event, fuel available in Sierra Leone were mainly domestic fuel and for which a lower price and higher subsidy regime remained in place.
The price of fuel in Guinea for example was nearly double the price in Sierra Leone and given a porous border between the two countries with most of it riverine, crossing points were difficult to police and as such smuggling of fuel to Guinea became rampant. So the situation that was prevailing was one in which Government subsidy or lack of premium pricing resulting in lower overall revenue generated by petrol companies became a drain on the Sierra Leone economy. The International Monetry Fund (IMF) was quick to spot this anomaly and recommended at once that Government should seek parity with its neighbours otherwise, Sierra Leone would continue to subsidize nationals of another country.
It is a mark of his astuteness that President Ernest Bai Koroma hesitated before taking decisive action on this issue. Firstly, the President was assisted in his consideration by the very troublesome evidence presented by the Sierra Leone Police, supported by several on the spot missions to border areas and crossing points made by the Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu and his Director of Operations, AIG Al-Shek Sesay . There direct and forceful interventions resulted in the investigations and prosecution of several petrol station owners along the Kambia axis where some of the most porous crossing points exist between Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is also a mark of the extent of the problem which is evidenced by over 48 petrol stations in a District where only 300 cars were registered. President Koroma therefore had to do two things immediately and as the Englishman would proverbially intone, the President was presented with the option of killing two birds with one stone. He succeeded in doing that and for now, the Sierra Leone economy would have to bear the brunt of the slump in mineral and ore prices in the World market. Interestingly, the victory of President elect, Donald Trump may benefit the Sierra Leone economy as copper prices have started to rise in anticipation of some of the building and infrastructure works that this American President would push through. The rise in copper price is expected to be followed by a rise in iron ore and rutile prices as key components in major steel works.
The crisis of socio-economic confidence is in the main, a perception of adversity and a loss of focus in the face of strong political realities. It must not be interpreted to mean the end of history, rather the dismal news on any economic front should create an opportunity for innovation and creativity. As Donald Trump seeks to make America great again, Sierra Leone must be prepared under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma as leader and Chairman of the APC Party to take advantage of renewed interest in the country’s mineral ores and metals.