I really don’t think there is a comprehensive plan for Sierra Leone.
I think that President Bio is just muddling through. See the criticisms stemming from people opposed to the payment of benefits owed past government officials. It seems people are saying that the monies should be withheld because of the dire economic situation facing the country. But the fact is that Sierra Leone has been in this same situation when Bio came to office but instead of first getting a grip on the economy, he instead advanced a free education program for political benefit. Everybody desire free education but it has to be done taking into consideration the whole economic picture.
When budgetary conditions are restrictive then it makes sense to as they say ‘cut your coats according to your sizes’. The retirement benefits are entitlement and workers right to have them based on law. The public outcry against the disbursement of benefits is misplaced because those benefits are the people’s right to receive them.
The retirement benefit payment, teachers salaries, government workers salaries, energy costs, social welfare cost, and all other budgetary items should have been on the table when deciding to embark on an entirely new program – free education which if done well is a big financial load on the budget. What the Bio government did was to rush the education program from the very start even before doing the necessary research on how to pay for it and how the new expenditures would affect other sectors giving the limited resources available and the fact that Sierra Leone does deficit financing. Apart from a bread factory from Guinea and maybe a watermelon program to come from Uganda, there has been no new source of revenue.
Clearly, the government rushed into the free education program to imitate Ghana and now it finds itself in a quandary because the program has not been effective. Trained teachers are lacking, facilities are lacking and books too and nothing was done to improve the situation. As the saying goes, if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig. Year two is approaching and if we take the Ghana experience into consideration, school population rose allegedly by about 15% in year two but the government was unprepared to handle it. Will Sierra Leone be prepared to handle the rise in school population to come? The purchase of new government school buses is good but at what cost? If we see the cost of the buses only in terms of the physical cash then we are only seeing part of the picture.
We need investment in agriculture, meaningful investment in our labor force, investment in industries, investment in mining, investment on our dying infrastructures, investment to stimulate market activities and so on. But we cant get them all. what this suggests is that we have to make choices based on our perceived interests. We have to be rational rather than pursue activities for political gains. See the proposed Lungi bridge with its insurmountable price tag of $ 2.1 billion. Even the government admits that traffic alone cannot account for the $100 million monthly dues. So why embark on a so called white elephant. Who in his right mind, if given a choice between investing in agriculture that directly improves standard of living for farmers and investing on the Lungi bridge that improves the aesthetics of the country, will in their right mind chose the latter?
Let us be serious in our times so that we have passing grades rather than failing grades in improving our nation. We owe this to our children and our children’s children. Let us do the right thing for posterity. ………………