By KABS KANU :
This week, the Government of Sierra Leone announced robust measures to counter the blip that has overtaken her once fast-growing growing economy.
The austerity measures adopted by the Government this week will go a long way to turn around the economy which is suffering from the multiple shocks of the Ebola outbreak , the impact of low commodity prices of minerals on the world market, the “overall low compliance rate among individual taxpaying public and business entities….depreciation of the Leone against major foreign currencies, high interest rates and domestic borrowing, increasing trend of extra-budgetary expenditures as well as off budget revenues held by subvented agencies”, as indicated by a State House report.
For opposition elements and political revisionists and unpatriotic lackeys not in sympathy with the Government over the economic straits we have suddenly encountered, it should not be forgotten that it was under the control of this same Government that our economy flourished to the point that it was adjudged by international financial institutions as the second fastest growing economy in the world.
Even as recently as last week, the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) commended the government’s economic performance :”The economy proved resilient in the face of two major exogenous shocks: the Ebola epidemic and collapse of iron ore prices and associated loss of production in 2014 – 2015….Prudent fiscal policy throughout the program contributed to the achievement of a relatively low fiscal deficit. Credible monetary policy contributed to price stability, bringing inflation down from over 20 percent at the beginning of the program to single digits, although in recent months it has begun to increase somewhat.”
If this same economy could now face a setback, it is because of the extraneous circumstances mentioned by the Government in its press release, extracts of which are mentioned above. Without Ebola and the collapse of the mining industries, especially, we would not have found ourselves in this present situation.
But as a nation, we have always overcome.
Sierra Leone is a nation of overcomers and with diligent implementation of all the austerity measures outlined by the Government , we shall do it again.
When we had the civil war in the 1990s, it was the most difficult situation we had ever faced as a country. Not even the Hut Tax War of 1898 was as deep-seated and as damaging to the country as the rebel war. Yet, we were able to overcome.
We had another nation-wrecking challenge in the Ebola outbreak of 2013, but we still overcame it, despite the thousands of lives lost and the economic damage it has caused.
The belt-tightening measures will affect Sierra Leoneans at large, no doubt . No austerity measures have ever been pleasant .
We call on service-delivering companies , agencies and the like, especially renters and the light , water and telephone companies, to exercise compassion on the “Have-nots” by ceasing to charge them in dollars and by rescheduling debt-payments during this period of austerity. Every effort must be made to cushion the effects on the ordinary man in the street. This should not be the time for aggressive debt-collection measures.
Nations have overcome economic problems before. Even the industrialized nations like the U.S. and Britain have had serious recessions before but they bounced out of them. Economic downturns are not a new phenomenon. They have hit other countries before but they clambered out of them.
The situation could be no different in Sierra Leone. But it will all depend on strict implementation of the austerity measures.
If we implement all the measures that have come to force , we shall overcome.
Government ministers and heads of MDAs must work to help the measures to achieve their desired results. Compliance with the austerity measures is imperative. There will be no need for them if these steps to tighten the purse strings are not implemented to the hilt. Government officials and functionaries thrust with the responsibilities to implement these measures must go all out to do so. And Government must take action again those who fail to cooperate.
Opposition members can politicize this economic blip all they want , but the fact is that it could have happened even to the SLPP. The Ebola outbreak was worse than the rebel war because we were fighting an invisible enemy that knew not man or woman, child or infant, tribe or district ; killed with a swiftness and efficiency unknown to human beings and it also ate the economy like an insatiable gargantuan monster on a mission. When it paralyzed our mining operations, it definitely put paid to the economy.
But we shall overcome. A resilient nation always does.