By KABS KANU :
Whenever a Presidential election dawns in America and we talk about the hot campaign topics that determine who clinches the diadem, , we say “It is the economy, stupid “. Well, if that is the yardstick on which elections turn, President Ernest Bai Koroma deserves a second term of office in Sierra Leone, where concerns over the economy have been sufficiently addressed by the Ernest Koroma All People’s Congress ( APC) Government. In just four years of leadership ,President Koroma has expanded opportunities and provided a fair and equitable opportunity to all Sierra Leoneans and all concerned to earn a decent living . He has also done a great job to build economic resources in the country which are instrumental in creating a prosperous nation in Sierra Leone. President Koroma’s goal is to provide sustainable economic development in Sierra Leone that will stand the test of time.
PRESIDENT ERNEST KOROMA : MAKING SIERRA LEONE THE HUB OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN WEST AFRICA
President Koroma has achieved this by making markets and the economic system in the country work better for both low- income and high earning families. Unlike the past when it was the rich and mighty who had all the opportunities to excel economically in the nation, there are now abundant opportunities for any Sierra Leonean to do well if he or she is prepared to engage in profitable business enterprises in the country. What President Koroma has done is that he has opened up Sierra Leone to business and commerce for all Sierra Leoneans, rich or poor . President Koroma’s other goal is to make Sierra Leoneans a self-reliant people. In times past, we were stigmatized as a lazy people with obsession for white-collar jobs that have us sitting behind desks doing sweet nothing whole day and being very unproductive . In constrast, President Koroma has created a new society in Sierra Leone where he has opened the eyes of the people about where the opportunities and the bucks exist–The private sector.
The President’s economic philosophy is built around a famous Chinese proverb :
“Give a man fish; he will eat fish for a day , but teach a man how to fish and he will eat fish everyday “.
President Koroma has engaged in a Private Sector Development Program that is benefitting Sierra Leoneans who want to work hard to better their economic resources. In 2009, the thoughtful and business-oriented President launched a Private Sector Development Strategy , “ Designed to provide expert advice and implementation support to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to develop and implement a Comprehensive Private Sector Development Plan. For the reporting period, the Private Sector focussed its efforts on developing policies and programmes to stimulate local and export trade , improving the investment climate , encouraging the expansion and diversification of exports and promoting the development of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs ) .The main focus of SMEs has been important as these enterprises are entry points for job creation at lower levels of expertise and adddress the high levels of unemployment among youth and women . A number of initiatives have been carried out by the Government to improve access to affordable finance for SMEs . ” (Page 33 , Joint Progress Report on the Agenda For Change : January 2009-June 2010 ) .
Thus , it was noticed that though Sierra Leone’s economy continues to be bedevilled by the global economic downturn, which is affecting the cost of living, there are economic opportunities which show that President Koroma has not been asleep. He has put his whole Government to work to set up structures in the Private Sector which will provide abundant opportunities for Sierra Leoneans willing to think creatively and work to reap the rich dividends that the private sector provides through small and big scale business enterprises.
KOROMA TIME IN SIERRA LEONE is not a time for people to sit down supinely and expect the government to employ them and put them behind a desk; Though the government has to provide jobs for its people, it cannot employ everybody.No government can. This is why President Koroma is reforming the private sector and inviting Sierra Leoneans to look at the economic and business structures the Government has put in place, think creatively and start some business that will bring in appreciable income .
A friend of mine in New York who hails from the Lungi catchment environs watched the impressive economic trends in the public sector and creatively decided to go into the transportation sector. He took a loan and bought a boat to ply the Sierra Leone River from Lungi to Guinea. In so doing, he did not only open a private enterprise that has boosted his economic standing but he also created employment for the captain and his boatmen , and when I spoke to him this week his business was flourishing so well that he had started “beating blocks” to build his retirement home in Titanfor , Lungi. The money he used as deposit for the boat was a loan from his credit union –which had been paid off– and it was equivalent to the same amount some unwise and foolish diasporans in the U.S. or UK blow up in one weekend to stage loud and unprofitable birthday or outdooring parties just to showoff . Thus unlike many of the armchair critics in the diaspora, some of them far more educated than him, the boy put his money where he was sure to garner profits. Yesterday, I was with the young man as he asked the boat captain to give his family $1, 000 to buy cows for the forthcoming Lailatu Quadr (Night of Prayer ) and the Ramadan celebrations. This is a man who in the past would encounter serious economic difficulties if he sent a paltry $50 for his family. Now, he asks his boat captain to routinely give his mother and father sums ranging from $500 to $600. Instead of sitting down in New York and just criticizing and badmouthing President Koroma and the APC Government , this wise Sierra Leonean used his head and explored the economic and business opportunities that the President has provided and today, he is walking on the sunshine. He cannot stop praising and thanking President Koroma for the business and investment climate he has created in Sierra Leone and for helping to turn his life around .
With the help of the UK Department For International Development ( DFID ) and the SOROS Foundation Economic Development , President Koroma has set up the Bomba Business Plan Competition , which among other things, is helping to “foster a culture of entrenpeneurship in Sierra Leone and to create a more supportive environment for entrepeneurs ; encourage a wide range of entrepeneurs across Sierra Leone to translate ideas actionable business plans and mobilize a range of support syatems–business advisers, financiers etc. -to align behind these entrepeneurs. ” (Page 35, Joint Progress Report on the Agenda For Change ).
President Koroma has also laid the foundation for farming to be profitable in Sierra Leone. Through the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Plan ( NSADP) which is primarily designed to put the objectives of the Government’s Agenda For Change into action in Agriculture, which is the backbone of the economy , President Koroma has commercialized farming through linking small to large farmers to market economies. In addition, the Smallholder Commercialization Program (SCP ) was launched by President Koroma ,whose aim is to make farming a commercial success , and this program has engaged 390 farmer cooperatives in 2009 . The Government is now working on creating cooperative clusters which will also enhance farming all over the country and make it profitable .
President Koroma’s impressive economic and business reforms have not gone unnoticed in the world. Lots of investments are coming in from abroad and creating employments for the people . Mining has started all over the country and a newly-opened fruit juice company is flourishing , all of them with abundant opportunities to employ locals . President Koroma has facilitated a business boom by making it very easy to start any business in Sierra Leone. He has removed administrative barriers and red tapes to trade and investment and as a result, Sierra Leone now enjoys a high ranking in the DOING BUSINESS Statistics (148 ) and has been ranked as the best place to do business in the Mano River Union .
With these achievements which all true Sierra Leone want to see continued in their country, President Ernest Koroma deserves to be elected to a second term next year. Sierra Leoneans should cast their votes for President Koroma so he will continue to make Sierra Leone a land of economic opportunities for all those who want to use their heads and work hard. We have a President who loves to think and put his mental faculty to action. He is a results-oriented man who tries to accomplish deliverable goals at set targets. The future of our nation is bright with such a progressive and productive Leader at the helm. Another six years of President Ernest Koroma will make Sierra Leone the economic giant of West Africa, especially now that we will soon become an oil-producing country.