By Amin Kef (Ranger)
It is no secret that President Julius Maada Bio has and is still the most vilified President Sierra Leone has ever had, despite the fact that he is doing all he humanly can to change the dynamics that have kept this country at a standstill and lagging far behind its contemporaries in Africa and across the globe.
It must be noted that President Bio took over the reins of power at a time when poor and affluent citizens were uncertain about the future of the country with austerity hanging over their heads and the people wanting quick fix systems after years of decadence.
When he arrived on the scene, he taught Sierra Leoneans that leadership is about creating possibilities for everyone, especially young people; the reason why his priority was improving and investing on Human Capital Development in Education, Agriculture, Youth and Women’s Empowerment.
It is no gainsaying the fact that, President Bio’s Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Programme, has seen tremendous development and received national and international accolades to the point that, the Basic and Senior Education Minister, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh was honored as World Best Teacher at the World Governance Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates a few days ago.
The Bio administration must be credited for creating the necessary climate and culture for strong, high quality educational foundations to be established for pupils from the pre-school, primary to tertiary levels, irrespective of their background, tribal ethnicity, political affiliation and religion. This is good foresight by President Bio because it will ensure that in twenty years’ time, Sierra Leone would have produced educated, qualified and well-equipped civil servant, technicians, teachers, engineers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, professors and other professionals to manage the country’s administration in all spheres. It is also worth noting that President Bio must also be credited for providing the largest budget ever in the country’s history to support education.
At no time in the history of this country has the fight against corruption been more robust, aggressive or determined than during the current administration of President Bio. It is a fact that in the fight against corruption, Sierra Leone under President Bio has so far topped the MCC scorecard at least three times. In less than a year, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) czar, Francis Ben Kaifala achieved a 100% conviction rate; recovering about $1.5 million of stolen money which was then used to construct the country’s first-ever National Medical Diagnostic Center. Much has also been achieved by the Bio-led administration in other fields like Education, Mining, Agriculture, Social Welfare, Justice, Gender Equality, Health and many more.
Against this background, there are still pressing issues about the resetting of policies and strategies for real transformation in economic policy responses towards protecting and improving livelihoods for the growing population of young people and women in the informal sector; investing in skills development, and infrastructure as the foundation for sustained economic growth and social progress.
Another major obstacle is how to correct the long-standing weaknesses in the fundamentals of the national economy which since 2020 have become more complex.
The less-than-ideal trends in per capita income, consumer price inflation, foreign direct investment, current account deficit and the debt-to-GDP ratio show a Government moving gradually towards bankruptcy if not robustly and dynamically addressed. Revenue and economic growth forecasts in the last two budgets and expectations of a more positive macro-economic outlook in the medium term have been adjusted downwards.
Against this canvass, President Bio’s Government seems to have no choice and like his predecessor, he would soon have to institute severe austerity measures and do a lot more to eliminate inefficiencies and gaps in the allocation and management of public finances.