Four Years In Office… President Bio Outlines Challenges & Development Gains Made

Sierra Leone’s 61 Independence Anniversary.jpg

By Amin Kef Sesay

In his valedictory speech to the House of Parliament, and by extension the nation, President Bio on Tuesday in the Well of Parliament outlined that amidst serious challenges his Government has within the four years that it is been in power since April 4th, 2018 achieved remarkable development gains.

“When I first addressed this Honourable House, four years ago,” he started his four-hour long speech, the world was in a vastly different place. I brought to this House plans to translate campaign promises into policy actions, to tackle troubling inflation and low revenue mobilization, to introduce disciplined leadership and efficiency even in the face of the dire economic situation we inherited as a Government.

He went on that, “No one could have predicted then that we would also be tackling a global pandemic that would cause unprecedented disruptions, irrational spikes, and uncertainties within the global economy.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge”.

I dare say that the ultimate measure of a leader and a nation lies in the ability, not just to weather a storm, but to emerge hopeful and resilient.”

President Bio said that it was his great honour to lead this nation during these challenging times which said he was not going to dwell on but to “show just how far we have come, and how resilient we have been; to show my Government’s continued commitment to political stability and economic prosperity in spite of the times we are living in; to show our investment in educating our future generations, building robust healthcare systems, prioritizing food security, empowering women and youth, protecting and promoting rights and access to justice, addressing poverty and unemployment, governing justly and accountably, protecting our environment, mitigating public safety risks, opening up the investment ecosystem, and underwriting purposeful infrastructure.”

These development gains, he said, are a product of the deliberate choices we have made together in the last 4 years, adding that as we continue to face such choices, he would like to highlight a few of the significant initiatives that his Government has instituted and will continue to institute, to respond to the challenges facing us today and in the future.

In terms of development planning and the economy, President Bio stated that we have transitioned from the UN Peacebuilding Fund framework and are now transforming our nation into a just, peaceful, cohesive, and productive one.

Accordingly, he said, we have significantly improved our capacity for national planning, resource mobilization and coordination of development interventions.

He gratefully reported that throughout COVID, our development partners have continued working with us to address our development challenges in such areas as human capital development, health, infrastructure, energy, the environment, human security, and natural resource management.

On the controversial issue of the first ever digital national census – the 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census – he said his Government will henceforth base national development planning on credible data; as well as also popularized and amplified our National Population Policy to ensure that our development interventions are aligned with the aspirations of our citizens.

On the economy which has been his government’s biggest development challenge, President Bio said that, like many countries around the world, Sierra Leone continues to grapple with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises.

However, according to him, our economic and inclusive growth agenda remains focused on building this country and improving human capital development outcomes for all. Thus, in addition to the COVID19 Health Preparedness and Response Plan and the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP) that have guided our COVID19 response, my Government, continues to implement sound economic policies and public financial management reforms.

These policies and programmatic interventions, he said, have added stability to our economy, provided solid response to the pandemic’s socio-economic shocks, and paved the way for economic recovery.

Critical public financial management reforms, he added, have kept us on track to recover from the pandemic within the context of the Medium Term National Development Plan. These include:

(i) the automation of revenue collection and management processes by the NRA,

(ii) strengthening of the legal framework for domestic revenue mobilisation,

(iii) enhancing public debt management,

(iv) strengthening payroll management, (v) Upgrading and expanding the coverage of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS),

(vi) strengthening commitment controls for goods and services expenditures and cash management,

(vi) enhancing the fiduciary oversight of State-Owned Enterprises, (vii) strengthening the internal audit function at central and local government levels,

(viii) regular production of price norms by the National Public ProcurementAuthority (NPPA) to guide procuring entities, and

(ix) enhancing the transparency and accountability of COVID-19 spending.

In terms of building defense against the disruption caused on the economy by COVID-19, President Bio said that over the course of 2021, the Le500 billion Special Credit Facility provided by the Bank of Sierra Leone to support the production, importation, and distribution of essential commodities and the deferral of taxes due to the importation of essential commodities by the National Revenue Authority helped maintain the availability of essential commodities in the country, especially rice, fuel, and health supplies.

Government expenditures, he said, continued to focus on the priority areas identified in our medium-term National Development Plan (2019-2023). Building on this, my Government’s investments in human capital development, especially in the education and agriculture sectors, continue to be complemented by investments in infrastructure.

To facilitate the movement of agricultural produce, other goods, and persons, part payment was made for the rehabilitation of 1,835 km of trunk roads nationwide and the completion of 109 km of township streets.

Funds were also disbursed to enhance electricity generation, transmission and distribution; and to expedite the restoration of electricity supply to the district headquarter towns and cities, thus stimulating economic activities, whilst reforms to facilitate investment and improve the doing business climate have continued.

To drive inclusivity, President Bio said that my Government continues to implement the National Micro-Finance Programme (MUNAFA FUND), through which 5328 SMEs (of which 70% are female-owned), have successfully accessed much-needed finance.

Through its Business Development Pillar, the Local Content Agency has improved the capacity of local suppliers in procurement procedures and quality standards for those linked to the supply chains of 6 large companies.

Local suppliers showcased their products in the Made – In – Sierra Leone Trade Fair and Exhibition. The agency further commenced a nationwide Local Content Audit of Large Companies across growth sectors to increase compliance with Local Content Laws.

On the question of economic recovery, President Bio stated that he was pleased to announce that in spite of a sharp contraction in 2020, our economy is in recovery and projected to grow by 5.0 percent this year, higher than the Sub-Saharan African projected growth rate of 3.8 percent for 2022.

“Our economic management and inclusive growth strategy will therefore continue to focus on enhancing domestic revenue mobilization, rationalizing expenditures, working towards single digit inflation, maintaining a stable exchange rate, safeguarding financial stability, striking a careful balance between reducing fiscal and debt sustainability risks whilst improving spending efficiency, and addressing external vulnerabilities.”

Furthermore, he said, that supporting Post‑ COVID recovery in key productive sectors, especially in mining, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and tourism, will continue with efforts to improve business environment activities.

President Bio ended his speech by calling on the nation to be peaceful and to stand with his government to push forward the nation’s development agenda.

“You have heard a lot about my Government’s accomplishments,” he said, “but the job is far from over. Our challenges will never disappear, but together we can create new dreams and new hopes, instead of new fears and new crises. We can step out of our past and become architects of the future; together we can elevate our national consciousness, improve the economic and physical health of our nation and affirm the greatness of our people.”


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