“Free Port Will Revamp Sierra Leone’s Economy…” Prince Macauley Maintains

Sierra Leone’s Finest Economists, Prince Jacob Macauley

One of Sierra Leone’s Finest Economists, Prince Jacob Macauley, in an exclusive interview with this medium, advised the Government to introduce a Free Port at the country’s natural harbour, Queen Elizabeth 11 Quay. This, he stressed, will bring about a turn-around of the country’s economy.
Prince Macauley praised the Government for the bold steps taken so far to revive the economy, but maintained that more should be done. He recognized the fact that the Bio Government inherited a battered economy and it is not going to be easy to fix it. It will take time to fix. The cause of the country’s woes is as a result of the false feasibility work of the African Minerals prior to their establishment in the country. This could be seen after the company folded up operations in the country and sold their shares to Shandong. The Chinese company came with the false picture presented to them by AML on paper, but when on the ground, he discovered that the case was different and it is no surprise that they were unable to cope.
Whilst appreciating the work of the Finance and Development Ministers for their work, he stressed that 3 areas should be addressed namely: reduction of taxation to encourage investors to come to the country, the introduction of a free port at the quay, which will encourage massive flow of goods and a reduction of their prices in the market and most importantly the implementation of the National Development Plan recently developed by the Development Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance. On the latter, he disclosed that it is in consonance with the NDP of the 80s and 90s, but which was not implemented. This plan, whilst ignored by the Government of Sierra Leone the, was adopted and implemented in Botswana and toady that country’s economy is booming. He encouraged the Government to implement this development plan.
Economist Macauley emphasized that the public should know that the economy of the country cannot be addressed within 365 days (One Year), but noted that actions taken by the Government are good and a step in the right direction. Pumping of foreign exchange into the market is not a good practice, but advised that moves be taken to ensure the reduction of taxation on local products. Whilst recognizing that taxation is the process by which the Government generates revenue, he maintained that with less taxation, goods and services will flow and create more job opportunities for its citizens and this increase will further result in more revenue generation.
On the issue of establishing a free port at the quay, Macauley explained that this will encourage the importation of more goods into the country, encourage Asian market to use the port as a transit point of its goods and may even attract investors from those countries to invest in Sierra Leone. It will further create jobs for the youths; thereby reduce the unemployment rate in the country. This move will further reduce the rate of the dollar in the market. It will heighten competition among Sierra Leoneans and foreign business people doing business in the country. He made mention of countries like the Republic of Guinea and other African states that have free ports and how they are impacting on their economies.
“Sierra Leone will become the Dubai of Africa. Free Port will attract duty, investors, buyers and services,” he said adding that it will solve all the problems faced in this sector. With more goods flowing into the country, the bread and butter issues will be addressed and the dollar rate will go down, he asserted.
Economist Macauley further maintained that there should be strengthening of the Local Content Policy. “In Ghana, all foreign businesses have local partners as envisaged in the Sierra Leone Local Content Policy,” he pointed out furthering how Ghanaian business people pay lesser taxes than their foreign counterparts.
He also cautioned that whilst levying taxes on foreign businesses care should be taken not to scare them away.
“The rationale is to encourage local businesses to thrive,” he stated. Government, he stressed, should revisit the tax regime in the country with a view to encourage more investors and motivate interested Sierra Leonean businesses to grow. Local businesses should not be taxed the same as foreign businesses, as this is the case in most African countries that are flourishing today.
On the Development of Agriculture, Macauley maintained that the Agriculture Ministry should go back to the drawing board and map out plans to engage the Farmers’ Associations on ways to improve their yield. The bottom to top approach should be activated. Farmers should be provided with the necessary tools to enhance their work like mechanized farming and provision of seeds and fertilizers. The cultivation of rice, which is the staple food of Sierra Leone, should be encouraged. He made mention of the different varieties of rice and the period of cultivation and harvest (3 & 6 months). Plans should be made to ensure that the varieties are produced according to their respective period and a ready market provided for them. This, he stated will encourage farmers to get involve in farming. With a ready market for their products, farmers will discover that their business will be profitable and this will attract more farmers to the sector. As agriculture improves, the need for more importation will dwindle and exportation expanded.
On the Single Treasury Account implemented by the Government, Macauley maintained that as a start, the measure is good as it ensures transparency and accountability, but in the long run it will hamper the operations of MDAs, as it will slow down their mode of operations. Strict financial management should be implemented and the STA phased out, he suggested.
In his opinion, Economist Macauley said that the government has done extremely well, considering the state of the economy it inherited and the challenges of debt owed that it is still paying back. This improvement has been due to shrewd financial management and planning orchestrated by both the ministries of Finance and Economic Planning. It is his hope that the Government will think seriously about the establishment of a free port to attract more goods and services coming in to the country, for this is the only way it could reduce taxes, create jobs, reduce the erratic rise of the dollar and address all the bread and butter issues.


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