On Thursday 28th February 2019 at the Bintumani Conference Centre, Freetown, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio shared the country’s comprehensive national development plan with partners, bilateral and multilateral agencies, highlighting national priorities and emphasising mutual accountability approaches that maximise impacts of growth interventions.
“When I took over the mantle of leadership of this great nation about ten months ago, I made policy statements in Parliament about our country’s development goals. I identified our country’s key national priorities and the key sectors we needed to develop. I also emphasised that what we needed as a nation was a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable long-term development – one that is consistent with global targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
He said to ensure consistency in the execution of the medium term national development plan, he had directed that the country’s future annual budgets be fully aligned to the plan, adding that his government would also encourage development partners to channel their assistance through the national development priorities, work closely and avoid wasteful overlaps and duplications.
He added that while he had called for an inclusive approach to national development, he also had stressed that the process of developing the plan must appear to be owned and driven by citizens, inclusive, consultative and be domesticated to the country’s specific development context.
“They range from developing our human capital and infrastructure to promoting good governance and protecting vulnerable members of our society, including our women, children and persons with disabilities. But how do we fulfil our obligations to the people of Sierra Leone against the background of the bankrupt and battered economy that my Government inherited? Institutions that are responsible for driving growth and development were politicised, bloated, lacked capacity, and corrupt. Officials and politicians engaged in widespread looting of development resources,” he recalled.
He further stated that given the circumstances and upon assuming office, his government delineated key strategic imperatives to create the right environment for development by identifying the immediate needs that included institutional reform, decentralisation and taking a second look at enabling laws, capacity building and resource identification and mobilisation as critical factors for building the right context for development.
“When there is no discipline, no commitment and no political will from the highest levels of power, development will not happen. When there is no structure and no consistency to development activities within the short or long term, development will not happen. When there is no predictability to development activities and outcomes and partners are unsure about how to engage and commit to national development, or worse still, when that partnership does not include continuous dialogue and feedback, development will not happen. When the government is unclear and uncommitted to clearly laid out development outcomes and a comprehensive short and long-term plan, development will not happen. So, my government developed the medium term national development plan to get the development context right once and for all,” he told the conference in Freetown.
He emphasised and recognised the fact that Sierra Leone was impatient for development and that Sierra Leoneans were impatient for development too and rightly so, adding that that was why his government did not wait for the plan to be launched before addressing some of the critical development needs that had been identified during the nationwide consultation.
“I am reminded of the saying that when one gives birth to a child, one does not plan only for the first five years of that child’s life. Let me use this opportunity to remind all of us that this Medium Term National Development Plan is the first part of the longer-term plan, which will span over a twenty-year period. During the consultation process, it clearly emerged that the majority of Sierra Leoneans prefer a long-term plan, as it allows for continuity in implementation, irrespective of a change of government. They based their argument on the overwhelming desire to have a stable development focus for our country and to ensure that successive governments are guided by broad priorities set by the people of this country,” he said.
“My government has underscored the critical need to strengthen performance management in the public sector. So, for the first time in the history of this country, a comprehensive results and indicator framework accompanies this development plan. That framework will provide further guidance to MDAs as they deliver on the people’s plan,” he added.
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said they had anchored the plan on the Sierra Leone People’s Party New Direction Manifesto, which was based on consultation. He said the document was a collaborative effort between the Ministries of Planning and Development and Finance as well as other ministries, departments and agencies, including development partners.
Mr Saffa also stated that as a show of commitment his ministry, for the first time, had provided both the financial and human resources to support the process of preparing the National Development Plan, saying that that was a way of showing leadership. He said the total estimated cost to execute the plan would be $ 8.15 USD billion.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Nabeela Tunis, said after a broad-based national consultation, she was of the belief that the Plan would transform the country. She disclosed that about two million people were consulted during the process as a way of ensuring that no one was left out. She added that the feedbacks, which contributed to the content of the document, were overwhelming.
She said the Plan was aimed at transforming Sierra Leone to where everyone had dreamt of, adding that that would only be possible through partnership and collaboration. She noted that the document would transform the President’s vision into a plan that would enable sustainable development in the country.
United Nations Country Representative, Sunil Saigal, who spoke on behalf of donor partners, congratulated President Bio for putting the Plan together and for placing human capital development at the centre of his priorities. He noted that the new plan incorporated the UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development as well as the African Agenda 2063, adding that in doing so Sierra Leone was setting the example for other countries by blending both global and other African regional goals in development planning.