About a year ago, Sierra Leoneans decided to vote for the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, making him the fifth democratically elected President of the small mineral-rich nation, Sierra Leone. Dubbed as the actualization of a dream too long deferred, their conjecture was based on the belief that he will serve his country patriotically well by erasing the scars of decadence bruised by the Koroma Administration.
His victory as President of Sierra Leone came as a result of his effective and efficient management policy revelations pinpointed in his manifesto. A year down the line, President Bio has thus shown remarkable signs of re-branding the blemished image of Sierra Leone.
The All People’s Congress (APC), during their stint, provided a zany leadership that—as their Agenda for Prosperity implied—was inclined to enrich themselves leaving average Sierra Leoneans in paucity. Amidst their lofty promises, those ministers and heads of parastatals who were ancillaries to the Koroma Administration precluded the certainty that the Agenda for Prosperity was never serious to shape the development will of the country, for it was purposefully patterned to benefit the financially intoxicated APC officials.
Without recourse to debate, an assemblage of the population knows that during their tenure Sierra Leone became a “rich quick magnetic” pool—one synonymous to Bermuda Triangle—whose gravitational pull attracted taxpayers money to a group of a political glutton. Funds meant for national development eventually disappeared and precipitated into the insatiable pockets of those political kingpins. As they fastened themselves to monies, like ants to sweets, donor funds were haemorrhaged and outflown into God knows where.
Many had expected nothing in his first year because the process of acclimatising to governance could be somewhat difficult especially when he took leadership from the coarse hands of the APC; more so leading a country whose economy had hit a rock-bottom level, the worst since Independence.
Although much hue and cry has been on oiling the “nuts and bolts” of bread and butter,* however, President Bio has made great stridence in putting the land that he loves to the right development footing.
A rave review on a range of development activities he has undertaken so far gives him a scoring point of 60%, with respect to a boost in priority areas like education, health, energy, agriculture, tourism and sports. Though the challenges seem unwilling to give up their grip, it is viewed that if he is consistent in his delivery, he will be labelled the harbinger of great Sierra Leone that we have always envisioned.*
EDUCATION (BIO’s FLAGSHIP AGENDA)
Without vitiating the reality of his plans to improve the education sector, we will all agree that human capital development has been his key drive. He believes mineral resources can be exhausted with time, but the enlightened human resource will stand the test of time. Using the Singapore Model, he realized there was an urgent need to liberate this nation from 65% illiteracy rate by launching the Free Quality Education Scheme.
The Free Quality Education Project provides for an access to quality education from the elementary level to senior secondary level with a surfeit of learning materials plus school feeding opportunities. His irreversible decision to reclaim the *”Athens of West Africa”* glory has urged his government to invest 21% of budgetary allocation to education *(the first and highest budgetary allocation to education in the annals of Sierra Leone*).
The New Direction Government has also embarked on improving standards by reviewing schools curricular with civic education intended to be reintroduced. There have been also plans to improve schools infrastructure across the country. In addition, tertiary education has also benefited from this resurgence with free tuition for girls studying sciences, free university application forms, climaxed with the turning of the sod for the construction of a state-of-the-art Eastern University in Kono District.
Stabilizing the economy has been the stiffest challenge during his first year. Howbeit, his government has implemented all the recommendations of IMF and World Bank and has also met their requirement by instituting fiscal management policies in the form of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which was rebuffed by former President Koroma.
In addition, the government through the effort of National Revenue Agency (NRA) has increased revenue generation to over Le30 billion a day, helping the government to pay salaries and wages without resorting to international begging, bank overdraft and domestic borrowing.
What is more intriguing is the fact that President Bio has made the cost of corruption so high to the extent that offenders of his administration are not spared. In the past twelve months, the anti-graft body has been focused on recovering stolen monies from past and present officials. There has been a huge gain in the recovery of the country’s stolen money by officials of the Koroma led APC.
The three Commissions of Inquiry provide additional gain in the fight against corruption. These financial recovery processes have shoved Sierra Leone to the limelight, thereby re-branding the nation from a corrupt-stricken society to one so desperate to eradicate graft. Today, President Bio stands as an ensample to other Heads of State as a purveyor in the fight against corruption, with a 71% scorecard unmasked by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Amongst the developments the past administration undertook, electricity and road construction formed the bedrock, and as a result of those undertakings, Sierra Leone lost hugely.
The past administration bragged about uninterrupted electricity with Bumbuna Hydro up and running. After spending over $500 million, the much bragged about uninterrupted electricity vanished the moment they left office. One would ask what was really the bragging about.
The current Minister of Energy renegotiated a better deal with the Karpowership brought by the Koroma Administration without kickback in the agreement made. As it stands, the government is set to save $10 million each year from the deal.
Other Turkish powers have just been contracted for the supply of electricity to the east end of Freetown. Temporal electricity strategies have been sound, as they substitute Bumbuna until Phase two is completed. Don’t tell me it is a waste of resources, as our hospitals, factories enterprises, homes need electricity. What sense will it make to pay electricity bills without having electricity?
Sport has been a huge challenge over the past five years. For football, all hope was lost for both players and sport loving fans as the Sierra Leone Premier League went into oblivion. After rekindling the spirit of the game with *three billion Leones* (the highest the government has ever provided to the Premier League Board) as a start-up fund, many youths have had their talents resuscitated; businesses are now booming, footballers are now yielding dividend from their labour and football loving fans have had their joy back.
The “Thank You” Tour gave the president the opportunity to identify regions that are without proper health care facilities, and it was also an opportunity to distribute state ambulances to different regions of the country. The ambulances will help reduce maternal mortality rate with swift facilitation of women in labour; it will also save those who are in other emergency situations.
Furthermore, this administration has increased salaries of health workers irrespective of the 15% increment across the board. An addition of three thousand health workers will be recruited with pin codes.
There are host of other things a single article cannot exhaust: from securing fund to construct a state-of-the-art cancer treatment centre, improving health, attaining food sufficiency, promoting tourism, boosting investor relations, linking MIT with Njala for innovative purposes, increasing pensioners monthly benefits, constructing major roads to providing free tertiary education for students whose parents have taught for a decade.
These huge strides made by the president have received great admiration and support from Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad, and have also brought renewed hope that Sierra Leone will rise again.
Congratulations President Bio!