Sierra Leone News: President Bio Says Infrastructural Investment is Possible Without Huge Debts

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President Dr Julius Maada Bio

On Wednesday 19 June 2019, His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has told the investors’ conference on the tender process for the proposed Lungi Bridge that infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt.

“We believe infrastructural investments…should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt. So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high-interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense,” he said.

The President emphasised that each infrastructural investment must be able to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years depending on the financing model that was used, adding that each project must also worth the cost of constructing and maintaining it over its lifespan. Therefore, he noted that each such investments should be affordable and must be funded without recourse to publicly guaranteed debts.

“We also believe that infrastructural investments must be purposeful. They must unlock tangible economic growth and improve the quality of life of the citizens. In the construction and maintenance phases, there must be real job opportunities and skills training and transfer with implications for real incomes for local Sierra Leoneans. We will insist on that for every infrastructural investment,” he said.

President Bio also told the gathering that his government had prioritised infrastructural investment decisions by asking critical questions about feasibility, sustainability, selectivity and whether it could lead to the development of other sectors of the economy like tourism and travel, mining, construction, and small-scale manufacturing.

He, however, urged that the tender process must be competitive, transparent, corruption-free, and must offer the best value for money, adding that his government would strongly warn against bribery, kickbacks, red tape, and other murky transactions and practices around infrastructural investments.

“I have therefore directed the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives to be particularly attentive to all the foregoing critical elements in launching the tender process for the Lungi bridge. I will closely superintend the entire process and ensure that every tender is compliant and every tender is in the best long-term interest of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans,” he added.

Chairman of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives, Engineer Dr. John Edward Tambi, said for 58 years Sierra Leoneans had endured the challenges of crossing over to Lungi from Freetown through which lives had been lost, businesses destroyed and economic activities stunted. He said during these years, governments had come and gone with promises to construct a bridge crossing to Lungi but nothing happened.

“Today we all witness a great milestone under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio. The New Direction Government has taken the bold and audacious task to build the bridge across Lungi. This is not a small project and we believe with God we can achieve it. I thank you all for your presence because it is a vote of confidence to the New Direction,” he said.

Lungi, which is home to the only international airport that serves Sierra Leone, is a small coastal town in Port Loko District in the Northwest Province of the country that is separated from the Capital, Freetown by a sea of about 10 nautical miles.

Statement by His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, at the Investors’ Conference on the Tender Process for the Proposed Lungi Bridge. State House, Freetown, 19 June 2019

Honourable Ministers of Government Distinguished guests and partners in development Members of the fourth estate Fellow Citizens:  Good morning and welcome to this conference. I am delighted to open this investor conference on infrastructure.

It is one of our priority areas for investment leading to economic diversification. So what I am going to do in this short statement is to start this conference off by saying how my government views infrastructural investments. We believe infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt. They should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt.

So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a highinterest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense. Each infrastructural investment must be able to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years depending on the financing model that is used. Each must also be worth the cost of constructing and maintaining it over its life span. Therefore, each infrastructure investment should be affordable and Lungi must be funded without recourse to publicly guaranteed debts. We also believe that infrastructural investments must be purposeful.

They must unlock tangible economic growth and improve the quality of life of the citizens. In the construction and maintenance phases, there must be real job opportunities and skills training and transfer with implications for real incomes for local Sierra Leoneans. We will insist on that for every infrastructural investment. We also believe that investors look at available infrastructure as a critical factor for making investment decisions and this consideration will drive each infrastructure investment decision we will make.

We also believe that infrastructure investments lead to new businesses and new businesses create more jobs, lead to new settlements or new population centres, create a need for new and more services, and increase overall economic productivity, That, can only be good for our economy. We also believe that we should prioritise infrastructural investment decisions by asking critical questions about feasibility, sustainability, selectivity (Is this investment better and much needed now that the possible alternatives?), and whether it can lead to the development of other sectors of Lungi economy– tourism and travel, mining, construction, small-scale manufacturing etc.

As a Government, we are working to ease the investment landscape right across board and we maintain a long-term view of all investments including infrastructural investments. We desire that each investment yield long term benefits. We desire that each investment trigger off economic activity and growth over the long-term. We also believe that the tender process must be competitive, transparent, corruption-free, and must offer the best value for money. We strongly discourage bribery, kickbacks, red tape, and other murky transactions and practices around infrastructural investments.

This government and this country strongly discourages corruption. So it is within this context that we are undertaking all infrastructural projects in this country. I have therefore directed the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives to be particularly attentive to all the foregoing critical elements in launching the tender process for the Lungi bridge. I will closely superintend the entire process and ensure that every tender is compliant and every tender is Lungi Tender Process 5 in the best long-term interest of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans.

I thank you.

 

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