After several political manipulations, President Julius Maada Bio is again installed as SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party flag-bearer) for 2023. The move to have Bio as candidate for the presidency for three times in a row was without.
The President has long ago worn the regalia of a crowned prince in the SLPP owing to the hope that they are only safe in the hands of APC with Bio. The President was flag-bearer in 2012, 2018 and now flag-bearer for 2023, and will face the people of Sierra Leone less than a year.
SLPP’s constitution has been constantly manipulated to have Bio for the party’s flag.
These manipulations could be credited to the recently sacked Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Brewah.
Many applaud the move to have him while others hold their reservations; the pessimists are not hopeful of an SLPP victory in 2023 owing to SLPP’S naked weaknesses and failings in the state governance project.
What will President Bio point at to convince the people of Sierra Leone for a second-term mandate?
Many Sierra Leoneans believe that he has brought nothing new to state governance.
He is sure to pay the price soon as voting him in for the second time remains the biggest questions. President Bio took over state command at the peak of high expectations in the immediate post-Ebola period.
One of the main expectations was for the President to fix the economy, and put food on the table. The campaign songs in 2018 made a compelling case for the provision of food for the commoners.
Poised for power, Bio promised to solve the problem of food overnight, and the people were convinced and lured in. The promise to have the economy right was not the only one, but there were other lofty ones about fixing the economy, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, health, peace and national cohesion.
After four years in governance, Bio will come again to face the people with what many saw as a weak performance and poor result.
The Economy which President Bio promised to fix if voted in remains one of the biggest disasters in the country’s political history. An economist in the public sector (name withheld) has told this press that there was no time in any President’s tenure that the country records a dwindling economy than Bio’s.
The country, according to the economist, has seen one of the biggest capital flight owing to Bio’s bad and harsh tax policies. Many businesses have shut down owing to tax hikes, and foreign money stashed away. The arrest of a Lebanese investor at Lungi Airport in the north with huge amount of foreign money remains a case in point.
“Who knows about other investors who have might beat down security checks to make a way out of the country,” he wonders.
Capital flight is not the only problem confronting the country’s economy but also uncontrollable inflationary trend which has become a constant source of sadness for the people of Sierra Leone. Inflation is a big disease in a country with a large population of low-income earners. Money is also not a store of value during inflationary periods. Sierra Leone, he went on, had witnessed bad times in its economy in recent past. “Prices of goods and services have risen to uncontrollable levels,” he emphasised. The price of every good or service is affected.
He cited consumer price indices of 2019 and 2020 which indicate that the country is still trapped in double-digit inflation. It is a situation that has weighed down hard on Sierra Leone with the have-nots being the hardest-hit.
Personal wearings (jeans and shirts) sold at Le60, 000 before this time are now sold between Le120, 000 (one hundred and twenty Leones) and Le150, 000 (one hundred and fifty thousand Leones).
A bag of rice Recent sold slightly above Le200, 000 (two hundred thousand Leones) is now sold close to Le400, 000 (four hundred thousand Leones). It is a 100% price increase, the economist reveals.
“Such price rise should not take place in normal times. It is a form of hyper-inflation. It is during war situations or periods of disasters that the country should see such inflation,” he said.
The price increases have a fundamental cause. Observers in the media and the public attribute Sierra Leone’s current hard life to Bio’s refusal to listen to proper advice. Popular arguments hold that government’s persistent increase in the price of petroleum is the main cause.
The argument holds that petroleum is a commodity one cannot interfere with owing to its ripple effects. Other prices would be affected immediately the price of petroleum shoots up. Sierra Leone also is counted among other countries with recurrent problems of unfavourable terms of trade, balance of payment and budget deficits, over-reliance on foreign aid among others.
These economic problems badly affect Sierra Leone in its international standing. Since the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone has been a donor-dependent country with most of its major projects funded by the United Nations, Commonwealth, European Union, World Bank, Department For International Development, United States Agency for International Development, German Cooperation (GIZ), Japan Cooperation (JICA) International Monetary fund, and a host of international non- governmental organisations.
International Rescue Committee, World Vision, OXFAM among others have been extending alms to Sierra Leone. The assistance of these bodies played a significant role in the country’s stability in the immediate post-war period. The trend continues; Signs of Sierra Leone standing on its on legs are faint on the wall.
Protests over non-payment of allowances for the illegal mid-term census following the withdrawal Of EU and World Bank is a bright example. It is also a clear showcase of the country’s weakness in looking after its own affairs.
In his last days in governance, President Ahmed Tejan Kabba of Blessed memories warned future governments to make good use of its natural resources for the people’s benefit. Kabba emphasised that over-reliance on foreign aid raised questions of sovereignty. It is the exact situation confronting Sierra Leone today.
A good economy is central to other sectors of development. No one talks about improved health service, agriculture, infrastructure, energy among others without a sound economy. The effects of the country’s sick economy crystallise in the health sector.
Medical doctors and nurses continue to stage protests and industrial actions over poor salaries. The take-home package of most health professionals stands between Le1m and Le2m, a nurse told this press a week ago.
Medical doctors too face similar situation. Their salaries and terms and conditions of service remain appalling. The low pay is the main cause of low morale and corruption among health staff.
The absence of protective gears in hospitals and peripheral health units compounds the problem which continues unabated. The effects of a weak economy are also visible in the country’s infrastructural sector. Since it came to power, SLPP government has initiated no major road project for which it could be remembered after it leaves the stage.
In the past, the party which was in opposition was highly critical of the Ernest Koroma-led government which they accuse of embarking on a ‘cosmetic’ roads project in the country. Their utmost criticism of a government popularly seen as a hardworking one created the thought in the people’s minds that Bio’s administration would do more if given the platform.
The platform was provided when he signed a social contract with the people of Sierra Leone in 2018. To Sierra Leoneans’ greatest disappointment, no road project has been done by Bio. The President is good only at commissioning roads and bridges left behind by APC government.
The hulabaloo that erupted in the commissioning of the Lumley Bridge in the west of Freetown is another move that portrayed one of the country’s oldest political party as the weakest.
President Bio is also set to commission the Magbele Bridge along Freetown- Masiaka highway, a project initiated and implemented by the Koroma-led government. Bio, no doubt, will take credit for the completed bridge at the commissioning ceremony.
The energy sector and other institutions that provide essential services in the country also receive the sad effects of a weak economy.
With such failures, Sierra Leoneans are confident that Bio will hardly make it in the 2023 polls. One of Such Sierra Leonean is former President Koroma who has told Sierra Leoneans that Bio will not come again. “In a democracy, one can be maintained only through hard work,” he sums it all.