By Mohamed Juma Jalloh
After the guarantee of security to its citizens, another crucial role of government is the enhancement and promotion of socio- economic development.
The social contract between government and citizens is further augmented by that aspect of government function geared towards utilizing scarce available resources to meet the country’s diverse needs.
The thorny issue of providing for the needs of groups of persons belonging to the state is the most herculean task government faces.
However, it is clear that the government cannot single-handedly undertake the responsibility to meet the people’s needs.
Thus, it is incumbent on government to appoint Ministers who man the various sectors of the country`s fragile economy.
Since the President and his team have been given the onus of state governance, he and his team are glorified when there is an economic boom that trickles down to the poorest of the poor.
Similarly, they are vilified whenever there is an economic crisis.
Government is accountable for their stewardship to the people who assess whether the country is moving forward or going backwards.
In practice, the government cannot function well if it cannot explore avenues to generate revenue to finance its programmes and activities.
Upon assumption of power in 2018, the ‘New Direction’ government blamed everything bad on the Ernest Koroma government.
The Successor has failed to credit its predecessor on positive impact of policies and projects inherited.
Before the Koroma-government was booted out of power, international conditions were unfavourable to the economy.
The government had to grapple with the negative impact of the Ebola outbreak, unprecedented mudslides and flash floods alongside the unavoidable fluctuations of international price of commodities such as Iron Ore.
Eventually, the All People’s Congress (APC) government had to institute “expenditure rationalization” to save the country’s economy.
In the face of turbulent circumstances, the APC lost power to the Sierra Leone People’s Party government after an arduous campaign riddled with accusations of frivolous and reckless spending by the Koroma-led government.
The Bio led administration has made a strong promise to Sierra Leoneans of plugging wastages and blocking leakages to revamp an economy, he said, was tethering on the brink of collapse.
The SLPP government started on an ambitious path by streamlining budgetary allocations to Ministries, departments and agencies.
It was one of the major campaign promises initially honoured evidenced by the proclamation of a plethora of executive orders to cut down on government spending.
Two years has been spent in office by the Bio government, but nothing tangible has been achieved.
Signs are clear that the government has lost its initial grip on the economy whose improvement was a key promise.
Fiscal discipline has been thrown overboard signaled by the bloated and misplaced governance architecture that is pressurizing and suffocating the revenue generating capacity.
Despite progress made in the fight against graft, the government loses on the millennium challenge cooperation which is another disaster for an eclectic economy.
The recently published Auditor General’s reports lend credence to allegations of government’s mismanagement of the economy.
The reports accused government that instead of streamlining government expenditure it has increased exponentially.
Misplaced priorities by the SLPP have precipitated unbridled spending from the national coffers alongside the unconventional employment in the public sector for political appointees. A miniature example of managing a country`s economy can be metaphorically substituted to that of managing the economy of a family. One would always end up in trouble if you want to live beyond your means of income.
The exposure of the Africanist press of the huge salary disparities and pilfering of state funds to support projects pioneered by family members has questioned the political acumen and sincerity of government.
These revelations can kill the chances of the SLPP government bouncing back to power as the election contest draws near.
Sierra Leoneans have also decried the cunning attempt to sneak in to legislation the unaccountable imprest for the president, Vice president and Speaker of the house of parliament at the detriment of the economy.
To worsen situation, many business importers have suffered the inordinate proliferation of taxes in the form of import duties creating a mindless poisoning of the investment environment.
Would there be economic growth when mining licenses are cancelled? For now, everyone is irritable from suppliers, importers, wholesalers, agents/middle men, retailers and ultimately the consumers.
Against the backdrop of a week Leone currency that continues to depreciate against the Dollar, inflation is making life quite challenging for many Sierra Leone.
The ambitious imposition of import duties to raise revenue has so far proved counter- productive. The demand of many imported food items are elastic in Sierra Leone eventually forcing the price of basic commodities to skyrocket whenever demand peaks.
Import taxes are sometimes retrogressive in nature as the rich and the poor buy in the same market but with the poor quickly becoming paupers because the purchasing power is ebbing away.
Too many taxes change the relative price of goods which forces consumers to rearrange their pattern of consumption. The bread-and-butter promise has given way to frivolous excuses that has become untenable as they have lost their merit.
Since Benjamin Franklyn once said “nothing in this world can be said to be certain except death and taxes”. Taxes are useful tools for revenue generation, but levying taxes needs rationanalisation in order not to further smother the economic space.
Business people are strictly motivated by profit making since they can employ various techniques to beat the system.
The fictitious declaration of gods at the customs department leading to the undervaluation of goods or false invoicing that agent’s do on behalf of importers has added weight to corruption. Although penalties and fines exist for tax evasion, criminal activities continue to brazen by the corrupt collusion between tax collectors and importers in the form of kickbacks.
To a large extent, government is also loosing tremendous revenue as a result of illegal fishing and artisanal mining often perpetuated by foreigners especially the Chinese.
Moreover, government’s reliance on the private sector as an engine of economic growth has been dampened by the advent of the Corona virus.
The measures taken by many countries in combating the virus has far reaching economic ramifications for the global economy of which Sierra Leone is not an exception.
Many countries are under lockdown prompting the curtailing of international travels that trigger the transportation of goods and people from one destination to another. It is important to note that army and police commitment to the service of the state is tested during trying times.
Some public servants have read the ensuing economic hardship on the wall since February salaries usually run into March and the trend continues unabated for other months.
In the security sector, many military officials have complained of poor salaries and deplorable conditions of service.