If the daily survival of the average Sierra Leonean gets crucially precarious and there is so much apprehension over the future then I think we should all go back to the drawing table and have a second look. We cannot continue to afford blaming everything on the world economic melt down and the like or the so-called global issues.
I listened to a program on 92.6 Fm Radio interviewing people in the Kroo Town Road and Congo Town markets on the current price hikes on the daily basis. Over the years there has been too much contention over whether it is Government’s responsibility to control prices or not. It now appears that although a lot of people think prices should be controlled, the leaders are wary to go that road.
There might be economic reasons to it but does the layman really know all the economics of all these? It is the raw economics that the market woman practices that holds sway. You do not need to go to the London School of Economics to be a market woman.
One of the ladies who contributed to the radio program on the VOH FM station, when asked who to blame for the price hikes said it is the taxes placed on the boats, for example that bring the fish. So one sees here a causal effect.
If fishing boats pay high tariffs, then the fish is sold at high prices. The wholesaler sells dear to the retailer and in turn the retailer sells to the house wife dear. The issue always is that it is always the consumer or end user that bears the brunt of profiteering. I believe something needs to be done and indeed can be done. Times back efforts were made to ensure people do not just raise prices recklessly. What I do not understand is that in the case of the fuel and recharged cards for mobile phones there are government bodies that negotiate with the dealers and agree on a price that is people friendly. If this is done for these two services/commodities, then I think it could be done for others especially those directly linked with foodstuff.
What is annoying is that our standard of living is generally low. For a lot of people they only try hard to eat some food each day and then hustle for the next day. The kind of salaries people earn in this country is so meager that one wonders how people live. This is why Emmerson says that Sierra Leoneans live like magicians, simply because everybody seems to live above his or her income.
This is why it is difficult to free the majority of civil servants and other public offices from corruption. The point is simple, if you earn Le 500,000 and spend say 70 % of that amount on food, pay school fees for three kids at Secondary level, then the question is where do you get all that money from?
Now recently the high prices were largely blamed on the smuggling of food across the borders. In one program a lady countered this saying that the prices of some of the commodities in question were cheaper in those countries, thereby rebuffing the assertion. One major point to make here is that farmers close to the borders can hardly bring their goods to the nearest market center in their district.
For them it is easier to sell in the nearest market be it in their country or across the border. So it is not actually fair to lambast the poor for selling across the border. Let us realize that those boundary areas are losing out so much on the amenities that still remain a cry in the wilderness. The lives those people are living is sometimes so deplorable.
If you go to some of the boundary Districts of the country, you will notice that almost 90% of the citizens eat the rice they produce. Some Chiefdom does not buy the imported rice. One reason is that they can hardly afford to buy a bag of imported rice.
Of course part of the problem is the poor roads. This in fact could well constitute a violation of rights of people. Can we link all this to the fact that the opportunities for employment are limited? This also has to do with the high rate of illiteracy which limits their livelihood options. So what is happening is that the few having jobs bear the bront of the burden of taking care of the other family members. Those not covered invariably go into petty trading as a soft option.
See, God worked all out very well for all of us. Take seasonality and our fruits. Nature made some foodstuff to be perishable and others not. All this is for the right purpose. The question is are we making the best of the food stuff. See, our food security efforts can only make sense if we start processing our food. So much has been done in the agriculture sector but much more remains to be done. Oh Salone, too small for its numerous problems. Well it is still land that we love, we have no other.
When people are assessing development generally, there is the tendency to begin with the livelihood issues, the bread and butter business. Yes this is obvious, but there are so many other things that back up these livelihood issues. Large households today have to do different levels of prioritization.
The issue is there are a lot of demands on the little income available to households. There are kids to go to school, there are bills to pay; there are payments for various services. Thank God the electricity has improved greatly especially in the city. This itself supports a lot of small scale businesses.
When people blame our poor economy on smuggling let them realize that Sierra Leoneans also buy some foodstuffs from other countries. In any case it will be very difficult to solve the problem of price increase because the profit motive remains very paramount in the minds of the businessman. We are told that most poor people spend about 70 % of their income on food.
The problem about food is that you can never eat today for tomorrow… everyday has to have its own food. This is why it is not easy to sustain one’s self. But indeed life goes on. The baby born today is not told it has a mouth to be fed but as soon as it is born it tries to suck the mother’s breast and starts grabbing things with the hand and put it in her mouth. Food is so important that in some of our cultures, if you steal food because you are very hungry, it is no crime as long as you eat the food there and then.
In today’s world if you have food to eat, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are indeed richer than 75% of this world. Most times the problems of a country are squarely placed at the door steps of the leadership. Fair enough, we ourselves as citizens have to learn to be good followers. Many people even if you walk in front of them as a leader, they will never follow. Even when you decide to walk behind, you are not sure they will lead. What them do we do? I think leaders should walk side by side with the people they lead, to ensure all hands are on deck.
In these trying times, we must keep an eye out for another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. Those engrossed in too much profit making and lose the humanitarian angle will definitely enjoy that wealth if the poor people who patronize them all die. The FM Radio Stations and the newspapers are indeed playing a very important role in the developmental aspirations of the day but we have to be careful not to alter facts to suit your views as many politicians are wont to do.
One sector of society that one feels for so much when things get that expensive are children and the ageing. These are often the abandoned when things get tough. They sometimes brought in the picture merely as an afterthought. Nature dictates that we all belong to families, but also to give someone you do not know, is a true generosity. Yes all this flow well when scarcity does not stare everybody in the face. By S.Beny Sam