Our donor driven economy like a dazed giant is slowly staggering through the global recession that stupefied the world some two years ago. The effects of the recession are still with us. Inflation headed for the stratosphere while the value of the Leone headed the opposite direction. Unemployment became uncontrollable while the ordinary citizens found it extra hard to eke out a living.
However, we must commend ourselves for managing our economy remarkably well and so avoiding the worst. No matter how harshly we judge ourselves, based on the cold harsh realities of life, we fared on better than most of our neighbours in the sub region.
Our endurance, however, has been overstretched and should be protected from further strains. Therefore the ominous signs appearing on our horizons should be treated with utmost urgency and seriousness. The recent Greek debt crisis, in which the Greeks defaulted on their massive loans, requiring her European Union counterparts to bail her out with tens of billions of dollars, has severely tightened the purse strings of our benefactors. The situation is so serious that the German Government of Angela Markel became so unpopular among German voters that her party recently lost elections in the state of Westphalia.
This was a protest vote against her decision to endorse an EU deal to use German tax payers’ money to bail the Greeks out of a situation they created by reckless spending.
Where do we come into this picture? The answer is simple. European Union countries being our major source of donor funds are obviously going to be less forthcoming with their Euros to keep our economy (and the economies of other developing countries) afloat when they are so vehemently averse to bailing out their own brothers. With our international image improving, we are rapidly losing our place in the Countries in Crisis Club (C C C) and proudly occupying our rightful place among nations on the solid track to development. But this prestigious place carries an expensive price tag. Henceforth we are going to foot the bills for our meals. Our presence should now be restricted in the soup kitchens. The generous donations are about to cease at least for the time being.
The recent election victory of the Tory (Conservative party) in Britain, all be it by a very slim margin, does not bode well for continued aid from another major single source. The expected scaling down of aid by the new government in Britain is not solely due to the cold foreign policies that the Tories were known for in the past, but it is largely going to be dictated by the huge budget deficit that the new government inherited. David Cameron, the new Prime Minister, is already talking about spending cuts, which by implication includes foreign aid.
Coincidentally the boss of Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, Abdul Tejan Cole resigned on the same week that Britain was changing its guard. The resignation in itself set tongues wagging across the nation fuelling speculation that it was going to set alarm bells ringing among potential investors in the country. However such speculation is just a good guess. It is nothing that smart and prompt damage control measures cannot fix. These factors are clear symptoms of a looming drought in aid in the horizon. They do not amount to the pronouncement of a prophet of doom or a call to panic. ‘
To be fore warned is to be fore armed’, says the adage. Sierra Leone can avert the harsh effects of this looming drought by putting strategies in place to neutralize the heat. Already remarkable strides have been taken by the government to handle the fallouts from the global economic meltdown. But much more needs to be done to tackle the current problem and to prepare for the imminent one without straining the already over strained poor masses even further.
We would be acting prudently by peeping into the hymn sheet of the new British government and miming the tune of spending cuts from it. The government should thoroughly screen its spending sprees and cut down any expenditure it finds to be superfluous.
This takes us back to the crucial role of the Anti Corruption Commission. The vacuum left behind by Mr Tejan Cole’s resignation should be promptly filled by an equally respected figure to stabilize the trembling image of the organization. Once this flu is overcome by the ACC, it can then get back to the business of curbing graft and ensuring that the nation’s meager resources are not siphoned into the bank accounts of unscrupulous individuals. Putting a solid lid on corruption would go a long way in saving the nations precious resources enabling all to enjoy the benefit of their prudent use. Moreover, the ACC would once more enjoy the confidence and support of the international community and the investors that we need so much to help us forge ahead.
Our attention should be promptly refocused on hitherto neglected but extremely lucrative revenue generating sectors like tourism, marine resources and agriculture to prop up our revenue base. I have always been of the solid conviction that the tourism sector alone of this incredibly and incomparably beautiful tropical paradise called Sierra Leone is enough to deliver her citizens into the economic Promised Land if it is judiciously tapped. The recent improvement in the generation of electricity (in spite of the occasional hiccups) and the ongoing development of a modern road network have dramatically improved the prospects for tourism development in Sierra Leone. What is now needed is a sleek and professional marketing promotion of the country to effectively transform it into a major tourists’ heaven.
Tourism development has effectively transformed the rugged and fragmented archipelago of Cape Verde from an economic basket case into a success story. Sierra Leone can do even better if we treat it with utmost seriousness.
This sector can even generate enough revenue to fund the development of an ultra modern educational system that would serve as a panacea for all the other socio-economic ailments that the country suffers from.
The need to develop the agricultural sector not only to make us self sufficient in food production but also to serve as a major foreign exchange earner through exports cannot be over emphasized. Developing this sector would save us a huge amount of foreign exchange needlessly wasted every year to import rice and other foodstuffs that we can grow locally.
This time round we no longer enjoy the luxury of treating these measures as a second option. As a brave and resilient nation just one year away from marking our half a century of existence we should boldly and wholeheartedly focus our collective attention and energy towards attaining a respectable amount of economic independence in order to avert the disaster that the impending drought in donor funding is dangling over our heads. We can make it. YES WE CAN! By Yusuf Jalloh