Dear President Koroma, I am sure your trip to China was a success financially and economically to you and the country as a whole. You saw how China has developed over the years and how they are not relenting. You met with the students and you heard their grievances and their determination to succeed and return home to help in the development process in the country.
Mr. President, China is a success story today by not just mere talk of attitudinal change, but the speeches were met with a very strong leadership and hunger for success under the erstwhile reformist Deng Shao Peng. This man had the vision and innovation and believed that China has what it takes to succeed under any circumstances.
When he launched the reform program some 31 years ago, Japan and South Korea were ahead of him, but he decided to look elsewhere for a target. He had to choose United States of America, because they are regarded as the most powerful economically, financially and militarily, and their size is almost the same as China. Policies from education to infrastructure, economic development to technology were implemented with American flavor. The only thing he left out was politics.
After three decades, China now is an integral part of ‘the new world order’. China has the two biggest banks in the world, the largest market including vehicles; the largest creditor to United States and the third largest economy. These were achieved through good and strong leadership coupled with vision and innovations.
When we attained independence in 1961, Sierra Leone was better off than most of South East Asian countries including Japan. No Sierra Leonean thought about China or to even think of going there to study. Some people have blamed our colonial masters, but I would blame those who craved for independence especially the early leaders. The colonial masters left us with a strong economy with good financial reserve. The Leone was as strong as the US dollar. We were exporting rice but after five decades of independence we are last in the world. Malaysia, Singapore, India, Brazil, Argentina to name but a few were all under colonial masters, why did they succeed and we failed?
Palm Kernel was taken from Sierra Leone and Nigeria to Malaysia. Today they are the leading producer of Palm Kernel with about 30 products produced from it including fuel, cheese, butter etc. Why did the West African countries palm kernel products fail to thrive? It failed because of our own doing; (the Sun vs. the Palm Tree).
In 1980, the ASEAN Union of Asia told the world that the 21st century would belong to Asia, because all the countries were working with passion and pride to succeed. Today, 40% of the world’s strongest economies are in Asia, and they are not relenting, but still trying very hard to overtake the Europeans and Americans. The Vietnamese who fought a very long war can feed themselves, but we cannot and we have everything it takes to succeed, but we always fail.
Mr. President, the time has come for you to understand that all what you saw in China you can do in Sierra Leone with determination and innovations. Since you took over the reigns of power, it is no secret to all that education has dropped drastically from where it was in 2007 and that is a failure on your part. A country with about 80% of its population illiterates and middle manpower will never succeed. Until it is the other way round before we will think of success
Secondly, you should put more effort in agriculture than mining or the baseless Diaspora office you set up. If we cannot feed ourselves then we will never develop. Engage the Chinese government to the fullest in bringing agricultural companies and machinery to make use of the virgin lands in the country. If we can produce 60 to 70 percent of the rice we eat daily, then you will see how easier it is to improve other areas.
Water supply, human resources and land are in abundance all over the country, why should you not bring these companies to make use of these lands? China has almost 200 foreign banks and thousands of foreign industries that have improved the country. Do the same Mr. President! Improve diplomatic ties with Japan to Ambassadorial level and start diplomatic ties with Singapore. These three countries can turn Sierra Leone to a paradise with their know-how, financial strength and expertise. Singapore is the leading country when it comes to water supply and medical facilities. Japan obviously has the financial and technological power in Asia, whilst China is the new kid on the block in the ‘new world order’.
Singapore would be a copycat for Sierra Leone and definitely if we use them as our target, I’m sure we would become a better country in Africa. There is a saying that one should aim for the sky, if he fails to reach the sky he would fall on the roof, but not the ground. So Let us think in this positive way for the development of the country.
People wonder how a small country like Singapore with a population of about 5 million can achieve so much. Not to mention that it does not have our abundant resources of diamonds, gold and Iron Ore and land mass. A recent issue of The Economist said that Singapore reserves stands at US$130.7 billion while Malaysia that is bigger and richer only has US$79 billion. This shows how well they manage their country’s financial affairs.
When they gained independence in 1965, its leaders cried rather than cheered. The idea that a small island city-state of two million people with no hinterland could survive in what was then a difficult and troubled region seemed manifestly absurd. The odds were always against Singapore succeeding.
The remarkable thing is not only that it has succeeded against the odds; rather, it is that the country has actually become one of the most successful developing nations in the world. Beating the odds is now a challenge not just for small, vulnerable states like Singapore but also for other countries in this planet like Sierra Leone.
Singapore’s success story is now relatively well known, despite the regular knocks it receives from some liberal Western media. But because some of these knocks have been globally transmitted, few have come to understand that behind the success story is an even more interesting story of innovative social and economic solutions that have led to the success story. These innovative solutions may be worth a study for those striving to bridge the growing divide in an increasingly troubled planet.
The economic success of Singapore is well known. Its economy has grown by more than 7 percent per annum since independence in 1965, leading to a per-capita income of $29,610, ranking ninth in the world. Some maintain that Singapore has the most efficient port, airport, airline and civil service in the world.
It also has the third largest oil refining capability and one of the largest financial centers. Its total trade is three times the size of its GNP. The policy prescriptions created to achieve this were relatively simple: sustain a free and open economy, avoid any subsidy, welcome foreign investment and aim for budgetary surpluses. The values of hard work and thrift, and the virtues of increasing worker productivity were always emphasized.
Hidden behind this economic story, however, is another story that is surprisingly little known. Societies should be judged ultimately on their ability to deliver to their citizens most of their human needs: food, shelter, health, education, a clean environment, a sense of community and a sense of purpose in life. It is on these dimensions that Singapore could perhaps provide recipes for our beloved Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a little bigger than Singapore in terms of geographical size as well as population, and we are endowed with riches, but why should we continuously be at the bottom of the Human Index report annually. The above information is what we need to build on if Sierra Leone is to be a better place in this planet. Let us start diplomatic ties with them and work hand in hand.
His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma, I am appealing to you to engage these Asian Countries to the fullest and work with them to achieve success as they did with the British and Americans. You will succeed with your attitudinal change if it is marched with jobs and opportunities.
My two years in China made me to understand how a country can develop. It is no magic, nor plenty of talk but determination and the passion to succeed. The late chairman Mao was a good leader in terms of unifying China, but he was against the reform and never wanted Deng Shao Peng to lead China, but after his death everything changed and China has achieved through the opening up policy.
You can be our own Deng Shao Peng if you can change the direction of the economy, education and infrastructure by using a country like Singapore as a target. Many Americans who travel to China are fascinated because some provinces are replicas of some cities and states in their country. The English teachers that are preferred in China are Americans, the foreign currency they know is the Dollar, the best sports they like are the American sports of Basketball and Baseball, and the desired country most of them want to visit is America. China has been doing a lot for us, but there are certain areas that I think they can change the cause of our country.
Begging Sierra Leoneans to come home and the setting up a Diaspora office in my own opinion is just a waste of time. Sierra Leoneans indeed want to come home, but where are the facilities, the jobs, the houses that should encourage them to return. There are none. We need to understand that these people have kids that are Americans, British and Canadians etc. and in their respective countries, there are many facilities for their kids, Disney land, parks, and other entertainment places that the kids would go and enjoy.
The parents who were born in Sierra Leone are ok with the system, but the kids don’t know what black-out or water shortage is, they are computer literate because they have enough in their schools, enough diversified food to eat; can these parents bring these children to live in a country where all these facilities compounded with lack of medical care are not readily available? No.
Most of these families go for holidays and their kids get fed up with the country after four or five days, because electricity is not constant, hot water doesn’t run from the taps and they have no where to go for recreational purposes and no KFC or McDonalds. According to them life in Sierra Leone is extremely boring and the questions they ask their parents are were they born under such conditions, what did they do when they were kids, did they enjoy their lives, why the country is so dark and why the house doesn’t have hot water running from the tap.
These are the areas we need to improve before begging people to return or wasting taxpayers’ money in the Diaspora office that would never be beneficial to the country, only to the individuals working in the office.
Sierra Leoneans are ready to change their attitudes when the opportunities of self sufficiency, jobs and other opportunities are available. How can you expect a jobless man or a hungry man to stop corruptive practices? The number of beggars in the country is a clear message that life is extremely difficult in the country. When there is enough to eat and jobs availability then we can talk of attitudinal change and fighting corruption.
But so long the country continues down the path of poverty and unemployment, there will be angry, hungry and corrupt people all over.
Mr. President, only you can change the course of the country after seeing such beauty and passion in Shanghai and Yunan They copied America and you can do likewise, find a country that we too can lean on and do the same copycat, and Singapore can be the right country for us because of the population and geographical size.
Very soon you will be celebrating two years in office and your praise singers will tell you that you have succeeded, but I will say you failed, because since you assume power, education has dropped drastically, the economy is in shambles, Human Rights record is bad and politically the country is unstable. But I believe if you want to develop the country your last three years in this first term can be the springboard for your easy re-election come 2012 and the steady progress of the country.
We are Sierra Leoneans, even when we do wrong our praise singers will support us, you yourself should be able to tell that life is difficult in the country during your quiet time. You might still have the support from the people, because some of them are just mere illiterates, others are ashamed to voice their criticisms, but the bottom line is Sierra Leone has not improved a step since you took over the reigns of government. The past two years saw the country almost becoming a police state and cost of living doubled.
Finally Mr President, I once again urge you to consider what I have written to you and use your God given talents to evaluate before writing off my proposal. I have seen development in Asia and understood how they succeed and I believe it will work for us if the leadership is visionary and innovative.
By Austin Thomas in China