Now you spoke about the rising prices of petroleum products in the world market what suggestions can you give to government and the people knowing that in Africa that spells more poverty for the people?
This is a very tricky area to manage but everybody has to understand it is desirable for the people to get fuel if possible for nothing unfortunately for Sierra Leone they don’t have the crude even if you had the crude you do not have the technology to bring the crude to the surface and refine it and bring it to the pump, and even if you had all that it would still cost you money to get it from the ground refine it transport it get it to the pump and sell so the minimum that anybody should expect of the government is for them to be in a position to purchase this product at the optimal cost, whatever it takes to bring that product to the pump, because energy is the fulcrum it is the center point of any economy and if you don’t manage that well everything else collapses. If the government succumbs to the desires of the people i.e give us this fuel for nothing the government will have to continue to subsidize the insatiable requirement for energy what it means is that people will no longer think about how to save this energy, they will no longer invest for clean air protection they will simply not plan their movements they will take it for granted that fuel is their God given right and what would happen is they will waste it, they poison themselves with it, they burn themselves down with it and government will continue to draw from nowhere to subsidize this insatiable propensity and what more the more the people rely on this subsidy the more indolent they are, the less productive they are, the less creative they are and what happens is that the economy and the people will fade out. Whereas if the government makes it know to the people that here we are we are going to ensure that this product is provided to you at the most efficient cost effective prices but you have to pay for it at the same time we are expecting you to know that this thing is costing us money try and find other ways of getting your activities going. Now in most countries even including Nigeria laws are being passed on trying to mix fuel with ethanol or alcohol. Alcohol can be produced from bio fuel wood etc. etc. and that’s obviously available here in this country it can be made, and in most countries now they have gone to percentages of up to 40% ethanol in their product. In Nigeria today the act is for 10% we are now practicing 5% so here too that kind of effort can be made, and people should be made to know that fuel can be given at a cost, failure to do that you will find that the government will begin to buckle under the subsidy scenario and they won’t provide enough there won’t be enough for the pump and people will queue up and kill themselves at the pumps and the fuel is still not there, the fuel will now disappear from the pumps and get into the black market and that’s where they are going to buy this fuel at more than ten times at the price they can buy it at the pumps so now is the time to keep the discipline going get the people to understand they have to pay for the fuel at the price, but they have to tell the industry the fuel must be provided at optimal cost they must continue to regulate the source regulate the specification make sure that the practice of it is safe and make sure that there is no cost waste anywhere else, they dictate to the industry how much of their gain must be ploughed back into the system, not just in the fuel system, but in other things which would bring about productivity so that’s what government should do, create the environment create the regulation and guide the industry that will motivate the investor to now know that there is a return on his investment and he would then invest more, the more he can invest the cheaper it is because more investors should be there competing because this is a proven area so the competition keeps the price stable and the people go about other businesses that would help the economy to tick – growing rice, building houses, good roads getting the economy moving. Because energy is only a starting point for growing the economy we shouldn’t get bogged down trying to look for it and pay as cheaply as possible you can imagine in some west coast countries a lot of people spend time queuing up at petrol stations trying to buy fuel and that’s all they work for the day, you’ve bought your fuel then you go back and you start feasting ‘oh I managed I got fuel … that man did me a favour … you’ve bought the fuel so what else have you done for the day-nothing so I think the government should provide the environment the industry must invest to make it more efficient to make it more cost effective but the public must develop the culture to accept that yes the fuel has to be provided at an optimal price.
How do you see the climate for private sector investment in Sierra Leone?
It’s absolutely bright I wish there was a way we could bring all these brains that are out there, there are lots and lots of brains sierra Leonean brains out there in America the UK they should really come home and see what is happening as at the last count in my office no less than ten top most developing banks are scrambling to come here they are no fools. The nations are all scrambling to get a foot hold here, they are no fools, granted things are a little difficult, but the fact that this country is able to vote – is able to install – change the government from one government to the other this has been the second successful change – it doesn’t matter whom they managed to … but the fact they were able to do it at all – they didn’t shoot themselves they didn’t kill themselves they argued I mean that’s what they should do, but at the end of the day there was a peaceful change that is already a mile away from most countries, so with that kind of stability with the opportunities available to everybody it only takes an intelligent man to begin to create wealth it is true that the population is not that big but like the honourable minister said the target is not Sierra Leone alone the 300 million ECOWAS community that is the target so all you need to do is make yourself the hub like London is the economic hub of Europe this is the hub of West Africa, why because like I told you investing in business is so easy, you get your permits readily, the government people you can talk to them, the people are very friendly and they are very intelligent and educated so it takes little for a business man to get grounded, and nothing has actually taken off here yet from providing drinking water to providing match for striking the fire, nothing has taken off so the opportunities are immense. The other day I came by the ferry it took me almost six hours to cross – why should it be? Put up a bridge little tow over ten years whoever does that is beginning to milk money forever and ever, the public could be employed or put ferries or put whatever the people will benefit so nothing really – so everything is in the same fancy from making clothes providing food just anything you want to do is there – you are going to be a pioneer so investors should be motivated if they are pioneers in an environment that seems to accept that kind of vision once the government continues to make the enabling environment easy and the politicians accept that the people have the power to decide who leads them without rancor that’s all that is required the people would come the private sector would create the situation they would drive the economy.