Tuesday, September 4, 2018 2:50 pm
Though he was sworn in about five months ago on 4th April, President Julius Maada Bio will commence a new journey in September when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will roll down its sleeves for multilateral development agencies to continue budgetary and other financial supports, coupled with the nation’s National Revenue Authority (NRA) drive in beefing up revenue mobilization toward Bio’s laudable programs like free education, fight against corruption and stabilization of the economy, among others
By ABUBAKAR HASHIM/Sierra Leone
It’s been a rather rough ride for President Julius Madaa Bio. He came in with plethora of promises as enshrined in the “New Direction” manifesto which paved way for his victory in last March’s elections.
The “New Direction” manifesto is a compendium of social investment and economic programs tailored along people-oriented development strategies particularly the poor and vulnerable.
Implementation of these programs needs massive funding. Today, the economy is weak, due to no external budgetary support as a result of non-implementation of the conditions of the IMF by the past government. This situation is worsened by the closure of the two major mining companies and revenue earners to government, Shandong Steel and London Mining, leaving only three mining companies, Sierra Rutile, Vimetco and Koidu Holdings in the industry, which is the main source of revenue for the government.
The country’s National Revenue Authority (NRA) has commenced a vigorous revenue drive, generating 25 Billion Leones (about 320 Million Dollars) for August, with a huge debt of 8.7 Billion Leones (about 110 Million Dollars) hanging on its debt port folio, according to the new NRA Boss, Dr Samuel Jibao.
The new IMF breath of life commenced in May when a delegation led by Brian Aitken met with President Bio and government officials in Freetown, on an 8-day mission to un- freeze the $ 230 million budgetary support it had signed with former President Koroma and to assess economic conditions in Sierra Leone, in order to lay a basis for a follow –up mission that will lead to signing of a new agreement with the government, based on a revised program.
The meeting focused on common understanding on key areas where additional progress will be needed. For instance, plan for financing 2018/19 budget, increase in accountability, transparency in oversight of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA’s) and advancing legislative reforms in the areas of banking, public finance management and revenue administration.
It is progress in these areas by the government that will pave way for the IMF funding recommendations to various multilateral institutions like the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, European Development Fund and development funding agencies.
President Bio has now secured the leverage needed by the IMF to jump start the economy. He will commence the free education in September, anchored on his personal zest that “every child should be able to go to school.” His government will remit school fees and admission fees to all schools to ease the burden on parents, guardians and pupils. Government will also provide free text books to pupils in the 2018/19 school year, and free uniforms in 2019/20. A target of 2.1 million pupils for free education has been earmarked, with a corresponding budget of 190.9 Billion Leones (about 2.5 Billion Dollars).
The other area of the “New Direction” program, that today is receiving international attention is the fight against corruption. Monies and assets that belong to the state and the people are currently a subject of investigation by Justice Biobele Georgewill , a Nigerian Judge, who will lead a commission of inquiry, along a pending forensic audit by the Audit Service and a robust recovery action by the new Anti corruption commission (ACC) czar Francis Kelfala. The President has officially remarked that “all monies stolen are to be recovered”. Former President, Vice President, Ministers and Heads of Agencies between November 2007 to April 2018 are to be investigated by the commission that will be fact-finding, with a status of a high court.
The Nigerian judge – led commission is expected to be impartial and upright in its line of duties. The outcome of the findings will be breath – taking, leading to a dawn of a new era.
A new ministry of National Planning has been created as enshrined in the “New Direction” philosophy of President Bio. Already, 1.9 Billion Leones has been earmarked and disbursed for preparation for country – wide consultations of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 4 as well as Agenda for Prosperity of the former government of President Koroma, expected to end in December.
The next national development plan will focus on eight policy clusters, including education for development, human development, and transformation of the economy, governance and accountability for results, infrastructure and economic competitiveness, women and children, vulnerable and youth empowerment.
The new national development plan will be linked to the AU 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda and sustainable development goals. A team will be dispatched to district levels for consultations as part of outreach activities. This development has put Sierra Leone into another level among global economic players in terms of national development.
As the current Chair of the AU committee of 10 for Africa’s permanent representation in the UN security council, President Bio is now on the right pedestal, after an initial rough ride, with twists and turns, to commence a new beginning, a re- birth, to interface with friendly African and Western countries for mutual development.
What Mahathir Muhammad did in Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, Muhammadu Buhari is doing in Nigeria, Meles Zanawi in Ethiopia and the recently declared winner of Pakistan’s elections, international cricket star and anti-corruption fighter, Imran Khan, are likely replica of what President Bio’s intention is to re-position Sierra Leone on the right trajectory.