By Chadia Talib – Bo, Sierra Leone: The Agenda for Prosperity, introduced in the wake of President Ernest Koroma’s second term, should advance an economic programme that is comprehensive, logical, and feasible for it to succeed. For this to happen, the programme should tap on the expertise and commitment of essential stake holders, including economic and policy experts and the business community, rather than been a loose slogan. This will ensure a plan that will reduce economic insecurity and provide broadly shared prosperity in the country. The success or failure of Sierra Leone’s economy is measured not by its gross domestic product (GDP), but by the extent of the living standards that the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans find themselves.
The country’s annual budget plans should cease to focus mainly on government spending. It should also include specific recommendations that target investments; both domestic and foreign, if the focus on prosperity for all Sierra Leoneans is to be attained. There also should be options for revenue provisions to help kick-start domestic investments, which is the nucleus for economic development.
The banking system must be structured in ways that loans and investment guidance are provided to prospective domestic investors with the guarantee that such investments are properly monitored, and loans repaid on time. Sierra Leone is endowed with plenty of resources; human, mineral, agricultural and marine. Tapping them should reflect the Sierra Leonean value that puts the collective above the individual.
The Agenda for Prosperity cannot be achieved by accident, or by some miracle. It can only succeed, when leaders and citizens collectively invest on building a strong foundation for a sound, solid economy, create equal opportunities and also adequately compensate and support the workforce, particularly the middle class.
When government takes the lead and also provides the citizenry the needed pathway, guided by adequate economic security to invest in their future, they are likely to prosper. Vibrant communities depend on sustainable investments, achieved through government decisions that are based on public priorities. Public investments must be made wisely and managed efficiently and accountably.
Transparency of state spending is vital as it impacts policy decisions. Looking back at those bleak, dark, days in Sierra Leone’s history, when hope was lost and communities were moved en masse, displaced and lost in the wilderness of uncertainty, many Sierra Leoneans can say with some level of confidence that they now feel a sense of relief and also are hopeful for the future. The country must maintain this steady path with commitment and caution based on sacrifices and love for country. It comes with perseverance and a deep of passion.
As a team, the citizenry and leadership of the country must dedicate time in doing the right thing, because when such commonality exists between them, everyone benefits. People hardly give their supports to leaders who are not committed to their course. Those in leadership positions in every facet of society must be seen to take the lead. Polish-Australian billionaire, Richard Pratt, famously known for building one of the world’s largest privately owned paper packaging and recycling companies in the world, once said: “Encourage your people to be committed to a project, rather than just be involved in it.”
As a parent myself, (I am sure, like all other parents) there is always the thought of what the future holds for my son. The desire for a safe and thriving environment, quality education, sound and affordable medical opportunity, pure drinking water, good roads, constant power supply and job opportunities, come to mind always.
Caution should be the watchword now. It must direct decision-making and the process of exercising political power because caution is a relevant human endeavor, as Ghanaian engineer and former presidential candidate, Osei Yeboah, of JOY2012 fame, puts it: “In all human endeavors, cognisance must be taken of the fact that, doing the right thing, at the wrong time is equally wrong.” Caution minimises risks that Sierra Leone cannot afford to get on its current path.
The Agenda for Prosperity is not, and must not be a one-man show. It must serve as a call to order of all Sierra Leoneans to be dedicated in giving of their best for the overall good of the country.
To the leaders, the people have spoken. Regardless of what presidential or parliamentary candidates they voted for, the exercising of their franchise on November 17, 2012, gives legitimacy to all elected officials. They deserve the best! Six million lives are now entrusted into the hands of the elected few. The people watch and wait to be led out of poverty and misery, hoping for a bright and new future for Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans have stepped out of those horrendous war days, and are expecting to live the SIERRA LEONEAN DREAM. YES! IT IS THE SIERRA LEONEAN DREAM!
Chadia Talib is a writer, women’s right advocate and entrepreneur. She lives in Bo, southern Sierra Leone.