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Sierra Leone’s Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr Samura Mathew Kamara (in photo) has spoken that given the way Sierra Leoneans have been responding to the change taking place in the country, he is optimistic that that the country will continue to progress especially in line with government’s Agenda for Change. He spoke on the 19th July 2012, during an exclusive interview with this writer, on the sideline of the just concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation’s fifth Ministerial Conference at China World Hotel, central Beijing.
Sierra Leone has been witnessing transformational development in the last five years, especially given the successful implementation of the core components of the Agenda for Change, including infrastructure, energy and health.
Minister Samura said, Sierra Leone has continued to witness five years of progress change noting that “the progress has been encouraging though with some difficulties”. The government, he said, has made major mile stone in the areas of infrastructural development, capacity building and human development”. Dr. Sumara Kamara explained that “the health indicators in the country have improved greatly in terms of reduction in infant mortality rate as a result of the free health care initiative introduced by government.” He said, the core components of the Agenda for Change have continued to make progress as seen in the country’s educational and the economic sectors. “The country has covered a lot of mileage in feeder roads, there has been an increase in power generation…as we have diversified our power generation with Bumbuna providing significant thermal and we are also going into solar energy.”
Dr. Samura Kamara stated that a lot of investments opportunities are now knocking at the doors of Sierra Leone. He also spoke of the progress that has been made in the agriculture sector, saying, there has been progress in transiting from subsistence farming to commercial farming as there is now the Smallholder Commercialization Programme; there are Agricultural Business Centres and Farmer Based Organizations all across the country “as these are aimed at transforming rural farming into added value agricultural productivity.” Dr. Samura Kamara went further to explain that “agricultural production is much easier now “ and that the involvements of bureaucrats like Members of Parliament, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries in agriculture is a very big change in the sector, since they now can be able to understand the constraints faced in agriculture.”
On the economic growth of the country, he noted, that Sierra Leone has continued to be on average above 5% of GDP growth per year exempting the mining sector.
Having made these successes in the implementation of the Agenda for Change, Dr. Samura Kamara went further to explain that the government will now move on to implementing the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ which is covering the period 2013-2017. He said this agenda is anchored on two things, “taking advantage of the change momentum all over the country as we want to scale up what we started under the ‘Agenda for Change’ as we will look at areas that will help to increase growth momentum, like fisheries and tourism.” The Agenda for Prosperity, the Minister went on, will also anchor on the new found wealth of the country, especially in exploiting meaningfully the reserves of minerals like iron ore. The iron ore market in Sierra Leone, he said, when fully exploited is 3rd world’s iron ore market. The GDP for 2012, on bases of iron ore export is 32.5%, which was lowered from 51% since volume of iron ore projection for 2011 and 2012 reduced. “However this growth is still encouraging”, he said.
The decentralization process has been one area that the President Koroma led government has been paying attention, especially in working towards a participatory form of governance. Since their reintroduction in 2004, the local councils are current witnessing the second generation of councilors and within the last years of council operations, a lot has been achieved. Asked to talk on what progress he thinks has been made in this area, Dr. Samura Kamara said, the decentralization process was centered on two functions; to reintroduce local governance, aimed at ensuring participatory governance and also “to ensure service delivery.” Government, he said was centralized for years but that with the coming of the decentralization process , there has been a lot of progress as “councils are now working, wards now functional, budgets now decentralized ,among others.”
The Finance Minister however acknowledged that there are still challenges that we are faced with as a country, especially in the area of managing the expectations of the people, “as well as challenges having to do with capacity building, especially for the private sector.” Speaking further, he outlined the “seeming sense of indiscipline across society and the need to improve on coordination at government level” as been other challenges. Though Sierra Leone has improved on the business environment for investors, Dr. Kamara said there is also the need to develop the private sector by effectively capacitating them.
According to Minister Samura, given the level of development taking place in Sierra Leone and with the type of leadership that President Ernest Bai Koroma has continued to provide for the country, there is every justification for him to be reelected in November. “Given the outstanding progress that has been made by President Ernest Bai Koroma in terms of the implementation of the Agenda for Change, and given the desire to continue the momentum of change and to build on this change and you believe there is more to do, there is every justification to reelect President Koroma for another five years term in office.”
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