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Page added on August 24, 2012

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Sierra Leone is on track, much is happening today

Sierra Leone is on track, much is happening today thumbnail

We have heard of the recent declaration of media practitioners for the ruling party in Sierra Leone, which is led by a hardworking President in the person of President Koroma. The questions have kept coming but the fact remains, these latest developments are indicative of the journalists’ appreciation of President Koroma and his government. There is no better time for them to come together and give their support to the President that has made Sierra Leone a business friendly country today. Forget about their deicis0n for they too are human beings that have a stake in the country’s development. The point is, this is the President only in the history of Sierra Leone that has encouraged media practitioners to be part of the decision making process in the country, by appointing them into ministerial positions, among other areas.

In Ghana, we saw the involvement of a media practitioner in the person of Miss Elizabeth Akua Ohene in the running of the state. She  was with the BBC but later had to take up a Ministerial job as a way of serving her beautiful country (Read: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/people/person.php?ID=219 ) So I join others in wishing my colleagues good luck but let me hasten to advice that their trust in President Koroma should continue even when symbols are warded and some are not given symbols for it is clear that at the end, one is going to be given, say for instance, the Mayoral  position. The process of being part of President Koroma success story should be maximized even after the award of symbols.

That said, I am taking you through on how Sierra Leone has today been a business friendly country, with the determination of President Koroma who is waiting reelection in November. Sierra Leone , with a land size of 72,000 sq km and with a population of about 6 million,  has a tropical and humid climate and with so many natural resources like rutile, diamond, gold, petroleum and rich offshore fishing among others. The socio-economic development of the country has often caught the attention of our leaders, especially following the end to our decade long civil war. But again, even with their seeming preparedness when clamoring to come to power, they often would tend to fail in meeting their promises.

Sierra Leone, I wrote recently, has all what it takes for her development. But we were faced with the difficulty of having to do with leaders who could not come to terms with their promises.  Our problems have not just been centered on the apparent unwillingness of some people to be realistic what happenings in our country, but even the political leaders have  most time becomes faulty. Years back, if we are not told of journalist been jailed, we could read of one been killed. Harry Yansaneh has a story to tell. Was this the case with the then government? I can’t tell, but all I can say is President Kabba(h)’s leadership had a number of positives, but with  thousands of weaknesses. He brought a number of institutional reforms, yes, but the ‘food for all by 20o7’ was a fault promise, just as was with the Lungi Bridge.   In fact in 2006, Gbanabom Hallowell   wrote that “closely observing Kabbah in the years of the civil war, I noticed that his political deficiency became more apparent after the death of his wife…among the party stalwarts with whom Kabbah struggled was his then vice president, Albert Joe Demby, who, like Kabbah, was a political misfit. Demby, who is said to have financially bought himself a ticket to the vice presidency, saw Kabbah more like a party “outsider” who had only been privileged the presidential position in order to give several national identities to the party at a time it was being smeared with all kinds of ethnic accusation.  Unfortunately, Kabba(h) had not quite achieved the national image for which he was elected. Demby, on the other hand, had been led by the party rightist into believing that he was the true-blooded DNA material for the party leadership and that he was more than a vice president-a president in waiting…”  (Source:  Read “Might And the Paradox of Political Security Under the SLPP in Sierra Leone on  http://business.highbeam.com/3548/article-1G1-153333280/might-and-paradox-political-security-under-slpp-sierra)  Okey, that was very challenging. A serious problem, given the way it was presented by Hallowell in 2006. But is that the case today? Definitely no! In fact when you take a look at the type of leadership we have in Sierra Leone today, you are bound to accept that it has been a great and exceptional one, under the person of President Ernest Koroma

When President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed power in 2007, one of his first priorities was to work towards the implementation of an Agenda for Change. This ‘Agenda for Change’ is aimed at moving the country to a new direction in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure, education, health energy and power. There has been tremendous progress in the implementation of this ‘Agenda for Change’. The provision of electricity to every household in the country has been a major priority of government. The Bumbuna Hydroelectric Dam, which got the attention of President Koroma upon assuming office in 2007, was completed and commissioned in 2009. To date, it has helped largely in the supply of electricity in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.  Also, the country ensured the installation of a 10MW thermal plant at the Kingtom Power Station, West of Freetown. This was a way of supplementing electricity supply to the Western Area. There was also the installation of a two thermal plants of 8.25 MW at the Black hall Road Power station to supplement power from Bumbuna especially during the dry season.

The fight against corruption has taken a different dimension with the body responsible to fight corruption,(Anti Corruption Commission) now having prosecutorial powers to charge corruption related matters to court, with no government interference. In 2010, the Anti Corruption Commission handled a total of 117 cases. Eight (8) of these led to convictions, including two Government Ministers. This was a demonstration of government commitment to the fight against corruption. The President has also been acclaimed for declaring his assets, in accordance with provision in the Anti Corruption Commission Act 2008.  Another major area of concern, as part of the Government’s ‘Agenda for Change’ was the implementation of a Free Healthcare Initiative, introduced in 2010. In working towards its implementation, Government ensured the provision of more resources to medical staff and the procurement of drugs and equipments and strengthening of supervision. And as a result of this initiative for pregnant and lactating mothers, in 2011 alone, 41,000 women gave birth through the program.

Sierra Leone’s progress is also felt in its tax administration, through the creation of better and efficient tax system. The introduction of the Automated System for Customs Data has seen the tax environment making steady progress in recent years.   ASYCUDA is a computer software package, is used by Customs Administrations around the world in processing documents on export and importation of goods. The system ensures fast clearance of goods; accounts for revenue collected; helps in the compilation of trade statistics; makes trade more reliable, transparent and efficient having an audit trail that will help in increasing the confidence of taxpayers in the systems of customs operations.

The system is a major component that has helped in migrating customs operations from the then manual system with a large number of tedious steps to an automated system which has today recued on the bureaucracies that used to exist.   Again, another progress in the country’s tax environment is the merger, which has taken place in terms of bringing the Income Tax and the GST under one body-the Domestic Taxes Department. The introduction of the Domestic Taxes Department takes into account components in the NRA’s Modernization Plan, which generally aims at increasing effectiveness and accountability in the nation’s revenue collection agency.

Measures have been put in place to ensure investors are encouraged in the country. A leading agency for this is the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency-SLIEPA. This agency creates the platform for direct foreign and domestic investment in Sierra Leone.  SLIEPA is responsible for the promotion, co-ordination and generation of foreign and domestic investment.  The Investment Promotion Act of 2004 primarily promotes and attracts private investments both domestic and foreign for the development of production and value adding activities as well as to improve exports and provide employment opportunities.   The Investment Promotion Act of 2004 provides a number of investment incentives, as a way of attracting investments into the country  Investment incentives like; capacity building support, foreign exchange remittance, remittance of profit, guarantee of capital repatriation and of loan remittance and guarantee against expropriation. Investment areas are plenty in Sierra Leone.  In the area of mining, the country has an encouraging deposit of iron ore. It has so many investment opportunities in the areas of infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and telecommunication. Sierra Leone is ready for business and it looks forward to welcoming genuine investors.

Not only has President Koroma given true and sincere meaning to the fight against corruption, which is key in the promotion of democratic credentials, it is worthy to note also, that in the World Governance Indicators put out by the World Bank, Sierra Leone improved with a ranking score of 25.4 in 2010 from 18.2 in 2009 and 17 in 2008. At one point in 2005 and 2006 it was at 12.7 for both years, but it jumped to 18.9 in 2007. Overall, it is showing a picture that the control of corruption has improved over the years to where it now sits at 25.4.  Thank you for critically assessing President Koroma based on his performance record, even as I bring you next what he has achieved in fight corruption in Sierra Leone.

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