Indeed Sierra Leone is a country that is said to be endowed with numerous natural resources and huge agricultural potentials with fertile soils as well as an idyll climatic condition, yet Sierra Leone is struggling to move from a fragile economy to a low income state in order to remedy the alarming poverty. In deed different policies in the form of an Agenda has been introduced and even reintroduced by successive governments.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), under the leadership of the late President, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabba, was booted out democratically because the- Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) did not overwhelmingly attract Sierra Leoneans.
When President Ernest Bai Koroma assumed power in November 2007, the All People’s Congress (APC) introduced the Agenda for Change which still did not solve the ‘Bread and Butter ‘problem of Sierra Leoneans. A year later, President Koroma reintroduced the PRSP in the form of an Agenda for Prosperity. The question one tend to ask is-Is the Agenda for Prosperity a solution to the existing poverty in Sierra Leone?
The Voiceless want to look at poverty, it causes and proffer some solutions to remedy its dreadful nature on the lives of the average Sierra Leoneans so that the Agenda for Prosperity will certainly emerge victorious. Different Research conducted, including the World Bank report has indicated that almost half the world, over 3 billion people, live on less than USD 2.50 a day. The GDP of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567million) is less than the wealth of the world’s richest people combined. Also, a billion people entered the 21st Century unable to read a book or sign their names. Similarly, less than one percent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and it did not happen. Today, one billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world).It worthy to note that 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to health to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in the past two years before they reached age 15 or approximately 29,000 children per day. From this analysis, Is there enough reason for poor people to be squarely blamed for their present condition?
Honestly, whether you live in the wealthiest nations in the world or the poorest, you will see visible inequality. The poorest people will also have less access to health, education and other fundamental services. Problems of hunger, mal-nutrition and diseases afflict the poorest in the society. The poor are typically being marginalized by society and have little representation or voice in political debates, making it even difficult to escape poverty. On the contrary, the richer you are, the more likely you are to benefit from economic or political affiliations or policies. The amount of money the world spend on military, financial bailouts and other areas that benefit the wealthy compared to the money spent to addressing the daily crisis of poverty and related problems are often stunning.
The causes of poverty are numerous, including individual responsibility, bad government policy, exploitation by few people, uncultured attitude and ineffective national institutions or some combination of other factors.
In Sierra Leone, immediately after independence the poverty ratio was not as worse as the years that subsequently followed. In the area of agriculture, there was some surplus in the production of rice and other products such as Cocoa, Ginger, Coffee, Piassava and Palm kernels were exported which swelled our income. Moreover, the decade civil war, the country’s economy started taking a nose dive manifesting itself in the gradual escalating poverty at the expense of the average Sierra Leoneans. This became one of the reasons for the over centralization of state institution and other corporate institutions capable of engaging the population on development projections through local councils which simply has disappeared. Coupled with this is the individualizing of development activities instead of creating opportunities for national development. This is evident in the agricultural produce, export of Minerals and Marine Resources.
However, exploitative tendencies and corruption widened the gap with high level poverty in the country. Ethnicity and party colour has become the mode of governance, undermining development. No wonder that during the civil war, there was a complete destruction of exports facilities and other economic potentials. The consequences were far reaching as during the war factories and industries were closed down, increasing unemployment which made poverty more pronounced. With the loss of export s, the country’s currency experienced a serious devaluation as virtually foreign exchange earning became zero. Our illiteracy rate still remains very high coupled up with an unskilled citizen. So what we have unskilled labour which hardly does cater to change the poverty status. The existing poverty amidst the numerous Agendas and policies has negatively impacted on the socio-economic status of many Sierra Leoneans. Some cannot even access basic medication.
The Voiceless have understood that Sierra Leone have gone through poor leadership and inefficient governments with misplaced priorities and marginalization of the masses. Added to this problem is the lack of technological expertise and the absence of misguided policies to fight poverty.
In Sierra Leone, even with existence of the beautiful Agenda for Prosperity, but the emergence of a weak and corrupt civil service and other selfish government officials has led to the economic inequality and poor living standard of the average citizens.
In order to help put a halt to the alarming poverty, top most priority must be laid on agriculture which The Voiceless believe will increase the earning capacity of the average man. The continuance of infrastructural development and further improve general transportation across the country. The rehabilitation of national railway and the creation of attractive facilities in the provinces will enthuse indigenes to go home and develop their communities. The Anti Corruption Commission must be a national fight, therefore punitive actions must be prescribe by the Courts. Believe it or not corruption has been a contributing factor to the overall poverty in the country. Finally, unqualified and over age civil servants should be allowed to take their exit.
What The Voiceless is nervously asking is, What is new in this Agenda for Prosperity?. Indeed when one perused through the 149 pages we were able to decipher that the new Agenda for Prosperity has genuine intentions and attractive plans which the Government intend achieving either before or promptly in 2018. Interesting as it is, the new Agenda for Prosperity Bible has been categorized into eight (8) genres ranging from Diversified Economic Growth, Managing Natural Resources, Accelerating Human Development, International Competitiveness, Labour and Employment, Social Protection, Government and Public Sector Reform, Gender and Women’s Employment etc.
Remember, if the aforesaid are not thoughtfully considered the Agenda for Prosperity will be unachievable fantasy.