From the Editor’s Keyboard

17 Things To Help Develop Sierra Leone (Final)

30 October 2008 at 21:05 | 667 views

By Amadu Massally, President, The Sierra Leone Network, USA.

In part 3 (final part) of this article we will look at the remaining indicators from the Investing in People and Economic Freedom policy categories. There are 11 remaining indicators and we will similarly, like we did for the Ruling Justly policy category in part 2, analyze them and their relationship to Sierra Leone’s scorecard from the 50,000 foot level.

Investing In People:

There are 5 indicators (4 for SL, as in 2008 the Girl’s Primary Education Completion indicator was not applicable) in this policy category that measure investments in people, particularly women and children, by assessing programs that promote broad-based primary education, strengthen and build capacity to provide quality public health, and reduce child mortality. Sierra Leone is failing in all of them, which may indicate that our government(s) in the past had/has not taken enough care of her people.

Immunization Rate: This indicator measures a government’s commitment to providing essential public health services and reducing child mortality. Two rates are measured: the DPT3 and measles immunization rates.

Sierra Leone is scoring 65.5 on a scale from 0.00 to 100, with a median of 84. The indicator has shown a yo-yo (bouncing effect) from 2002 to 2006. It does not show a downward or upward trend but instead has gone up and down on an annual basis

Total Public Expenditure on Health: This indicator looks at how committed is the government to investing in the health and well-being of its people. It measures general government health expenditure.

Sierra Leone has been dancing around the median since 2002. The median on a scale from 0.00 to 15 is at 2.07. Sierra Leone’s score is 2.01. What that says is if we can show we are spending (or have spent in ’08) a little bit more on public health we will be passing this indicator by November ‘08. “So Mr. Government, I want you to know...”

Total Public Expenditure on Primary Education: This indicator measures the government’s commitment to investing in primary education. UNESCO attempts to measure total current and capital expenditure on primary education at every level of administration-central, regional, and local.

Our country, similarly to public expenditure on health, is again flirting with passing this indicator as she is scored at 1.55 with a median of 1.67 on a scale from 0 to 10. You have to be above the median to pass on all these indicators and while we are close here, we are just not there yet. But we have hope, we have hope...

Girls’ Primary Education Completion Rate: This indicator measures a government’s commitment to investing in basic education for girls in terms of access, enrollment, and retention. For the 2008 scorecard that reflects data from 2007, there was not enough data to assess how well we are doing on this indicator as illustrated by “n/a”.

Natural Resource Management: This composite indicator measures a government’s commitment to sound management of water resources and water systems, proper sewage disposal and sanitary control, air quality standards, habitat preservation, and biodiversity protection.

With a failing score of 49.25 and a median of 66.53 Sierra Leone has work to improve on natural resource management. The high infant mortality rate in Sierra Leone one of the highest in the world, coupled with the fact that the causes of child mortality among 1-4 year olds are predominantly environmental, this indicator is considered to be critical.

Encouraging Economic Freedom:

The six indicators in this category measure the extent to which a government encourages economic freedom by assessing, among other things, demonstrated commitment to economic policies that encourage individuals and firms to participate in global trade and international capital markets, promotion of private sector growth and the sustainable management of natural resources, strength of market forces in the economy, and respect for worker rights, including the right to form labor unions.

Regulatory Quality: This indicator measures country performance on the burden of regulations on business, price controls, the government’s role in the economy, foreign investment regulation, and many other areas. Sierra Leone was on an upward spiral until 2005 when it took a downward turn.

At -0.43 on a scale that spans from -2 to 2 we are below the median of 0.00. This means that we are failing and have to improve on business regulations, tariffs, wage and price controls, controls on foreign investors’ ownership of companies, etc.

Land Rights and Access: This index evaluates whether and to what extent governments are investing in secure land tenure, which facilitates long-term investments in land productivity and diminishes the likelihood of short-term actions with negative environmental impacts such as slash-and-burn agriculture and deforestation.

With a failing score of 0.337 on a scale from 0.00 to 1, and a median of 0.60, we have work to do as a nation. The land tenure topic is a sensitive and long-debated issue but the MCC hopefully, can encourage us to do what makes economic sense vs. “emotional unintelligence.” The land tenure laws in Sierra Leone have to change.

Business Start-Up Indicator
This indicator measures the time and cost of complying with all procedures officially required for an entrepreneur to start up and formally operate an industrial or commercial business.

Over the past 5 to 6 years Sierra Leone has been dangling around 0.4 and 0.5. With a median of 0.930, we are scoring only around half of that with 0.483. However, we expect better results in the 2009 scorecard re: this indicator. Easing business entry into the formal economy can reduce poverty and incorporate those who operate extra-legally.

Trade Policy Indicator
This indicator measures a country’s openness to international trade based on average tariff rates and non-tariff barriers to trade. Countries are rated on the following factors: Weighted average tariff rates; and Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) such as import licenses, trade quotas, etc.

On this indicator we have been going up one year and down the other, consistently since 2002. In fact in 2004, we were passing this indicator but are currently failing it. Currently we are scoring 50.2 on a scale of 0.00 to 100 with a median of 58.2.

Inflation Indicator
This indicator measures the government’s commitment to sound monetary policy and private sector growth. It is sometimes referred to as the “cruelest tax” because the poor are least able to protect their assets against inflation.

After a series of failures on nine continuous preceding indicators, we are pleased to announce that we are passing this one. On a scale from a low of 30 to a high of -10 Sierra Leone passes with a score of 9.54 and above the median of 15.

Fiscal Policy Indicator
This indicator measures the government’s commitment to prudent fiscal management and private sector growth. Fiscal deficits driven by current expenditures decrease national savings and put upward pressure on real interest rates, which can lead to a crowding out of private sector activity.

We are failing with a score of -2.99 with a median of -1.34 this indicator. However, since 2002, this is one indicator that shows the steepest of inclines towards passing and we are hopeful that will happen sooner than later.

Conclusion

So what does all of this mean to Sierra Leone and her people? Well we are passing on 4 of seventeen indicators. If the government has been relatively more effective in governing we should pass the Government Effectiveness and Rule of Law taking our total to 6 out of seventeen as we are ever so close. But have they?

Following a similar line of thinking as regards the second category, if the GoSL has done their work towards that end by spending on Health and Primary Education Expenditures, for example, we should easily pass those two also, giving us 8 out of 17. Not bad!

The government of Sierra Leone, if they care about economic freedom would have worked on the trade policy and fiscal policy and hopefully pass one of them. Or perhaps we will pass the Business Start-Up indicator, which we understand has improved dramatically to a point where SL was recognized as the leading country in West Africa in this area. 9 out of 17 would put us over the threshold to ‘run’. This is the optimistic scenario and the practical one cannot be way off, but let’s wait and see. It will all be self-revealing sooner than later when the 2009 scorecard surfaces next month.

If we fail to get more passing scores in 2009 like we hope for, all is still not lost. With a focused agenda of improving the scores and putting resources in place to meet that end, we will get the passing rate on indicators by scorecard 2010. So while we may not get to the compact stage by 2011, we can still expect to get a threshold by that year.

But we need a focused agenda and deadline and that is why we think something symbolic like a 50th Independence Anniversary should be enough inspiration... And if we do not win any grants, so what? The work we would have done in an attempt to win a grant by 2011 will still be worth celebrating. Happy 50th Anniversary in advance, Sierra Leoneans!

Immediate Action Items

Except for number one the others (2 - 4) are not necessarily in any order.

1. We cannot overemphasize the importance of the government of SL engaging with the MCC formally, as soon as possible so we can get on their radar this year instead of wasting a whole year by not being proactive.

2. We need to form a broad consultation group that spans input from the public including civil, political, and private sector actors; and for implementing compact programs once they have been approved. The MCC will not participate fully with government by itself nor will they do so with civil society in isolation.

3. Put a plan together to work diligently on corruption as without that we may not qualify for any MCC grant. Because corruption undermines every aspect of sustainable development, MCC has made fighting it one of its highest priorities. We should make this CORRUPTION indicator our threshold assistance focus.

4. Understand the process used to gather data from the various surveys, panels of independent experts, and the many other factors and players involved in the scorecard transaction process. Then strategize to execute on a plan to win.

“Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere”

 Ambassador John Danilovich (MCC CEO).

It is our hope that this article in its entirety becomes a tool for citizens, civil society organizations, journalists, the private sector, and the government of Sierra Leone to not only become more aware of the MCC and what it can mean to and for us as Sierra Leoneans, but to get engaged as soon as possible with the relevant parties.

The author considers himself an advocate for social responsibility and sustainable development in Sierra Leone and hopes that his country men and women can participate more as ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone in the development of their native land. He is the President of the Sierra Leone Network, a civil society advocacy group that focuses on national issues.

He can be reached at the following email addresses:
amadu.massally@slgha.org and amadu.massally@gmail.com for any questions or comments.

Sources:
• MCC Website
• MCC Scorecard for Fiscal Year 2008
• Millennium Challenge Corporation
• Report on the Criteria and Methodology for Determining the Eligibility of Candidate Countries for Millennium Challenge Account Assistance in Fiscal Year 2009 October 2008.
• MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE ACCOUNT - INDICATOR DESCRIPTIONS.

Photo: Clock Tower, near Eastern Police station, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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