All Hands on Deck!

1 October 2007 at 20:49 | 568 views

By Eddy Tedson, London,UK.

The euphoria that greeted the election results that catapulted Ernest Koroma to the enviable position of “Managing Director” of the Republic of Sierra Leone has hardly died down. Years of successive bad governments have almost erased from the minds of the Sierra Leonean people the concepts of economic security and prosperity. Today, like in the case of many newly elected governments, fantasies, great expectations and dreams of an economic paradise occupy the minds of many.

I have been in contact with many well intentioned Sierra Leoneans at home and in the diaspora and I have taken part in discussions about the Sierra Leone of our dreams following Ernest’s victory. The overriding vibrations have been, “Ernest must deliver and we can’t wait to see this happen.” Many are saying, “the ball is now in Ernest’s court and from now on, Sierra Leone’s economic revival or continued decline is entirely his responsibility and that of his government.” I dismiss this narrow minded view of national development as a truckload of nonsense. While I totally agree that the role of government is extremely crucial, leaving out what other key players outside government can contribute is like telling only half of a nice story.

What can we realistically expect the new government to do for us ? It will be reasonable to expect that this government will:

1. promote good governance, peace and security

2. promote and sustain growth in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, mining, infrastructure

3. promote human development in the areas of education, health, housing, sanitation, youth development and gender empowerment

Clearly, bad governance either causes or perpetuates poverty, and poverty is oppressive. People suffer when governments do not allow meaningful participation in political life and access to justice, deliver adequate public services or check corruption.

However, while it is without question that the lead player in facing the challenge of poverty is government, the contribution of individuals and local communities cannot be minimised. I have always emphasised that our country is blest with talents and energy, but what is lacking is the spirit and confidence to harness these for the benefit of all. While I am not saying governments should not build roads, many will agree that communities do not always have to wait for governments to construct a local bridge to carry their produce to market. Certainly, communities can mobilise to make certain things happen. Local resources can be used to make bridges, market stalls and community wells dug to provide clean water for local populations.

Attitudes must change in such a way that the average man can feel confident to insist that public servants perform their duties to high standards. The educated have a duty to teach the illiterate about better nutrition, sanitation and appropriate lifestyles to minimise the impact of debilitating diseases.

Those who have achieved should be happy to share the secrets of their success with the less fortunate, and the less fortunate should feel inspired by the achievements of others instead of becoming jealous and seeking to destroy those achievements.

Respecting Sierra Leone’s public property and resources such as public buildings, roads, office stationery and telephones, vehicles, is a responsibility that the average Sierra Leonean can do better than the few individuals at State House.

A third major participant in the Sierra Leone’s fight against poverty is the international community who may provide food aid, budget support, technical assistance, and fund our education sector. It is worth noting however that major donors such as the US and the UK have world wide responsibilities. They help other nations that are just as needy as Sierra Leone, so it will make no sense to fold our arms and depend on the good will of donors. As a matter of fact, genuine donors would like to be seen as partners in our development rather than godfathers of our development.

Thus the message here is that, Sierra Leone’s economic renaissance will depend on a three-pronged strategy. First, Ernest and his APC Government to take the lead, promote good governance and provide security. Second, International Donors to provide their good will; and third, individuals and local communities to mobilise and support national development. Every well meaning Sierra Leonean has a task here, and so, if we do not want to set up our new government to fail, the name of the song we all should be singing is, “all hands on deck.”

Photo: President Ernest Bai Koroma.