From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone: Government jobs and self-employment

8 July 2008 at 21:47 | 936 views

Commentary

By Gibril Koroma
Editor/Publisher

The local government elections have come and gone and now it’s time for Sierra Leoneans to get back to work. Let me however use this opportunity to commend the Sierra Leone government, the UN office in the country and the National Electoral Commission for working so tirelessly to see that we once more have not only free and fair elections but elections that were not marred by any serious cases of violence. This is not an insignificant achievement in a country full of ex-combatants and many unscrupulous politicians ready to maim or kill for political power.

Even though NEC has not yet released any official results, our information is that the way the people voted once again demonstrates that the country is still divided along ethnic and regional lines.

One of the challenges of the current government is consequently to work very hard to bring Sierra Leoneans together as one nation. Previous governments have failed to do that although Siaka Stevens, the country’s first executive president, succeeded to some extent in that direction. The Koroma administration has been accused of "northernising" government appointments; if that is true, it’s not a good thing for national cohesion, as non-northerners would feel left out or discriminated against, leading to bitterness and retaliation at the polls.

This brings me to one problem that is holding back economic development in Sierra Leone. Many Sierra Leonean parents tell their children to work hard at school, get a college or university degree and then get a government or company job.

Thus, many Sierra Leonean graduates have what I would like to call the colonial mentality (colo mentality) of always looking up to the government or some company for jobs once they graduate from college or university. This kind of mentality, I am sorry to say, would hardly get them anywhere with the salary structure in the country and would not help the country much. Government or companies cannot provide jobs for everybody; that is not possible in 21st century Sierra Leone where you now have a large number of university graduates being let loose on the streets every year. I am not saying nobody should look for a government or company job but something needs to change here, we need a change of attitude.

In all developed countries, most of the national wealth comes from small businesses; a lot of people are self-employed, with the government employing just a tiny number. It’s these small businesses that provide most of the jobs and the revenue(in the form of taxes) the government uses for development projects. No country (Sierra Leone included) would develop without a large number of small business owners.

I see no reason why an agriculture graduate from Njala university for example should roam the streets looking for a government job when he could easily go to his or her village and create a farm to supply food items to urban dwellers. All such a person needs is a loan from a bank or elsewhere to get going. I am certain they will earn a lot more money doing this than what they will get from a government salary. They will of course also need transportation, good roads and electricity(to preserve perishable commodities, etc) to be highly successful. This is where the governement should come in. Government should be there to provide the essential services(the enabling environment)for the people to help themselves. Government should not play the role of nanny or baby sitter or Father Christmas.

President Koroma, a former businessman, understands this; hence his desire to provide electricity in all corners of the country as quickly as possible. With electricity in say every village in a place like Kono, many people will be able to be self-employed, without having to depend on government or companies for jobs.

Therefore, if the APC government can provide electricity all over the country, strengthen micro-credit schemes and make sure there is peace everywhere, I am sure they will not have any problems in the 2012 elections. They will be a piece of cake for them. Guaranteed.

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