A NEW DIRECTION FOR A BETTER SIERRA LEONE.
SLPP Presidential Candidate, Rtd. Brig. General Julius Maada Bio’s Address at Launching ot the Party’s Manifesto.
Freetown, October 19, 2012.
Vice Presidential Candidate
Deputy National Chairman & Leader
Members of the International Community
Representatives of NGOs and Civil Society
Members of the Fourth Estate
On July 9, 2012 this year, we called you at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex at the launch of the manifesto development process. It was history making event because it was the first time the process of developing a Manifesto for a political party was launched. We heard from you how you would like to see Sierra Leone in a New Direction. We then consulted with various groups in all districts on what they would like contain in the New Direction. On behalf of my Party, I would like to extend my profound appreciation to you for your contributions to the road map for moving Sierra Leone forward.
My vision for this Country is to have a united, peaceful, progressive and happy nation where the people have access to jobs, food, and education and health care services and where there is justice and equal opportunities for all. This vision forms the anchor for this Manifesto
Governance under the SLPP will be in a New Direction. Putting Sierra Leone First is the core principle of the New Direction for state management and will underpin everything our administration does in the next five years.
Proud of our record
The SLPP’s philosophy of a unified Sierra Leone is enshrined in its motto of ‘One Country, One People’. We are proud of our party’s democratic credentials and the role we have played since independence to foster national unity and develop our nation. The challenge that confronted the SLPP Government in the immediate aftermath of the rebel war, which it ended, was how to reconstruct and transform Sierra Leone into a united, open, progressive, competitive and transparent country, able to resume its rightful position in the New World Order. The government consolidated the peace, restored state authority, and repositioned the post-war state for decentralised service delivery throughout Sierra Leone. From 2002 to 2007 we established major democratic institutions and created an environment for growth, civil liberty and law and order. Infrastructural development was well in progress. Some major trunk roads were completed and others were at an advanced stage of construction. Funds were also secured for yet some more. The major Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project was over 90% complete. We also made some significant improvements in many areas of human development, especially in the field of education. Indeed our record speaks for itself.
The APC’s misdeeds
Since 2007 however, the foundation laid by the post-war SLPP leadership has been completely undermined, and the numerous gains made completely reversed. This is seen in all spheres of national life. National unity is severely threatened and the democratic institutions installed in the immediate post-war years politicised. Under the APC Government, Sierra Leone has become a highly polarised society. The politicisation of State institutions such as the police and the judiciary has undermined the justice system and compromised the rule of law. The APC Government has subverted the institutions of the state to enrich themselves and their cronies, excluding everybody else. They practise the politics of exclusion. The management of our economy has seen the intrusion of politics into most spheres of activities to the extent that politics and economics have become inseparable. Perhaps the greatest failing of the APC is the mortgaging of our natural resources for pittance. The mining and oil and gas sectors in particular have been dominated by shady agreements and contracts that have received criticism locally and internationally. The management of our economy has never been as bad as it is under the APC. Fiscal indiscipline is palpable and rampant, and the country’s indebtedness has spiraled out of control. Galloping inflation and high prices have meant that many of our people now live in penury. The high expectation people had five years ago has been dampened by this sad state of affairs. Despite its failings, the APC’s propaganda machine would like the populace to believe that significant gains have been made in many areas, especially in the infrastructure arena. The real truth though is that many of these projects have been done without much planning, with non transparent procurement practices, and at unduly high costs. Indeed, the APC favours symbolism over substance.
This manifesto outlines the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s approach to regenerating Sierra Leone’s battered economy, uniting our people, improving their quality of life, and promoting good governance. The policies and programmes that will guide the process are also introduced. Our Party, the SLPP, offers one hope to Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad-the hope that there is an organised body of citizens from all over the country who are willing to put Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans First in the management and development of our dear country.
For the country to move forward, we must address the binding constraints facing this country. Step by step this manifesto proposes a range of solutions to the countless odds facing the country.The manifesto covers the major areas in governance, infrastructure, human development and the economy. It is deliberately meant to give a full picture of what we will do in all areas. The manifesto is further split into fourteen logical sub-thematic areas, each of which has appropriate subsections to provide clarity for the reader. It clearly outlines the steps we will take as a government and contrasts our planned actions with the failed policies of the APC, which we have analysed in the document. We will ensure that the conditions for success listed above are realized. We also have a short version that outlines our priority areas and accentuates certain bold steps that we will take in forging this country in a new direction.
Highlights of the Manifesto
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, I do not intend to bother you with the details in the Manifesto. I will at this stage give you an idea of what we intend to do for Sierra Leone. I will briefly do so under four broad themes; human development, infrastructure, economy and governance.
Development is about people and by the people. The topmost priority in the New Direction will be developing the human capital. In the New Direction, the SLPP will consider human development as both a means and an end to the development process. This will require investing in youth, women, children and the disadvantaged groups.
Empowering our Youth
In the New Direction, our topmost priority is proving training and jobs for youths who have been deprived and misused by politicians to perpetuate violence. We shall consider the youth crisis not only as a human development issue but a security risk. It is therefore crucial and rational that empowering our youth is topmost for any political party.
In the New Direction, SLPP will
Establish and equip modern technical institutes in all district headquarter towns to train middle level manpower Establish a National Youth Service Scheme Establish a Special Youth Empowerment Fund Establish an Arts gallery for the performing arts Train youths in the use of local materials and the use of appropriate technology for housing construction Establish a Sports Development Fund
Empowering our women
Women account for about 51% of the population. The economic, social, cultural and political status of women in society has been identified as a major determinant of the poverty status of a country. Recognition of women’s roles and their empowerment is critical to poverty reduction at the household level and to the overall development of the nation.
In the New Direction, SLPP will:
Establish a Women’s Development Fund for developing female entrepreneurship Establish and develop a National Commission for Gender Affairs Review and enact the minimum 30% Quota Bill which creates the chance for women to hold 30% of positions in elective office and appointment positions.
Protecting our Work Force
The most valuable asset of any nation is its workforce. A nation needs a workforce that is well motivated for the transformation of the natural resources to wealth. Overall our conditions of service are amongst the worst in the sub-region. Employment laws and regulations are not only weak but their implementation is also undermined. The institutional framework for the issuing of work permits exposes our potential workforce to unhealthy competition from other nationals who are usually put on better terms and conditions. Social benefits are limited and core labour standards are not enforced.
In the New Direction, SLPP will review all laws, regulations and agreements to ensure that apart from statutory social security benefits, employers have in place medical and insurance policies consistent with international best practice
The SLPP will also establish a Minimum Wage Board comprising Government agencies and private agencies with the primary responsibility of setting minimum wage at regular intervals
Our Social Security is under threat of abuse. We need an immediate action to protect the benefits of our workers. Thus, my administration will review the NASSIT Act, restructure the institution and investigate all investments funded using the pension fund.
In addition to these, we have also articulated our views on how we shall protect our children and the physically challenged and implement the respective Acts.
Investing in quality education - primary, secondary, and post secondary will help turn Sierra Leone’s natural and mineral resources into sustainable development. It is a well known fact that all around the world; education is considered the key to individual, community and national development. No nation develops beyond its level of education, the quality of its education service providers, and the effectiveness and efficiency of its education service delivery system. Education helps lift people out of poverty, and creates vast new opportunities to reduce unfair income distribution and increase choices. It creates awareness and helps to sustain democracy and peace.
SLPP considers education as a right not a privilege. In the New Direction, the SLPP will
Abandon the 6-3-4-4 and revert to the 6-3-3-4 system of education Return to the one school system to afford pupils more contact hours Launch a Presidential Initiative for teachers. The Initiative will ensure that matters relating to teachers are treated with utmost importance Establish at least one primary school in every administrative section in every district, at least a Junior Secondary in every administrative chiefdom and at least a Senior Secondary School equipped with science laboratory in every constituency. Introduce free and compulsory education at pre-primary, primary and secondary level for all and free university education girls pursuing sciences and medical discipline Establish a separate Ministry for higher education Establish a university system that employs its own leadership as chancellors. The President will not be the Chancellor of the University Introduce a students’ loan scheme Establish Schools of Excellence for Science and Technology education in all four (4) regions
Improving Health and Sanitation
Sierra Leone’s health care system is characterised by high levels of communicable diseases, frequent shortages of essential medicines, shortage of healthcare providers, poor conditions of service for health care employees and an organizational structure ill fitted to deal with the critical and worsening health challenges.
In the New Direction, the SLPP Government will
Formulate and implement a universal health insurance scheme that caters for the whole population over a four year period Expand and improve on the implementation of the Free Health Care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five to include children up to 18 years of age and the physically challenged and the aged Establish a Free Health Fund to ensure sustainability of the Free Health Care system Establish a centre of excellence for diagnostics and treatment at a strategic location in the country Increase government budgetary allocation to health from the current levels to at least 15% of the national budget in accordance with the Abuja declaration, and ensure actual release and utilization of budget funds
Improving infrastructure is an imperative for any meaningful development and poverty reduction. Development of infrastructure facilitates growth and promotes human development.
Our approach to infrastructure will be holistic and shall be guided by social and economic benefits, cost and effective planning and execution. Our efforts at developing the infrastructure will cover electricity, water supply, transport and communications.
Whilst we continue to improve on the management, generation and distribution of power in the Western Area, we will rehabilitate/restore power stations in all district headquarters power stations and institute a Rural Electricity Board and a Rural Electricity Fund to promote electrification of rural areas with a view to making electricity readily and widely available in rural areas
As a matter of urgency, my administration will restore pipe-borne water facilities in all district capital towns and other large towns, rehabilitate the water distribution network in Freetown and construct stand pipes in deprived communities and support the construction of boreholes, gravity water, and solar water pumping schemes in village settlements and generally reduce the burden on women and children in fetching water
Our efforts at improving the road condition will be guided by cost, social and economic benefits, and efficiency. To this end in the New Direction, SLPP will pave all roads leading to district capital towns, review the management of the Roads Management Fund and meaningfully devolve the maintenance of township roads and feeder roads to local councils.
In the New Direction, SLPP will set up a Lands court to help speed up land cases and improve the legal framework for leased or gifted land to provide tenants with more security, scope for investment and recourse to legal redress.
The long outstanding issue of land tenure will be resolved. We will facilitate dialogue on land tenure with a view to giving every Sierra Leonean access to land everywhere in the country.
Congestion in Freetown is alarming. Our approach to reducing congestion in Freetown will be two fold. One approach will entail moving the head offices of some government agencies to the provinces and the other is pursuing the feasibility of developing a new capital city.
In the area of environmental management, we will develop and implement a National Programme for regeneration of forest cover and enforcement of laws relating to the environment.
Both human and infrastructure development require resources. Improving the economy through sound economic management is not an end but a means of developing both the human capital and public infrastructure. Although Sierra Leone is endowed with vast natural resources, we have failed as a nation to prudently utilize proceeds from this natural wealth to develop our human resources and infrastructure. Consequently, the bulk of our people are stuck in grinding and horrendous poverty while the President Ernest Bai Koroma continues to ascend the affluence ladder as one of Africa’s richest presidents from one of its poorest.
In the New Direction, SLPP will ensure that Sierra Leoneans are given priority in many businesses and employment. This will be done in such a way as not to sacrifice efficiency. The promotion of goods and services from Sierra Leoneans and the employment of Sierra Leoneans will be legislated through a Sierra Leone First Policy. Companies will be required to provide the necessary training and also review their procurement and employment rules to ensure this is achieved
In the New Direction, the SLPP shall effectively and efficiently manage the economy with a view to promoting growth, creating jobs and enhancing household income. The policies will aim at improving the macro-economic environment through reduced budget deficits, low and stable inflation, and a low, stable and competitive exchange rate that will promote exports.
Maintaining macroeconomic management through sound fiscal, monetary and exchange rate management policies is imperative for increasing investment, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Distributing the benefits of economic growth would require effective institution for public investment planning, programme design and a robust monitoring of both government and donor resources meant for Sierra Leoneans.
Duty free exemptions which reduced from 2% of GDP in 2004 to 0.8% of GDP in 2007 skyrocketed to 2.9% of GDP in 2009 and further to 7.2% in 2010. Such growth in custom duty exemptions can only be due to the political patronage that has engulfed the country. We must put a stop to this economic malpractice. To this end, we shall develop a robust policy and law for granting duty waiver.
Increasing the Participation of the Private Sector
Developing the Sierra Leonean private sector through the establishment of a fund to provide access to medium and long-term capital encouraging lending institutions to lend a significant proportion of bank loan portfolios to SMEs will be central in the New Direction.
We will also promote the use of locally sourced Sierra Leonean goods and services, require companies to employ and train Sierra Leoneans and even withdraw fiscal incentives from companies that do not comply with employment and local content laws.
Managing our Mineral and Petroleum Resources
It is now glaringly obvious that the APC Government is raping the Sierra Leone Mining and Petroleum Industry with adverse consequences for the national economy and socio-economic life in mining communities and generations yet unborn. Such rape is wide ranging but primarily borders on signing fiscal agreements that are not in line with best practices and undermine our national taxation laws. The present Government has been demanding advance taxation from mining companies to finance especially its infrastructure projects. This is money that should be due in the future and could be used for other developmental purposes. To collect these monies and use them under dubious circumstances with suspicions of kickbacks being paid for infrastructure projects is illicit and grossly unfair to any future government and generations yet unborn.
Some of our policies in the mining and petroleum sectors will include:
Reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act and the Petroleum Production and Exploration Act to ensure they are in accordance with international best practices Review all contracts to ensure they are in accordance with international best practices Review the relevant laws to allow for the establishment of a natural resources account for all revenue generated from extractives Allocate percentages of revenue from the mining and petroleum sector to education, health and the development of mining communities
Discourage advance taxation. In exceptional circumstances when this is done all advance taxes will be made public and within the framework of the national budget Ensure that companies provide meaningful employment for Sierra Leoneans especially in management positions and carry out requisite training. We will also ensure that Sierra Leonean businesses are empowered Enforce the implementation of acceptable environmental mitigation and resettlement plans and programmes of mining and petroleum operations
Agriculture is the mainstay of Sierra Leone’s economy. It contributes almost half of the country’s GDP, employs at least 60% of the population, and contributes to foreign exchange. Food crops, notably rice and cassava, and cash crops, notably cocoa, coffee and oil palm are grown in Sierra Leone.
In the New Direction, SLPP will
Attain self sufficiency in rice and cassava production Improve the seed system through rejuvenating the seed multiplication to attract reliable private sector players in seed multiplication Provide duty free support, concessions to local industries engaged in the fabrication of farm tools and supply for other farm inputs Increase budgetary allocation to agriculture to 10% in line with the Maputo Accord Promote domestic financing of schemes that would encourage persons seeking political office to invest in agriculture Develop clear policies and laws relating to leasing of land Make public all land agreements
Marine Resources and Tourism
Our efforts in the marine sector will focus on intensifying surveillance, promoting artisanal fishing industry and improving on laboratory testing for fish products and sanitary conditions for fishing establishments with a view to facilitating the lifting of the export ban on fish exports to the EU market
There are considerable potentials in the tourism industry. Our efforts will be directed at developing a master plan, building the capacity of actors involved in the management of the tourism sector, developing tourist resorts and infrastructure and promoting eco-tourism
Immediately after the end of the war SLPP embarked on governance reforms to resuscitate State institutions and create an environment for democratic governance to thrive. Since 2007, there has been a substantial reversal of the reform processes with a major threat being undermining of the hitherto national cohesion in the country.
Efforts in this area will include promoting national cohesion, revamping and de-politicising national democratic institutions, strengthening the role of parliament, promoting justice and the rule of law, curbing corruption and ensure state security.
Promoting National Cohesion
In the New Direction, SLPP will Launch a presidential initiative on national cohesion and organise a national conference on diversity management and building national cohesion
In the New Direction, the SLPP government shall consider corruption as a National Security issue. Corruption becomes a serious threat to national security in so far as it undermines the safety and welfare of the people and the ability of the government to protect the sovereignty of the nation.
Fighting corruption will be very cardinal in the New Direction. In a New Direction, SLPP will:
Strengthen anti-corruption institutions (with particular reference to the Anti -Corruption Commission and the Audit Service Commission), the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and other initiatives Review and enact the Freedom of Information Bill to deepen the fight against corruption Reinstitute a system for planning, monitoring and reporting on Development Results referred to as Results-Based Management (RBM) wherein development targets will be set at the start of each year and senior managers will be accountable for delivering on these results Improve social accountability in which public officials and non-state actors will give account of their stewardship
Revamping Democratic Institutions
The challenge for Sierra Leone is to allow institutions to work in accordance with their mandate and effectively support them to be better able to institutionalise democracy and rule of law.Most of the critical governance institutions are grossly under-funded and lack the required numbers of qualified people. The institutions are prone to corruption and manipulation which renders them ineffective in the discharge of their statutory mandates.
Therefore, we will review laws and policies guiding the functioning of democratic institutions with a view to restoring their autonomy and independence and increasing the role of non-state actors in the management of democratic institutions
Over the past five years, Parliament failed to show results in blocking leakages and the excesses of the executive. The APC on their part made use of ‘majority’ in a not too progressive manner, to mostly pass bills under Presidential Certificates of Urgency and passed bills even when the opposition conducted walk outs to demand the review of retrogressive bills presented for passage into law. In the New Direction, SLPP will
Fill and make functional all positions in the Parliamentary Service Commission structure to ensure the autonomy of Parliament Capacitate Parliament through hiring additional Parliamentary Researchers and Clerks and the provision of logistics and additional funding to enhance its independence in carrying out its oversight and scrutiny roles Organise a national dialogue on the creation of second chamber that may include Paramount Chiefs and eminent citizens
Local Councils and Chieftaincy Institution
Between 2004 and 2007, whilst the capacities of the local councils were developed, the then SLPP administration devolved 40 out of 72 functions. Between 2007 and 2012, only 18 additional functions have been devolved leaving a balance of 14 functions. The APC failed to complete the devolution of functions and instead re-introduced the district offices running side by side with the local councils. Also, in the area of chieftaincy, paramount chiefs have been denied the subvention that was paid by the SLPP, making most of them to rely on government handouts. The local councils as well as chiefdom councils have failed to deliver on their mandates for efficient service delivery to communities while chiefdoms and the authority of Paramount Chiefs has been undermined by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, an example being in the appointment of court chairpersons without the involvement of Paramount Chiefs for partisan considerations.
In the New Direction, SLPP will:
Review the National Decentralisation Policy and amend the Local Government Act 2004 Review the timeline for the completion of functional devolution on the assumption of Office with the view of putting in place a mechanism that ensures that outstanding functions, together with financial, material and human resources are devolved to local councils as appropriate Define a new condition of service for Paramount Chiefs and most essential chiefdom staff with a view to building capacity for future challenges
Specifically, the Civil Service faces serious challenges. There is need for a well structured and efficient Civil Service that works on the basis of modern rules, regulations and procedures that will be institutionalised and fully respected. Second, we should have a Civil Service that is free of political interference. Third, we want a Civil Service that allows for uninterrupted career paths, where staff and personnel are well remunerated and their welfare and that of their dependants is given the priority that it deserves. Fourth, our Civil service should be provided with adequate resources and the requisite equipment and essential working tools that support effectiveness and productivity.
In the New Direction, SLPP will
Reinforce political commitment and provide strong leadership in the reform agenda Rationalise the structure of the public service with a view to having a clear political leadership and direction Establish a national Civil Service Capacity Enhancement scheme Reintroduce a ‘hire purchase scheme’ for serving members of the Civil and related services to enable them acquire capital items (with values consistent with their official emoluments)
Foreign Policy and Diplomacy
In the New Direction, SLPP will define a robust foreign policy for Sierra Leone, with clear orientation, modes of articulation and anticipated outcomes consistent with both the Sierra Leone national and international interests.
In the New Direction, SLPP will move the Office of Diaspora Affairs to the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning and de-politicise the management of Diaspora affairs and Mobilize highly skilled Sierra Leoneans, and Develop interactive mechanisms and special incentives for Sierra Leonean Diaspora Business communities.
Improve the conditions of service for serving military officers
Improve in a phased manner military infrastructure, particularly housing Strengthen the Navy and Air Force to conduct surveillance to protect the territorial waters. Strengthen the engineering unit of the military to enable it compete for contracts Develop the agricultural units of the military to enable it produce food for the military Upgrade the military hospital to a very high standard equipped with modern diagnostic facilities and staffed with senior practitioners comparable to other military hospitals in the sub-region. Provide free education for all military officers intending to pursue higher education
Sierra Leone Police
In the New Direction, the new SLPP will
Improve conditions of service for SLP personnel at all levels. Rehabilitate police stations and barracks in a phased manner over 5 years Establish an Independent Police Complaints Board – to strengthen the relationship between the SLP and the public
Provide free education for all police officers intending to pursue higher education Provide free education at all levels for the children of police officers
We will continue and deepen the reforms in Fire Force, ONS, Immigration Services and Narcotics
Human Rights, Rule of Law and the Judiciary
In the New Direction, SLPP will
Move forward the Constitutional Review process that was initiated by the SLPP administration Consult nationally on the issue of separating the Ministry of Justice from the Office of the Attorney-general. Train a cadre of ‘paralegals’ to support the sector in the country’s extreme rural communities where the services of trained legal practitioner’s currently pose a huge challenge. Provide legal aid services to our poor and vulnerable Make a claim of reparations on behalf of miserable families against the delinquent states that assisted the rebellion of the RUF following the Special Court verdict against Charles Taylor.
Make the Judicial Service Commission fully functional to manage an independent justice system. The subject of terms and conditions, tenure and privileges will be attractive compared to Judicial Commissions in the sub region.
The Fourth Estate
The fourth estate has been very useful in informing and educating the public on governance issues. Since 2002, there has been a proliferation of press houses and radio stations. The Independent Media Commission (IMC) was established with the responsibility to enforce professional ethics in journalism.
The major challenges of the fourth estate are the continued existence of the seditious libel law, the absence of Freedom of Information (FOI), limited capacity of journalists and uninformed and unethical reporting, absence of a true National l Broadcaster and bribery of journalists by politicians.
In a New Direction, SLPP will:
Repeal the seditious libel law Review and enact the Freedom of Information Bill Encourage the private sector to invest in the media Provide from the budget yearly subvention to SLAJ Review the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) to make it a truly professional national broadcaster
To those of my compatriots who have still not made up your minds, I urge you to please think again, and think hard. Many of you have lost faith in politics and politicians. That is understandable. There have been too many undelivered promises. But remember also that you do have a moral responsibility to Sierra Leone. Earn the right to criticize. Please vote. Vote for the Party, the SLPP. The SLPP introduced democratic pluralism. On their part, the APC introduced and perpetrated a one-party dictatorship that plunged our country into one of Africa’s most de-humanizing wars. We ended that war. We will also have the burden of steering the country back to respectable democratic practices and paying back those huge debts they have accumulated. The APC has been divisive, we will unify. They have been destructive, we will be creative. As always, we are up to the task.
This Manifesto is the New Direction for Sierra Leone. I implore you to give us the mandate to move this country forward.
With pleasure, I now formally launch this Manifesto, “A New Direction for A Better Sierra Leone” (Sierra Leone First).
I thank you very much.
Photo: SLPP leader Julius Maada Bio.