Opinion

The $340 million 2008 Sierra Leone national budget is grossly inadequate!

18 January 2008 at 07:20 | 3126 views

By Patrick Bockari,California, USA.

There is absolutely no way the Sierra Leone government will meet the expectations of the people of Sierra Leone by a meager $340 million spending plan in the first year of its administration. What will $340 million do for even Freetown alone? Even without adding new roads; or increasing the Guma Dam holding and pumping capacity to reach Wilberforce and Hill Station; or getting rid of the ghetto dwellings along the ocean fronts of Kroo Bay, Aberdeen, Eastern/Potty, and along the hills of the so-called New England areas; or fail to implement effective traffic management through signalization and road grade separation (fly-over) of major intersections as a prerequisite for rapid commerce; or clean up and reconstruct public school facilities, the budget will be grossly inadequate for Freetown alone!

Taking into account our people’s expectations, and the massive under development of our country, and the rhetoric by the president about a new dawn for socio-economic development in our country, the 2008 budget does not even start to address the needs of our country! I am deeply disappointed by the scope of this budget. I don’t care if 95% of the budget is a deficit spending, but at least an adequate spending plan would have indicated that the government has its bearing. As it is now, I have personally lost all hope that our country is on the verge of a major development era.

I want all Sierra Leoneans around the world to look at the size of the 2008 national budget and send your honest opinions to the government. The spending plan should represent the vision of the government for the country, and not be limited by the vision of previous governments that the people have clearly rejected and cried down.

An alternative spending plan

In response to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s persistent calls to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to help with the development of our country, and in line with what is increasingly appearing to be a mere rhetoric about turning Sierra Leone into a true “Athens of Africa,” two Sierra Leoneans in California, USA, submitted a revenue generating and infrastructure development proposal to the government in mid October, titled: Sierra Leone Infrastructure Development Proposal (SLID). If adopted, the SLID proposal will, in a matter of months, quickly generate $25 to $30 billion in national revenue for a 10 to 15 year economic infrastructure development spending. That is close to $3 billion spending for each of next ten years, or nearly nine times the current $340 million budget. And, the country can actually plan and spend the money without the constraints and uncertainties of a donor dependent budget. You may download and read a 21-page photographic summary of the 275-page detailed revenue resource identification and bold infrastructure development proposal from the following web link:

http://www.ivnps.com/SLID.HTML

After reading our SLID proposal, a scholarly Sierra Leonean in Sydney, Australia wrote to commend us as follows - He wrote: “The true visionary is ultimately an adventurer - Patrick and Sahr, you have taken me on a visionary adventure of our country. You have leaped outside the status quo, and presented in your SLID proposal, an unusually keen discernment of intelligent foresight for our country.” “I will pray that our government calls on you to discuss the proposal.” “Author William Bolitho in the 1920s wrote,” he continued, “at the beginning of most careers stands an adventure, and so with states, institutions, and civilizations.” he adds. “The progress of humanity, what ever its mysterious direction is not motored by mere momentum.” History, Bolitho wrote, is jolted along by visionary adventurers. Without them, society would slowly slip into the apathy and drudgery of necessity - there would be no change, no progress, and people would simply not bother. “Patrick and Sahr, your visionary proposal will jolt our country forward onto a new path of prosperity!”

The SLID proposal will modernize Sierra Leone’s public infrastructures under a rapid infrastructure planning, design, and construction program mostly utilizing Sierra Leonean professionals at home and abroad, create over one million new well paying jobs, finance a minimum living wage in the country, facilitate a robust progressive revaluation of the currency and purchasing power parity, and create an irreversible force for a sustainable economic prosperity for all Sierra Leoneans now and in the future!

Since we formally submitted SLID in mid-October, the government has NOT even acknowledged receipt of the proposal. Regardless of any priorities of this government, failure to even acknowledge receipt of such a detailed visionary development proposal, even if it were submitted by death row inmates at Pademba Road Prisons, fails to say much about the government. It is frightening to see a repetition of the previous SLPP Government’s apathy and donor dependent type culture when the government cared less for ideas or opinions of its citizens. Like the beautiful song by a Sierra Leonean group (name unknown) “We Dae Give Them Notice:” “We dea talk, den dae make lek then deaf.... Den value jorbu pass den famble.” President Koroma, don’t let this happen to your government.

It was amazing to see the attentiveness of the government, including the President, on the occasion of the UNDP’s lunching of the humiliating global and national Human Development Index (HDI) Report. Why did the president have to be there? The president and his cabinet could have spent that time to study the SLID proposal from their fellow citizens which shows a conservative estimate of our country’s natural resources worth over $425 billion, and that the resources could be quickly leveraged for $30 billion (a mere 7%) for a bold national development and stable job creation! Beginning on the second paragraph of the Executive Summary of SLID, here is what we wrote about HDI long before the UNDP fan fare report:

(Excerpt from the Executive Summary of SLID: Begin from 2nd paragraph, page 3 of proposal)

Human Development Index (HDI) used by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to rate Sierra Leone at or near the bottom of the rest of the world measures the average achievement of a country in three basic dimensions of human development:

I. A long and healthy life expectancy as measured at birth, II. Knowledge as measured by a factored adult literacy, and III. A decent standard of living measured as a function of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

With all other things being equal, GDP is a proxy indicator of standard of living; as it increases standard of living increases. Of the three factors of the HDI, only GDP can be altered quickly and made to effect substantial improvements in the other two over time. The Sierra Leone Infrastructure Development Plan will dramatically improve the country’s GDP and lead to substantial increase in life expectancy and adult literacy over time.

GDP is defined as: Private Consumption + Government Spending + Investment + (Exports - Imports). On the background of Sierra Leone’s contracted economy and relatively low purchasing power parity with respect to major currencies, it appears significant increase in government spending is needed to meaningfully improve GDP. This will agree with an expansionary fiscal policy.

There is clearly an economic emergency in our country that requires all Sierra Leoneans to meet and craft a way forward. The president’s Economic Council proposed on page-4 of the proposal could be put together at the conclusion of an emergency economic summit of the best brains of Sierra Leone. Instead of going to Senegal to look at roads and bridges, or to Uganda to be told about economic councils, let our government table the Sierra Leone Infrastructure Development Proposal (SLID) in an extraordinary economic summit of Sierra Leoneans. The president may invite some world renowned, non-Sierra Leonean economists, venture capitalists, engineers, and social scientists to the summit. We at SLID will bring our partners, and the government may walk out of the summit with $30 billion or more guaranteed towards the rapid development proposals in SLID. We urge all Sierra Leoneans to call on the government of President Koroma to study SLID and act. You may download SLID from:

http://www.ivnps.com/SLID.HTML

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