From the Editor’s Keyboard

Why are Sierra Leoneans the "deprived" poor?

14 September 2008 at 23:43 | 871 views

Commentary

By Ahmed Ojulla Bangura,PV Special Correspondent, UK.

Sierra Leone, like most resource rich countries in the world, is naturally blessed with vast natural resources. It has abundant natural wealth on land and sea to sufficiently provide for present and future generations.

This small nation state in West Africa is required and expected to be a paradise on earth if the ratio of the natural resources and the size of the population are proportionately evaluated. Unfortunately, Sierra Leone, in more than a decade, is considered to have the highest child mortality rate and is the ‘poorest’ nation on earth. This is a great shame and an irony considering her vast natural resources.

Many analysts in educational and non-educational institutions have made comparing and contrasting explanations on the economic status quo of Sierra Leone. Her citizens are usually labelled as symbols of malnutrition and poverty. But honestly, Sierra Leoneans are not poor, but ‘deprived’ poor.

Some schools of thought may say the problem is an inherited one from the tomfoolery of colonialism through policies of parsimony and expediency or economic exploitation of industrial economies over non-industrial or economially poor countries. Practically, one can give this theory a consideration.

However, some may say that the circumstances are due to modernisation. In simple terms, it means the process of transition between traditional society and the modern or industrialised society is affecting growth and development in Sierra Leone. The concept implied that third world countries are naturally “docile, indolent, and superstitious,” and needed to be led, educated or enlightened, and administered by the presumed “industrious, creative, and culturally superior” and developed ‘Western’ elite.

This ideology reflects either social Darwinism theory in which societies are believed to go through stages of birth, maturation and decay or Rostow’s stages of development. If these ideas are acceptable, it might be difficult to tell how long the process takes to evolve out of the so-called traditional stage to the so-called modernisation phase.

Additionally, some analysts may say it is corruption that makes countries such as Sierra Leone poor. This idea could be supported by the fact that millions of Leones and thousands of foreign currencies are diverted into the pockets of most officials in various arms of government to send their children, family members and even girl friends abroad on holidays as first class African tourists. Hypocritically, the wishes of these corrupt officials are enhanced by Western consulates in Africa who demand huge sums in bank statements(money kept in Western banks), in foreign currency to give out visas leaving the already ‘deprived poor’ on the breadline.

The above may be true. But there is an endogenous individual factor that is present in Sierra Leoneans for the above to be sustained. This is what other theorists called psychological motivation. There must be motivation to do well in the presence of class entrepreneurs. This is the missing link in Sierra Leone. Politicians and Non-Governmental Organizations in Sierra Leone lack the will to move the country forward. They use this uncompetitive atmosphere to solicit sympathetic aid from donors. Unfortunately, only a fraction of these monies in every form reach the targeted designated ‘deprived’ Sierra Leoneans. The ‘deprived’ poor are used as economic specimen to encourage imbalanced global aid and politically to stay in power.

Conclusively, it can be opined that the government and sub-set institutions which call themselves Non-Governmental Organizations are to answer questions on why Sierra Leone is always at the bottom of the human development index.

Indeed there is nothing like hypothetical poverty among Sierra Leoneans but rather there exists in Sierra Leone a structurally poor governance machinery to deliver equitably and equally the resources of the one time “Athens of West Africa."

If the government and their associates can reconsider and distribute the country’s capital on the innocent and ignorant Sierra Leoneans, that lovely land will stop losing blood and become stronger.

Otherwise, a time will come when the people will start asking questions and demanding answers. May God bless our land and the people of Sierra Leone.

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