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A PATRIOT’S DIARY: SIERRA LEONE’S VP DR. JUDEH JALLOH LECTURES LIBERIAN SENATE: WOULD THEY TAKE A CUE

With Ekena Wesley – What manner of the nation are we after 174 years of independence; Sierra Leone’s Vice President would visit us to lecture our senators cum leaders on Capitol Hill about good governance, commitment to education, health, roads infrastructure, energy sector, gender empowerment, tourism, improving investment climate et al? Indeed the Sierra Leoneans sent their Vice President, Dr. Jalloh to share their dose of irreversible progress to a neighboring country that should know better.

Invariably, Liberia at 174 years vis-à-vis Sierra Leone @ 60, the former, in any case, should be leading the way for mentoring. Ironically, the age of Methuselah has nothing to do with the wisdom of King Solomon. It was gratifying for a brilliant visiting Sierra Leone Vice President to speak extemporaneously at the Liberian Senate Chambers about progressive reforms taking place in his country.

Reckoning the visiting Vice President’s presentation versus other lecturers before him, we are simply baffled at how come, after so many years of Liberia’s national sojourn, we seem to get nothing right. Vice President Jalloh acknowledged fundamental challenges along the fringes of governance and developmental fronts when their administration took over four years ago. As a matter of priority aimed at human capital development, the Government of Julius Maada Bio put an effective team together. The national budget on education rose from 6% to 32% thus informing the enrollment of 2.6 million Sierra Leoneans kids in school today. These are not the kind of realistic figures our government that has spent four years in power is giving us.  Have we done anything wrong or do we have square pegs in round holes? Liberia’s 20/21 allocation to the educational sector saw a so-called increase by 9.2% compared to Sierra Leone’s 32%. 

A number of Sierra Leonean kids are being ferried to school on buses in some instances while kids from typically impoverished backgrounds are part of the school feeding programs. The Ministry of Education has been decoupled into the Ministry for Basic Education and Higher Education respectively. As a policy decision; “No Sierra Leonean kid should be out of school” and this is being scrupulously furthered. 

On the health front, the new government in Sierra Leone increased its health quota from a little over 4% to 11.4% – just 3.6% below the letter and spirit of the Abuja Declaration requiring 15% budgetary allocation of all National Budgets in Sub-Saharan Africa. Focus is significantly tilted towards maternal health during the last three years and Sierra Leoneans arguably made huge gains. 

Remarkably, Sierra Leone is among the first five countries to have effectively managed COVID-19 funds very well and responsibly. On the other hand, Liberia remains a disaster in scrupulously managing COVID-19 funds. Our CVOID-19 stimulus package remains nothing to write home about – let alone the $25 million mop-up fiasco. For now, the Government of Sierra Leone amid recent experiences is focusing on hospital management, which Vice President Jalloh described as pivotal having – witnessed the exodus of many highly trained health professionals shift to administration rather than their specializations. 

Sierra Leone remains keen on making agriculture a critical national priority. Thus, realizing nearly $200 million spent on rice annually; the former British colony, working in concert with the International Financial Corporation (IFC), is seeking support to boost the supply chain to spur food production throughout the nation. Sierra Leone believes the private sector can play a key role in driving this engine of growth.

Determined to introduce mechanized farming, 400 tractors, and agro-based machinery have been distributed across the country devoid of the involvement of politicians in order to ensure even distribution for sustainable outcomes. A $50 million credit facility has been established for farmers to readily access in an effort to boost agriculture with increased private sector participation. 

While stressing governance is not necessarily about building roads and hospitals; the Sierra Leonean government thinks by focusing energy on productive cum industrialized sectors to supply the needs of those in the mining areas and other multinational corporations – it would be a huge boost. With the hydro operating at a full capacity of 50 megawatts during dry and 20 megawatts during the rains; and thus bringing the CLSG power pool online at the capacity of 26 Megawatts the cost of electricity would have been significantly reduced to at least 0.26 cents.

Sierra Leone has made progress on the MCC scorecard amid smiles poised soon while Liberia’s hopes remain farfetched, to say the least. Plans are far advanced to dig deeper into the fisheries sector that will allow the country to go beyond simply approving licensing to building the necessary fisheries infrastructure aimed at increased revenue generation.

The Mano River Union nation aims at refining its tourism industry heavily hit as a result of war and COVID-19 to make tremendous rebound. To encourage visitors and spur steady tourism growth; visas are now issued on arrival in Sierra Leone. Focus is placed on domestic and diaspora tourism that would endeavor to expand diverse participation, particularly by the private sector. 

Vice President Jalloh called for the creation of the Monrovia-Freetown Heritage Foundation ahead of the observance of Liberia’s Bicentennial for both countries to tell their unique stories. The number two man in the Sierra Leonean government believes both Liberia and Sierra Leone have not been able to market their history and therefore called for the encouragement of cultural exchanges and creative ideas to strengthen the relations between both countries…  

As Liberia lags behind in taking affirmative action to legislate women’s empowerment; Sierra Leone is leaving no stone untouched aimed at gender empowerment and equality that will ensure 30% of all elective positions go to women. The country has abolished the death penalty; and abolished criminal libel against journalists. 

Under the country’s transparency and accountability framework, Vice President Jalloh has oversight over all integrity institutions that are encouraged to dialogue in promoting integrity within the public financial management sector. The sector has seen dramatic reforms through an automatic system that enables transparency and accountability especially involving revenue generation. Sierra Leoneans and business people alike are able to know charges they are to pay on containers at the ports of entry via text messages; thanks to the Directorate on Science & Technology – that is helping Ministries and Agencies become technology and innovations compliant.

Main photo: Vice President Judeh Jalloh

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