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David Carew is Committed to Ernest Koroma
Mar 4, 2009, 17:14
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David Omatshola Carew, the new man at the helm of the Trade and Industry Ministry in Sierra Leone has granted an extensive interview to Awareness Times during which he revealed that he was not at all upset with his transfer by President Koroma from the position of Minister of Finance and Economic Development to the position of Minister of Trade & Industry. The interview was conducted by our Publisher, Sylvia Blyden in Minister Carews George Street offices on Monday March 2nd 2009.

David Omatshola Carew: Minister of Trade & Industry

Sylvia Blyden (SB): Thanks for granting us this exclusive interview. Let me get straight to the point. Many people are of the view that you will take offence and reject what is being perceived as a clear demotion from the most senior Cabinet position of Finance Minister to Trade Minister. Are you offended with the Presidents reshuffling?

David Carew (DC): The simple answer is NO. I am not at all offended. I do understand why people might hold that view but let us look at the bigger picture. The President is going to be held responsible for every action taken during his terms of office. Now, he has chosen a team and if the team fails, he gets blamed. If the team succeeds, he gets hailed. Everything is up to him. If he believes a member of his team will be better serving the country in another assignment, it is his prerogative to re-assign that team-member. No one should take offence because at the end of the day, he carries the blame for failures and gets credit for success. The buck stops at his desk.

SB: Will I be correct to infer from that answer that you are conceding that you failed at the Ministry of Finance and so the President was forced to transfer you out?

DC: [Chuckles] As I said before, it is the prerogative of the President to move any of his team. It does not mean that team member failed. One always tries to be assigned where one can give of ones bests. Dont forget that I have lots of experience in my past vocation in the private sector; in Finance, in Investment, in Trade and with Industries. As far as my work at Finance Ministry, there were various facets to it. In some areas, my impact was great and in others, it was not so great but there are lots of technical people at the Finance Ministry who worked hard to help me achieve some impact.

SB: Is there any bad blood between you and the man who will be succeeding you at Finance? As Bank Governor, he was your junior answerable to you for his actions but now he is going to be your senior in the Cabinet. What is your current relationship?

DC: Our relationship is pretty good. We worked together well and I see no reason why we should not continue to do so. Also, let me make one point very clear. I am not competing with anyone in my service to this country. In 2007, I committed myself to President Koroma and Sierra Leone for a period of at least ten years. For the remaining part of those ten years, I will work in any capacity, with anyone and anywhere President Koroma sends. I am certainly not a junior minister as I am considered one of the more technical ministers and there are significant technical challenges facing me in my new assignment.

SB: Can you elaborate on some of these challenges and maybe highlight some of what you hope to achieve at your new job? Are you up to the task?

DC: As I said before, if Government wishes to send David Carew to complement the efforts of other ministries depending on the state of the economy, I will be quite happy to serve. One of the areas will be to focus the efforts of driving investment into Sierra Leone and stabilizing the Trade Environment. Donors have provided significant funding into developing the business environment for improved local and international investments. One of the areas needing attention will be to increase trade locally and internationally because increase in trade generates revenue for a countrys budgetary needs.

SB: In your view, have the efforts of Donors created much impact in improving Trade?

DC: What needs to be done is to coordinate and streamline both donor and Government efforts so as to complement each other for the common good. We need to market Sierra Leone for Foreign Direct Investment to flow inwards whilst at the same time promoting the local environment for local businesses to flourish. The Donors have spent a lot of money to help Sierra Leones investment potential and what the Government plans to now do is to ensure the effects of such assistance are felt downwards to all. That is going to be one of my main challenges.

SB: You sound very enthusiastic. So when do you formally start your new assignment? I am conducting this interview with you inside the office of the Minister of Finance so you are still Minister of Finance although the reshuffle has been announced.

DC: I have already started working as Minister of Trade. All Trade & Industry correspondences are being sent to and from my desk because the erstwhile Trade Minister Alimamy Koroma has today started work at his new assignment of Minister of Works. I am also still manning my Finance assignment whilst the new Finance Minister has to go through the Parliamentary approval process. So, as of today, I am handling both the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development and the Ministry of Trade & Industry until Dr. Samura Kamara gets approved by Parliament.

SB: I recall in 2007 when you were first nominated to be the Minister of Finance. I was the first person to interview you back then and you told me of what you termed as your "complete dedication" to Sierra Leone. You also stated as follows: "Having come from where we were as a nation, we are committed to give our best to take the nation forward. We are all going to put aside our personal empires, our wealth and our personal ambitions and make whatever sacrifice is necessary to take this land forward," Now, do you still have that commitment to make sacrifices and completely dedicate yourself to Sierra Leone?

DC: [CHUCKLES HARD] I see you came quite prepared for this interview as I do recall making those exact words to you in 2007 and I still stand by those words of mine. As I have stated earlier in the interview, I made up my mind to serve Sierra Leone at the behest of Ernest Koroma for as long as Ernest Koroma wants me to serve the country. In my old age, I want to proudly look back at any legacy I might have and reflect with pride upon the sacrifices I made so as to get me to accomplish any legacy I might leave behind. I committed myself to serving Ernest Koroma for the full ten years he will be President of Sierra Leone. If within that ten year period, he decides he has achieved what he wanted out of David Carew and has no more use for me, whether it is after one or two or three years, I would then leave but not before. I am committed to Sierra Leone and to the vision of Ernest Bai Koroma for this country.

SB: So, if President Koroma sacks you tomorrow, you will leave happily?

DC: When the time comes, if it does, when President Koroma will say he has no more use for me in the implementation of his grand master-plan and vision for this country, I will not consider it a sack but only that I have done as much as the President thinks I could do to help him implement his vision. It will not be a sack but merely a time for the President to take his vision forwards without my input.

SB: You sound very loyal to President Koroma. You have worked with him now firectly as his most senior Cabinet Minister for a period of 16 months. Is President Koroma a good man?

DC: He is not only a good man but he means very well for this country. He is the best man to run Sierra Leone for now as far as I am concerned. I will not serve him if I did not think so highly of him. I have tremendous respect for him which is why I intend to diligently serve him and help him implement his vision for our country

SB: As Finance Minister you used to travel a lot and obviously pocket a lot of per diems. As Trade Minister, you will not get to travel as much. Are you going to miss traveling?

DC: In my previous job in the private sector, I traveled just as extensively. I had already been virtually to all the major capitals of the world before I became Finance Minister. It was not a strange thing to be traveling. But to answer your question, I will not really miss it. It had been getting to be stressful. Pack, unpack and repack and unpack and repack whilst rushing between airports and strange hotels. There comes a time when you dont look forward to traveling anymore. I will not miss the numerous travels.

SB: What about the per diems? Will you miss the cash?

DC: [CHUCKLES] What cash? At times, I have even had to subsidize the per diem I was given as allowance.

SB: Can you give me an example of such an occasion?

DC: Oh yes! Several examples come to mind. Recently, I attended an important international meeting in Belgium and I was assigned to a $500 a night hotel but my per diem was only $375 and I had to spend an extra $125 daily just on hotel accommodation out of my own pocket.

SB: You subsidised such a large sum from your paltry ministerial salary?

DC: I will not use the adjective paltry to describe the salaries of ministers but to answer your question, I dont live on just my ministerial salary. I live on my savings and the proceeds from other investments I made in my earlier profession. I consider my service to the Nation as selfless and not a focus on what I can make or benefit myself with. This is why as you recalled just now, in 2007, I committed myself to serving Sierra Leone. This is what I am doing for as long as President Koroma wants me to do so.

SB: Well, thank you sir. I am sure this interview, when published, will help to inform a lot of citizens and well wishers about where you stand on certain issues. I look forward to conducting an interview with you again soon. Probably when you would have settled in to your job at Trade and Industry.

DC: Thank you too for taking your time to come over. Your newspaper is widely read and I am sure you will do justice to this interview as you have done in the past.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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