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Address By H.E. The President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma At The Formal Launching Of The Private Sector Development Strategy
Apr 1, 2009, 17:30
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President Ernest Bai Koroma has called on Sierra Leoneans to put shoulder to wheel to ensure that his vision for economic growth took off. The President, who was speaking on 26th March 2009 at the formal launching of the Private Sector Development Strategy in Freetown, insisted that "business as usual" was not an option for Sierra Leone since he opined that even if a 6.5% yearly growth rate was maintained, the majority of Sierra Leoneans will still live on less than $1 per day by 2018. He therefore proposed that the best way to reduce poverty and improve the lives of the majority of Sierra Leoneans was to work towards achieving "an annual growth rate of 10% or more". He listed a list of suggestions for achieving this. The full Speech is reproduced under.

Hon. Vice President
Cabinet Ministers
Members of Parliament
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Members of the Fourth Estate
Ladies and Gentlemen

The Agenda for Change that I have articulated and championed since taking office in 2007 is designed to deliver economic growth, reduce poverty and improve on the human development of our country. Within this frame work there is a clear role for the private sector without whom our growth objectives will not be achievable. Private Sector Development is therefore a fundamental principle underlying economic growth and therefore the agenda for change.

As a growth oriented economy, "business as usual" is not an option for us. Even maintenance of a respectable 6.5% a year growth rate would mean that by 2018, Sierra Leones GDP will reach $350 per capita, meaning that the majority of Sierra Leoneans will still live on less than $1 per day. Therefore, to reduce poverty significantly and improve the lives of the majority of Sierra Leoneans we need to achieve an annual growth rate of 10% or more.

So let me state it clearly here: the pursuit of broad-based economic growth, that cuts across productive sectors, adds value to our resources and enables our entrepreneurs to compete in international trade is the most viable, and the primary, route out of poverty for Sierra Leoneans. Only through substantially increased private sector investments can we attain such diversified growth that widens opportunities for more Sierra Leoneans, and with that will come more productive jobs in a growing formal sector and higher incomes for the self-employed.

No one should imagine that achieving sustained growth rates in excess of 10% a year is easy. On the contrary it is a complex process that requires that numerous strands be woven together to form a recognizable mosaic. Management of such a process, as I learnt during my time in business, highlight the importance of a clear vision and the need for focus, discipline, tenacity, and perseverance. All these attributes I have just mentioned are necessary ingredients for achieving the successful outcome that we desire.

The vision we set out before you here today is of a Sierra Leone we can be even more proud of. A nation of entrepreneurs generating and attracting investment in the most productive sectors of the economy; bringing innovation into every sphere of their enterprise, competing for and winning new customers and business in the domestic and international spheres. A nation of diverse entrepreneurs, not of one class of entrepreneurs. Not one group from one corner of the country. Entrepreneurs from all corners of society, men and women, young and old, participating in all sectors, competing on a level playing field, where the rules are fair, transparent, and adhered to by all.

Focus means that we must stay on target, not stray from our goals tomorrow or the next day. Focus means reminding ourselves what we are resolved to do together and to stick with it.

Discipline is very important. It means committing to doing what we say we shall do. Achievement of our strategy for private sector development calls upon different arms of Government to work together diligently. It calls for a new style of working, maintaining focus on our shared goal of broad-based, accelerated growth to produce a diversified economy that puts more Sierra Leoneans to work and enables them to generate more wealth for themselves and the country as a whole.

As President of this nation, I therefore call on my entire Government to show leadership and discipline in pursuing this agenda for private sector led growth and reiterate my full commitment to actively participate in the realization of this process. Indeed, this is why I have appointed a Private Sector Advisor in my office to ensure that I have direct oversight over the initiatives that we have agreed to undertake and assist the Ministry of Trade and Industry in their coordination efforts. We must remain focused, we must be disciplined and we must have the tenacity to persevere when the going gets even tougher.

The Attitudinal Change that realization of this vision requires will not come from me alone. It will not come from Government alone. We all in this room and indeed the country as a whole must embrace a new way of doing things to achieve the total economic transformation of our economy and society.

Our strategy for strengthening Sierra Leones private sector rests upon the principle of partnership. Government alone cannot achieve the goals set out. Of course, the private sector and entrepreneurs have key roles to play. We yearn to see a private sector that is creative and entrepreneurial, not a private sector that relies on government contracts. That is not the path to competitiveness and innovation.

Civil society also plays an important role. Many of our NGOs are engaged in work supporting the livelihoods of people in poor rural and urban settings. You are part of strengthening the private sector. The media has a key role showcasing and celebrating grassroots entrepreneurial talent and yes, taking government to task when the red tape, bureaucracy, and corruption stifle entrepreneurial effort.

We thank our Development Partners for their support in assisting us to devise this strategy and urge you to continue to support the Governments Agenda for Change, and this strategy for private sector development, which sits at its heart.

My Government subscribes fully to the principles laid out in the Paris Declaration and as such, we know we can expect effective coordination among our Development Partners and alignment behind a Government-owned strategy for private sector development.

I want to reassure investors that our vision is clear, our resolve unshakeable your investments have every reasonable prospect to grow, maximizing opportunities for you and your shareholders while generating wealth for ordinary, hardworking Sierra Leoneans.

Our efforts to improve our investment climate are yielding fruit. We have seen improvements in our Doing Business rankings and are in the process implementing more reforms that we hope will help improve our rankings even further. At the private sector forum in June last year, I committed to you, and especially to the bankers, that we will soon have commercial courts. I am pleased to report that funding has been secured, a site located and implementation will commence next quarter. We believe this to be a critical measure for building investor confidence and is a key component of our financial sector reform. Inspired by the leadership being shown by private sector to solve a nagging problem, Government has also secured funding that will enable us to substantially improve on the Lungi to Freetown crossing. Government will improve the transport infrastructure and regulatory environment so that private sector can focus on service delivery to the benefit of customers and shareholder. This is a good example of the kind of partnership that need to exist between Government and the private sector where each makes the right investments that yield the desired outcomes.

As further evidence that we are making progress, we continue to see strong investor interest in our growth sectors. A US$200 million investment into Bio-Ethanol and Power production is on track. We have large scale rice and palm cultivation projects in development. We recently saw the launch of a new palm kernel oil mill. Our mining sector continues to attract new capital and the numbers of actual and prospective investors in our tourism and fisheries sectors continues to grow.

But we must not get complacent by these indicators of progress. There are still many binding constraints to economic growth which we need to address and the Private Sector Development Strategy provides us with a road map for addressing many of these constraints and a mechanism through which we can coordinate our efforts and monitor our progress.

The Private Sector Development Strategy is perfectly aligned with our Poverty Reduction Strategy and the key priorities articulated in it. The first priority is agribusiness that expands productivity and output in key agricultural sectors. The second is improved power supply, which will reduce the cost of doing business in Sierra Leone and make us competitive within the sub-region. The third is development of a national transportation network to enable the movement of goods and people and thereby facilitate increased investment and economic activity. And fourth is investment in human resources through improved social services.

Let me briefly discuss investment in agriculture. If we are to achieve significant poverty reduction, we must focus on agriculture as this is where the majority of Sierra Leoneans are engaged. However, despite their hard work, the majority of agricultural producers and workers remain poor because the markets work against not for them and productivity is very low.

Yet investment in agribusiness offers the prospect of food security, revenue generation, and wealth creation. That is why the Private Sector Development Strategy focuses on making agricultural markets work for the poor as one of its key pillars.

In closing let me state once again that our Agenda for Change rests firmly on development of the private sector. But a vision without a strategy and a strategy without implementation is an idle dream. We are not idle dreamers but the authors of our own destiny. Our vision backed by focus, discipline, tenacity, and perseverance can and will create a Sierra Leone that rewards hard work with the comforts of a decent life and prospects for a brighter and wealthier future.

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

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