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STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE AT THE STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT ON FRIDAY 8TH OCTOBER 2010
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Oct 11, 2010, 12:40
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MR. SPEAKER,

MR. VICE PRESIDENT,

MY LADY THE CHIEF JUSTICE,

MINISTERS OF GOVERNMENT,

HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT,

EXCELLENCIES,

MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS,

HIS WORSHIP THE MAYOR OF FREETOWN,

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS,

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

 

1. I am very delighted to be amongst the honourable representatives of the people of our beloved motherland. As President, and a Parliamentarian myself, I feel the pulse of this House for action.  I come to this great assembly with enthusiasm for action. My address to this House today will lay emphasis on the imperative for focused action, robust implementation and successful completion of the projects we have rolled out in every corner of Sierra Leone.  I come here seeking your continued support and participation in our partnership for implementation.

2. Mr. Speaker, our world continues to face unprecedented challenges - rises in food and fuel prices; the global credit crunch, collapse of financial markets, the see-saw of unending conflict and inconclusive peace talks in the Middle East; tensions precipitated by upcoming elections in the Sudan and our sister Republic of Guinea; violence in the Great Lakes and Somalia, and extreme weather events that are destroying lives and livelihoods all over the globe. These events are no respecter of boundaries; pollution and degradation triggered in one end of the earth could cause untold suffering thousands of miles away. Wars in one part of the globe cause suffering and traumatic anxieties all over the world. The era of local actions having local consequences is truly over.

3. Mr. Speaker, this is why we are demanding more inclusive and responsive global instruments to meet current global challenges. As Chairman of the AU Committee of Ten charged with presenting Africa’s position on the Reform of the UN, I have presented Africa’s case for permanent seats in the security council, not only to redress the historic marginalization of our continent in the halls of global governance; but also as a means of active participation in addressing challenges of global security, prosperity and sustainable development.

4. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament, we are a nation of almost six million people, but our aspirations for security, democracy, prosperity and sustainable development are as strong as any nation in the world. Three years ago, we took up governance of this nation just as the world was entering a period of profound crisis. But the strength of our people’s aspirations for change, and our commitment to those aspirations enabled this country to weather the storm.

5. In the midst of the multiple challenges, we published ‘An Agenda for Change’, as our vision for the large-scale transformation of our country. Almost every sector in our country needed transformation; but we had to choose as priorities the sectors that would have the greatest positive impact on the lives of our people: agriculture, energy, infrastructure, health and education.

6. Mr. Speaker, we rolled out our programmes based on these priorities. Today, in every region of this beautiful country, positive transformations are underway in the priority sectors of the Agenda for Change. Roads are being constructed in every region; electricity generation is being increased and expanded; pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five from every town and village are benefitting from our Free Health Care Initiative; we have rolled out our Smallholder Commercialization Programme to move farmers everywhere in this country from the poverty of subsistence agriculture to the immense promise of commercialized farming; and we have started the overhaul of the educational system as contained in our White Paper on the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry.

7. We have, as a people made enormous progress that is lauded all over the world. The Global Peace Index now ranks Sierra Leone as one of the most peaceful countries in the world; the Mo Ibrahim Index records that we are one of the five crisis affected countries that have made a significant leap forward in democratic governance; the recent IMF review shows improvement in public finances, a growth rate twice the average growth rate of Sub Saharan Africa, and higher growth rates this year.

8. We have also made steady progress in our rankings on Doing Business, Corruption Perception and Democracy. In addition, earlier this year, I was the proud recipient of the peace prize awarded by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. Only last month, our country received the Millennium Development Goal award for showing outstanding leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases.

9. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament, we must sustain these achievements. We must overcome the challenges that too often prevent us from completing our projects. When on assuming office I vowed to complete the Bumbuna Project, it was because I wanted to show that we as a people can do it. We can do it if we monitor implementation properly. We can do it if we mobilize resources. We can do it if we pay our dues to this country. And we can achieve much more if we dedicate ourselves to meeting our targets. When our partners see this determination; when they sense this resolute spirit, they would join us in completing our projects. We demonstrated it with the completion of Bumbuna; with the commencement of the Free Health Care Initiative; with the construction of roads and with the launch of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme.

10. Mr. Speaker, as a government of the people we have exercised our mandate to decide on a focused course of action. This is why the situation now is no longer a question of making choices; rather, it is a matter of implementing the projects we have rolled out. My government is dedicating the coming years to the successful implementation of these rolled out projects. We will intensify our efforts and build alliances for implementation. We will form stronger partnerships for completion of all projects.

11. Mr.  Speaker, this country is ours to develop. Our friends and partners are supporting us, but the promise of success rests primarily with us. We must increase our contributions to national development for sustainability of the transformation. My government has already begun this process by increasing domestically funded capital spending from Le42.5 billion in 2007 to Le206.8 billion in 2010 as at the end of September. Government’s contribution to road projects increased from Le16 billion in 2007 to over Le80 billion in 2010.

12. Sustaining this process requires vigorous mobilization of resources by all of us. We must pay our taxes; we must mobilize our expertise, strengthen our patriotism and reinforce our obligations to this country. Our development must rest on our own shoulders; our progress must be powered by our own contributions; we must not deviate from the priorities we have set. This requires tough discipline: we should allow nothing to distract us from concentrating on our priorities. We must cut down our expenditure on non priority areas and focus on the priority sectors of the Agenda for Change. We must continue to plug the leaks in our revenue collection systems; we must stop expenditure patterns that show no tangible results; we must continue to recover misappropriated public funds.

13. Mr. Speaker, five years from now, we would be evaluated in relation to our achievement of the MDGs.  During the first years of the MDGs,  our country was in the throes of conflict and emergency relief. Economic and social indicators were worse than pre-war levels. The country lost the necessary focus needed to put us on target for the MDGs. We must regain that focus by emphasizing the completion of our rolled out Agenda for Change projects. The choices we made in these priority sectors, from the Free Healthcare Initiative, the Small-holder Commercialization Programme, road infrastructure, sustainable energy and overhauling of the educational system, are aligned with the MDGs. Successful implementation of these projects will facilitate the achievement of these worthy development goals.  

14. Mr. Speaker, next year we shall be commemorating the 50th anniversary of our freedom. But true freedom is the ability to achieve the goals we have set.  We must complete the projects we have rolled out. We must be self-reliant. That is the most effective way of asserting our freedom.

15. Mr. Speaker, permit me now to report on the specifics of our programmes, and what is required to sustain the speedy implementation of these projects.

Energy and Water Resources

16. In the energy sector, we set out to achieve the supply of reliable power to Freetown, the completion of the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project, the development of new power sources throughout the country and enhanced transmission and distribution networks. This is being implemented, and there is now a visible turnaround in the sector. We have increased electricity generation from an operational 5 megawatts in Freetown to over 60 megawatts. A new thermal plant is to be installed in Eastern Freetown. Generation at the Bo/Kenema Power Station is being expanded to provide affordable electricity to more communities. Expansion of the Dodo hydroelectric plant is also on-going.  This will massively improve power generation in the cities of Bo and Kenema. Makeni, Magburaka, Lunsar and Bumbuna Town will soon receive electricity from Bumbuna. Plans are already underway to increase the generating capacity of Bumbuna ten-fold through the construction of a second dam.

17. A programme for the electrification of provincial towns and cities is also now underway, covering Kabala, Makeni, Bonthe, Pujehun, Port Loko, Moyamba, Kambia, Lungi, Kailahun, Magburaka, and Koidu.  With effective implementation and monitoring by all of us, these projects should be completed by the end of 2011.

18. We are also commencing construction of mini hydro-electric dams at Makali, Charlotte and Port Loko. With support from the European Union, intense technical activity is ongoing for the construction of a hydro electric facility in Moyamba. We are also planning to validate studies on our national hydro-electric potential to guide future interventions in the sector.

19. Solar energy lights are being provided to city streets and homes in rural communities, with homes already electrified in Mamusa, Blama Massaquoi, Kissy Koya, Makandeh and Mambioma. We are continuing to build on these achievements, and further work is already underway on a training centre for barefoot solar engineers, the first ever in Africa.

20. Mr. Speaker, in the water sector, we are improving the supply of potable water in Bo, Makeni and Kenema. We have also awarded contracts for the first phase of improved water supply to Kabala. Work on the rehabilitation of the water supply in Kailahun and Lungi will be completed in 2011. We have commenced work on the rehabilitation of the Degremont-built stations in Mile 91, Yonibana and Pujehun townships. Realizing that the Guma Valley Water Dam can only supply about 60% of the Freetown community, we are developing new water sources that will increase supply to communities along Circular Road and Parliament, Wellington, Calaba Town, IMATT and Hill Station. We are also actively seeking partnership for the development of the Orugu Dam.

Infrastructure

21. Mr. Speaker, we are transforming the national transportation network by designing and implementing the largest road construction plan in the history of Sierra Leone. Overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Committee which I myself chair, roads are being constructed and rehabilitated in every region and district of the country. New highways have already been completed between Masiaka and Bo, Bo and Kenema, and Makeni and Matotoka. Construction is ongoing on the highways between Freetown and Conakry, Kenema and Pendembu, Tokeh and Lumley and the Hillside Road from Pademba Road to Blackhall Road. Roads are being constructed in all provincial towns, with road construction in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Magburaka to be completed next year. My Government has awarded contracts for roads in the townships of Port Loko and Kambia, and contracts are being designed and tendered for Koidu, Kailahun, Moyamba, Kabala, Bonthe and Pujehun. Further work on road construction is ongoing in the Freetown area.

22. Under the Priority Infrastructure Project supported by the European Commission, my Government will sign this October the agreement for the rehabilitation of the Bo-Bandajuma Highway, the Makeni-Kabala Highway, the widening of the seven bridges along the Masiaka–Bo Highway and the Freetown Urban Roads including Fourah Bay Road, Leicester Peak–Berry Street, the Lumley Beach Road and Sir Samuel Lewis Road. We have also received a no-objection from the ADB for the construction of the Lungi-Port Loko Road. Work on this road will commence this November.

23. My Government has developed a Feeder Road Policy to guide the design and implementation of feeder roads in the country. The construction of hundreds of kilometres of feeder roads in Bombali, Tonkolili, Kailahun and Kono that commenced in February 2008, has already been completed and work on feeder roads in Kambia, Port Loko, Kenema and Pujehun which commenced in September 2008, is over 70% complete.

24. Over 780 km of feeder roads all over the country are also being rehabilitated through the Rural and Private Sector Development Project and the Rehabilitation and Community-Based Poverty Reduction Project.

25. A further 1,305 km of feeder roads are being constructed in Port Loko, Kambia, Pujehun, Kenema, Bonthe, Kailahun, Kono, and Koinadugu through the Rural Roads Project, Infrastructural Development Project and the Multinational NERICA Dissemination Project (MNDP).

26. The procurement process for the rehabilitation of feeder roads under the Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Project is in its final stage. The project will commence by the end of 2010 and involves 410 km of feeder roads in Kenema, Pujehun, Moyamba, Port Loko and Kambia.

27. Mr. Speaker, my Government has also commenced the mass construction of jetties at Gbondapi in the Pujehun District; Gbangbatoke in the Moyamba District; Yargoi in the Bonthe District and Port Loko in Port Loko District. We have built jetties in Rokupr, Kassiri, Kychom and Mambolo in the Kambia District.

28. To improve safety at sea, the Government has secured and staffed a Search and Rescue boat. Navigation aids have also been installed in Sierra Leone’s territorial waters and inland waterways to indicate danger spots, sand-banks, and direct ships coming into the country. Government has also purchased and installed ultra modern communication equipment in ten jetties in the country. Radio rooms have already been installed and attached to jetties in Shenge, Matru Jong, Rokupr and Tombo. Furthermore, the Government amended the Merchant Shipping Act which empowers the authorities to prosecute boat owners or operators who fail to provide life jackets for their passengers.

29. A new development in our infrastructural architecture is our concern for the comfort and effectiveness of our Members of Parliament. We have therefore started the construction of offices and conference facilities for their use which will be ready for commissioning by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

Agriculture

30. Mr. Speaker, Sierra Leone is typically an agrarian economy. Agriculture contributes 45% of our GDP, employs two thirds of the population and generates about a quarter of the export income of our country. However, the overwhelming majority of our farmers are poor, mainly because agriculture in this country is subsistence farming. We prioritize agriculture in our Agenda for Change because we want to stop this unacceptable state of affairs. We plan to make agriculture the engine for socio-economic growth and development by commercialising farming and promoting the private sector.

31. We have begun to successfully implement this vision. A National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme (NSADP) to provide direction for the sector for up to 2030 was signed in 2009. The programme is consistent with the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the framework of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union and international partners.

32. We have increased the budgetary allocation to the sector to nearly 10%, in line with Government’s international commitments as part of the Maputo Declaration. Public investment in agriculture has quadrupled since 2007. Ten thousand farmers have been brought together in Farmer-Based Organisations through the Smallholder Commercialisation Programme and offered a package of subsidised inputs, machinery and training.  One hundred and fifty agricultural business centres are being built around the country.

33. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce to this honourable house that we have secured substantial international investment of over US$100m. Much of this supports expansion of the Smallholder Commercialisation Programme to tens of thousands of farmers over a five year period. The investment will also support the rehabilitation of feeder roads and irrigation systems; improve access to rural finance and strengthen food security safety nets.

34. Since last year agriculture has been attracting large-scale private investment, including Addax Bio-energy promoting ethanol and electricity production through a sugar plantation in Bombali; and Gold Tree rehabilitating an oil palm plantation in Kailahun to create the country’s largest plantation and processing facility.

35. We are continuing to build on these achievements, and work is ongoing  on irrigation, increasing exports, overhauling research and improving bio-diversity.

Health

36. Mr. Speaker, health care provision in our country has been a challenge for years. User fees were primarily responsible for reduced access to services.  Nearly 9 out of 10 people gave the payment of fees as the primary reason for their low utilisation of health services. Thus Sierra Leone’s maternal and child health indicators were among the worst in the world. In the Agenda for Change, we set out a programme for accessible, affordable and quality health care for all Sierra Leoneans, especially the poor and vulnerable.

37. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, in accordance with this programme, my government launched the Free Health care Initiative for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five, in April this year. This has resulted in a massive increase in the utilisation of health services and has improved health care access for nearly half a million women and over a million children. The number of health facilities has been increased by around 30%. Maternity wards have been built in Kabala, Kono, Bo and Kenema. Five basic emergency obstetric and newborn care centres are being established in the Western Area and one centre will also be established in each of the other districts. A new regional referral hospital has been constructed in Bombali, three district hospitals have been rehabilitated in Moyamba, Kambia and Kono, and procurement processes to rehabilitate another 11 district hospitals have already been concluded. A central medical store and 13 district medical stores have also been constructed.

38. We have significantly improved the number, pay and training of health workers, with over 500 additional health workers trained in basic emergency obstetric care and in neonatal and childhood illness. A midwifery school has been established at Makeni, over a thousand additional technical health staff recruited, and salaries for health care workers significantly increased.

39. We would also be improving the diagnostic medical and surgical facilities at the PCMH, Ola During and Connaught hospitals with an $18 million loan from the Kuwait Fund.

40. To improve the quality of health care services, we have developed a five-year strategic plan to deliver a basic package of essential health services in every district, including emergency obstetrics and new born care, preventive services such as immunization, integrated management of neonatal and childhood illness, and provision of insecticide treated bed-nets.

41. We are continuing to build on these achievements, and work is progressing to achieve the long-term goal of abolishing all user fees and replacing them with a national health insurance scheme. We have also already distributed nearly a million insecticide treated bed nets, and vaccinated a million children against polio in six rounds of National Immunization Days. Over 470 prevention of mother-to-child transmission centres and nearly 529 voluntary confidential and counselling centres have also been established for HIV/AIDS.

Education and Youths

42. Mr. Speaker, as stated in our National Anthem, our forefathers spread knowledge far and wide. Ours is a country with a proud history of excellence in education. But this great tradition is under serious threat. Many of our children are out of school, too few complete their schooling and fewer get quality education. In an age when education is the greatest resource a country should have, this is unacceptable.

43. We must reclaim our heritage of learning and excellence and transform this country through the quality of our education. That is why in the Agenda For Change, we set out to improve access to education, raise the completion rate, and improve the quality of education and teacher training.

44. We launched the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry to review the educational sector followed by a White Paper that accepts its recommendations for an overhaul of the education system. The implementation of the report has commenced at the University of Sierra Leone and the Njala University with the banning of access courses.

My Government is also establishing a Teacher Service Commission to ensure the effective management of the noble profession. Over 4000 additional teachers have been recruited, based on a new National Policy on Teacher Training and Development, and resources have been secured for the construction of more schools and technical vocational institutions. Grants-in-aid have been awarded to all female students who  gained admission to tertiary institutions to study science courses such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology and engineering options, and for all disabled students who fulfilled admission requirements for tertiary institutions to pursue higher education. We are also paying tuition fees for all girls in approved government assisted junior secondary schools.

45. We are continuing to build on these achievements. We are continuing to conduct National School Verification Exercises to weed out ‘ghost teachers’. We have formulated a National Policy on Technical, Vocational Education and Training, and completed the construction of 7 new technical vocational institutes in Kono, Kenema, Kailahun, Koinadugu, Bombali, Bo and Moyamba, and rehabilitated the Government Technical Institute at Magburaka.

46. We are implementing a $9 million project with support from the  Islamic Development Bank for the construction of additional Technical and Vocational Institutes throughout the country.  We have also revised the curriculum for technical and vocational institutes, bringing in new trades that are attractive to women. Furthermore we are supporting non-government run technical and vocational institutes with hundreds of millions of leones every quarter.

47. Mr. Speaker, youths are the mainstay of the country and the most energetic Sierra Leoneans. We cannot sustain our democracy and development without their active participation.  That is why, for the first time in this country’s history, we established the National Youth Commission to spearhead the active, disciplined and skilled involvement of youths in the development of this country. The members of the board of the commission have been appointed and the names of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner will soon be sent to this House for approval. A building for the commission has been identified and the commission will be fully operational before the close of this parliamentary session.

48. In addition to these efforts we are also receiving a $20 million support from the World Bank focusing on skills development  and employment of youth.

The Economy

49. Mr. Speaker, in relation to the economy, our aim was to simultaneously maintain macro-economic stability, increase revenues, improve international confidence in the management of the economy, promote investment and re-align government expenditure in favour of infrastructural development.

50. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, we have been largely successful in achieving our aim.  In spite of the global economic downturn, our economy grew at double the average growth rate for Africa as a whole. IMF and our own figures indicate a rebound of economic activities and further growth this year.

51. We are increasing revenues by broadening the tax base through the introduction of the Goods and Sales Tax, and tackling tax evasion and avoidance through the introduction of the Automated System of Custom Data (ASYCUDA), and tax payer identification numbers. In the first half of 2010, GST collections amounted to Le98.5 billion, far in excess of the amount collected for the whole of 2009 from the previous seven taxes replaced by the GST. Our reforms in the tax collection system have enabled the Government to increase Sierra Leone’s revenue collection effort to 11.7% of GDP in 2009 and it is expected to reach 13% this year.

52. Mr. Speaker, since we took over in 2007, we have increased spending on infrastructure and other capital projects from under Le180 billion to over Le450 billion on a new development agenda. This spending will soon increase to Le620 billion.

53. Mr. Speaker, we are also improving the coordination of international support and aid effectiveness through the adoption of a new Aid Policy. This policy has now become internationally recognised as a model for African aid effectiveness. My Government is currently coordinating the flow of aid and financial support in a well-structured and aligned manner. Using the comprehensive aid coordination approach, the Government ensured that UN agencies signed a joint vision to align their funding to the country’s Agenda for Change. Joint strategies have also been respectively developed by the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank, and the UK and European Union.

54. Mr. Speaker, my Government is improving the confidence of international development partners in the country. In 2007, we inherited a difficult relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But due to the prudent and professional management of the economy, government successfully completed the sixth and final review of the country’s performance and the IMF approved a three-year programme under the Extended Credit Facility. Sierra Leone’s rating under the World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) improved. The improved CPIA rating will unlock much needed development assistance to Sierra Leone.

55. My Government has had great success in persuading traditional development partners to maintain previous funding levels, a major achievement in this economic climate. This guarantee was provided by donors at the Consultative Group Meeting in London in November 2009. We have strengthened our country’s relationship with international partners including the African Development Bank, DFID, EC, the World Bank, BADEA, The Kuwaiti Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, Abu Dhabi Fund, Saudi Fund and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID). As a result of these strengthened partnerships, Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Sierra Leone has increased from US$347 million in 2007 to US$357 million in 2009.

56. Mr. Speaker, my Government is also working assiduously with development partners to eliminate the huge debt owed to external commercial creditors.  The World Bank has approved the implementation of a second debt reduction facility for external commercial creditors. Progress on this is now at an advanced stage. On implementation of the debt reduction programme, Sierra Leone’s external debt stock which stood at US$722 million at the end of June 2010 would be slashed by a third.

57. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of this country, the Government has developed a framework for the formulation of a comprehensive national debt law.  This legislation sets out the framework for public sector borrowing at all levels of Government and provides a clear approach to effective public debt management practices.

58. My Government has also embarked upon a comprehensive range of measures to strengthen public financial management in both Central Government and Local Councils. We have launched the Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Programme (IPFMRP) in a bid to ensure sustainable improvement in our country’s fiscal governance. We are also reviewing The Government Budgeting and Accountability Act (2005), Financial Management Regulations (2007), Public Procurement Act (2004) and Procurement Regulations (2006) to strengthen the legal framework for budgeting, accounting, recording and procurement.

59. Government is also rolling out the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) in the Accountant General’s Department as the bedrock for the transparent recording, reporting and accounting of all Government financial transactions.

60. As a demonstration of my Government’s commitment to transparency and with the support of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Standing Order 75 was clarified.  This makes it possible for the Annual Public Accounts Report to be made public as soon as they are laid in Parliament.  The backlog of Annual Public Accounts has been cleared and the most recent public accounts for 2009 have been published. The Auditor General’s Report on 2008 public accounts has been completed on time.

61. Finally, the Government has also established a Performance Audit Unit in the Office of the Auditor General to go beyond traditional financial audit and appraise and measure the impact of public service delivery on citizens. The first performance audit has been conducted and report submitted to parliament.

The Financial Sector

62. Mr. Speaker, my Government is also supporting the development of the financial sector. Consistent with its mandate, the Bank of Sierra Leone continues to further the implementation of the Financial Sector Development Plan. The commercial banking sector is being deepened, with credit to the private sector expanded. The concerns raised by the general public on the proliferation of banks have been taken into account with Bank of Sierra Leone strengthening its supervisory and regulatory role and raising minimum capital of banks. In addition, modernization of the payments system is being pursued and the National Switch through which, all banks will interconnect their ATMs and other products is expected to go live by the end of 2010.

63. In order to further enhance the operational independence of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Government is currently reviewing the Bank of Sierra Leone Act 2000. Similarly, the Banking Act 2000 and the Other Financial Services Act 2001 are also being reviewed to ensure compliance with international standards.

Private Sector Development

64. Mr. Speaker, as I have stated from the very beginning of my Presidency, the development and growth of the private sector are vital to the broader development of Sierra Leone. This vision is being firmed up through the development of a National Private Sector Development Strategy and a National Export Strategy amongst others.

65. In implementing our strategy for the sector, we have placed great emphasis on the World Bank’s Doing Business Reforms. As a result of these reforms, I am proud to announce that Sierra Leone has become one of the World’s best reformers and has improved 20 places in the rankings over the last three years. Key reforms include a new Companies Act, enhanced shareholder protection and improved business registration procedures. Through our investor promotion efforts, Sierra Leone is now firmly on the map of world-class international investors who are actively considering significant investments across sectors. Addax’s US$400 million investment, coming off the back of the Trade and Investment Forum in London in November 2009, and widely acclaimed as one of the most impressive events of its type, sends a clear signal to the international business community that Sierra Leone is an attractive investment destination, and that large, lucrative transactions involving serious investors are possible.

66. In February 2010, my Government launched a Sugar and Oil Palm outreach campaign, which I am pleased to say, is yielding a fantastic level of interest from some of the world’s largest and most reputable sugar and oil palm companies, including the likes of TSB, Illovo Sugar, Tate and Lyle, Wilmar and Musim Mas. In the extractive industries sector, Sierra Leone welcomes the interest being shown by the likes of Essar Group, Anadarko, Shandong Iron and Steel Group, and the Dangote Group. In the tourism sector, we welcome the interest of one of the world’s most heralded and reputable hotel groups Hilton International, who will partner with IDEA Limited, an indigenous entity to redevelop the historic Cape Sierra into an international 4-star hotel.

67. In order to achieve our growth objectives, Government will collaborate extensively with the private sector and therefore we are setting up a Public Private Partnership Unit in the Office of the President. The Unit will assist MDAs in structuring and negotiating agreements. The Unit will also collaborate with the National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) who are at the final stages of negotiating the commissioning of the Freetown port to an international port operator. The NCP has also partially privatised Rokel Commercial Bank by a stock market listing and are poised to fully divest government’s remaining shareholding.

The Public Service

68. Mr. Speaker, our public service has over the last decades faced enormous challenges that compromised its ability to deliver on its core mandate and improve service delivery. As an action-oriented government, we are adopting a holistic strategy to improve the capacity of the public service.  Firstly, we all know that our public service is among the least paid workforce in the world. We intend to close that gap through comprehensive pay reform.

69. Secondly, I have created a leadership forum for senior officials to enhance collaboration, coordination and implementation of programmes. Thirdly, we are resuscitating the Civil Service College, which was closed down 36 years ago, to train cadres of public officials to meet the needs of today’s changing environment. We have launched the construction of a twenty-first century Public Service Academy on more than two-hundred acres of land at Kent through a self-help project.

70. Mr. Speaker, when I launched the attitudinal change campaign three years ago, I was in effect preparing the minds of my compatriots for performance management across government.  Having signed performance contracts with my ministers, every institution of government will henceforth provide periodic performance reports, and the performance of every public servant shall be appraised. In addition, the performance of all public contractors and suppliers shall be subjected to unannounced checks, and defaulters brought to book.

Mineral Resources

71. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, all of us grew up knowing that our country is rich in mineral resources. However, these riches have not been translated into tangible benefits for our people. The country’s mineral sector also lacked proper regulatory regimes, leading to non-transparent transactions, decrease in investor confidence and failure to attract large scale investments. My Government is determined to change this.

72. A starting point in the implementation of our goals for the sector was the review of all mining agreements.  We have successfully completed the review of the Koidu Holdings Agreement and are currently renegotiating the Sierra Rutile and London Mining Company agreements. My Government is committed to reviewing all mining agreements without exception. We continue to seek support from our bilateral and multilateral friends for ongoing negotiations and for building capacity of the Ministry to monitor agreements and ensure compliance, and maximise the benefits from our mineral resources.

73. My Government also enacted a New Mines and Minerals Act in 2009 to guide its interventions in the sector. A new institutional framework with a stable, predictable, competitive, investor-friendly legal framework and fiscal environment has been established. We are encouraging the development of open and transparent mechanisms for marketing mineral products. Furthermore, my Government is diversifying the country’s mineral economy by developing unexploited mineral resources, particularly in iron ore, gold and bauxite.

74. Our actions are bearing tangible dividends for this country. There has been an increase in Government revenue from new mining investment in exploration and development, and from current mining operations. Government has signed a mining lease agreement with the African Minerals Limited (AML) to start mining operations at Ferengbeya, Tonkolili District.  The African Rail and Port Services (APRS) is constructing a standard gauge railway from Tonkolili to Lungi and a port at Targrin, which we expect to serve other mining concerns, and as a trans-shipment hub for the sub region. I am pleased to announce that I have already unveiled the first railway locomotive that arrived in the country in September 2010.

75. Over 300 million tonnes of proven bauxite reserves have been discovered and 146 million tonnes inferred in the Port Loko and Kambia Districts. Government has engaged the services of Terra Insight Services Incorporated to determine the variety and extent of our mineral deposit. This will allow government to own complete data on the country’s mineral resources.

76. We are also implementing a new cadastre system and introducing the Gold Area Community Development Fund alongside the Diamond Area Community Development Fund to ensure greater benefits to communities from mining activities.

Petroleum

77. Mr. Speaker, the discovery by Anardako of hydrocarbon deposits in the Venus prospect last year made Sierra Leone’s offshore oil potential attractive to investors. Anardako has reprocessed the 3D seismic data and recognized another Mercury Prospect which they are currently drilling with much confidence and hope for another successful discovery. This will be followed by an appraisal well for the Venus discovery, thus opening the way to possible development and production.

78. I have set up a Presidential Task Force and also requested international assistance for the review of our Petroleum Law and Fiscal Regime in order  that Sierra Leone can derive maximum benefit from the new oil and gas resource and avoid the mistakes of other countries. The new petroleum bill will be tabled before this Honourable House for your approval.

79. The Petroleum Resources Unit has also delineated exploration blocks of about 2000sq km each, making available 8 new blocks offshore Sierra Leone for further exploration rights. With this delineation, Government will organise a tender process after due publication in the Sierra Leone Gazette. The Unit is also undertaking capacity building for efficient and effective service delivery.  Currently, young Geology graduates of the University of Sierra Leone are joining the Unit to participate in the current drilling of Mercury Prospect by Anadarko Petroleum (SL). Training sessions are also being organized for public servants and other Sierra Leoneans in the areas of petroleum law, management, fiscal regimes, accounting and managing associated risks.

Fisheries and Marine Resources

80. Mr. Speaker, our fisheries and marine resources could yield more revenue for our people if properly regulated and managed. But for too long, revenues from our marine resources have been low; the sector was poorly regulated and our waters poorly protected from illegal fishing vessels.

81. To ensure clear guidance, goals and implementation strategies that are consistent with international best practice, my Government has developed a Fisheries Policy, new draft Fisheries Regulations and created clear functional units such as the Policy and Planning Unit; Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Unit; and the Commercial Fisheries Unit. Government has developed a national aquaculture strategy paper with a focus on sustainable commercialisation of aquaculture production systems. 

82. The country has complied with international regulations by delinking the registration of vessels from the International Ship Registry in New Orleans. We have also banned pair trawling and the use of monofilament netting materials for fishing purposes as a robust conservation measure. This has led to an increase in fish stock levels. Revenue from the sector is also increasing.

Promoting Integrity in Public Life

83. Mr. Speaker, my Government has stepped up the fight against corruption. With prosecutorial powers granted it by the 2008 Anti Corruption Act, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has ensured the highest rate of prosecution and conviction for corruption related offences in the country’s history. The ACC has also recovered billions of Leones from persons convicted or investigated for corrupt practices. We have appointed a uniquely qualified lawyer, approved by this Honourable House to continue to vigorously promote integrity in public life and fight the cancer of corruption.


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

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