There is a questionable common motive, amidst the constant and fretful political grandstanding of the opposition in Sierra Leone. It is to incite hatred and violence that would erase the gains made by the government, stall the wheels of progress and plunge this nation into another cycle of instability.
This was once again demonstrated through the sloppy orchestration of a rather disorganised protest past Monday by a group of opposition surrogates in the guise of a so- called "Renaissance Movement".
Instead of joining the right path to promote nationhood and rather than restraining themselves from politicizing the removal of fuel subsidies, a fidgety opposition thinks it as an opportunity to build a mountain out of a molehill. In a very unpatriotic endeavour, they have been engaged in miscalculated efforts to deliberately misinform the public about the realities of the global economic crunch and its corresponding effects on small economies of the world such as Sierra Leone. They have in an unholy trinity blamed the government for the obvious consequences of the global economic meltdown that has affected Sierra Leone's economy, accusing it of bad fiscal and monetary policies. This is far from being the truth!
Government did not at all shy away from the economic challenges it is confronted with and like any forthright and serious government would, it is owning up and dealing with the challenges head-on. The government is making sure that what should be done now to maximize revenue generation and ensure fiscal stability for a more secured future is done.
Certainly, the economic challenges confronting the nation are not as a result of bad or failed economic policies nor are they the end result of what the opposition refers to as wasteful spending (construction and rehabilitation of roads, addressing infrastructure bottlenecks in the water and energy sectors, reintroduction of the school feeding program, increase in salary, supply of bags of rice to serving men and women in uniform etc).
The twin shocks of the Ebola outbreak and the plummeting of the price of iron ore in the global market have had a significant impact on our country's economy. However, the APC government has conscientiously embarked on prudent economic reforms which occasioned a 4.9% economic growth rate projection in 2016.
Significant progress has also been made in the implementation of reforms in public financial management and financial sector development; these are in addition to the enactment of the Public Finance Act 2016.
The government has further undertaken to introduce a Single Treasury Account.
These efforts have led to the government's lauded performance highlighted under the Extended Credit Facility with the IMF.
Let me note that the new pump price also occasioned an almost 30% increase in the fare of private owned public transportation does not by any measure equal the self styled bargaining pattern of commuters.
We all know that commuters who do not want to join the queue and want to avoid the rush are willing to pay three, four or five times more than the agreed fare. There can be no denial that this was the case even before the recent increase.
People willingly paid Leone 3,000.00 or more from PZ to Youyi Building. Some willingly paid 'Okadas' Le 10,000.00 or more from Upgun to Wellington. While this "unofficial increase" should not be the case, it was somehow an accepted norm prior to the recent official increase in private owned public transportation fare.
However, in consideration of the poor, there has been no increase in the fare of SLRTC owned buses and government is to further import another consignment of 100 buses.
Government will also introduce a free bus service for school going children (hope the opposition will not tag it as another wasteful spending) and together with the Police, it will adopt a more robust approach in dealing with the "halfway" menace.
The expectations that the increase in the fare of private owned public transportation will necessitate an increase in the price of goods and services constitute an acceptable and legitimate misgiving. This notwithstanding, who doesn't know that we have a sect of unscrupulous businessmen who will hike the price of essential goods and services even during the holy month of Ramadan. A month during which one is expected to make atonement for sins and wrongdoings.
In this regard, government notes as a matter of extreme urgency the recommendations from the Sierra Leone Labour Congress to reconstitute the Trade Inspectorate division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and to initiate robust price control mechanisms. One only hopes that when government begins to enforce its price control mechanisms, the opposition and its surrogate civil society organizations will not describe the move as a violation of human rights and as intended to circumvent the protocols of a free market economy.
The reaction from some ill motivated quarters to the increase in the pump price of fuel and the corresponding increase in the fare of private owned public transportation only underscores a fidgety opposition's penchant for political power over the maintenance of peace and the promotion of nationhood.
Across the globe, even oil producing countries are removing subsidies on fuel and other petroleum products. It is basically a global drive to maximize revenue generation and ensure fiscal stability in the face of the global economic meltdown.
In conclusion therefore, I call on all Sierra Leoneans to be wary of those needless calls for a street protest and to continue to repose confidence in the ability of the government to effectively chart a comprehensive recovery as has been clearly and carefully enunciated in the 2017 budget speech of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.