From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

APC Parliamentarians Worried Over Hardship : Things are Too Tough, Hard & Strong [TIN TRONG]
By Augustine Samba
Jun 7, 2010, 19:02

Owing to the unprecedented hike in prices of basic commodities and other goods and services alongside the high exchange rate in foreign currencies especially the US dollar which has been confounding many citizens, Members of Parliament on Friday summoned both the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Samura Kamara and the Trade and Industry Minister David Carew to answer to questions on the country’s current economic situation. To the expressed surprise of many observers, ruling party MPs from the All People’s Congress (APC) were very hard on the ministerial duo.

APC strongman and Parliamentary Chief Whip, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu of Gbinti, Port Loko was in a no-nonsense mood as he fired questions to the Finance Minister over numerous issues of concern such as "the sharp increase in the value of US dollar as against our leone currency". In response, Minister Samura Kamara responded by saying that it was due to "the economic down turn of the world market" which he said greatly affected Sierra Leone.

"Whatever happens in the international markets also affects us in one way or the other", the Finance Minister explained to Hon. Bundu, citing also the demand of oil on the global market as another blow to our economy.

Samura Kamara however opined that despite the economic down turn, Sierra Leone’s economy continues to project upwards with a stable macro-economic environment and with positive growth. He expressed disappointment over the fall of price in minerals especially diamonds, which he said has caused reduction in the country’s exports, negatively reflecting on our exchange rates.

"Diamond exports which was the country’s main resource base in stabilizing exchange rates plummeted by 32.98% from 2007 to 2008, with further decline by 19.95% in 2009," he lamented. He nonetheless assured MPs that the Central Bank is putting regulations in place to enhance the country’s economic growth to meet up with international standards of banking so that the value of our leone currency will match up with foreign currencies.

Also firing questions at the ministerial duo was another ruling party MP from the Western Area, Hon. Alpha B. Lewally who expressed serious unhappiness with "sharp increase in prices of basic commodities" which he said was causing undue hardship on the local populace and for which Parliament was demanding answers.

Minister of Trade & Industry David Carew responded to the question from Hon. Lewally with regards the increase in prices of products in the country. He partly blamed it on the misunderstanding of the workings of the GST by importers coupled with the high exchange rate of the US dollar.

"The high exchange rate and lack of understanding of the GST are affecting our price control system on products," Trade Minister David Carew conceded, while informing that government has appointed trade monitors to check prices of products in the country. He however stated that the rate of US dollar has reduced to some extent which he said showed glimmer of hope for the country’s economy.

Speaking to Awareness Times after the robust Parliamentary Question & Answer session, many ruling party MPs stated in no uncertain terms that there will more of such very public grilling sessions of ruling party functionaries. They appealed to Awareness Times to continue "your excellent work" of bringing to the notice of the public, the work of us MPs. They also confessed that with General Elections barely two years away, they, as APC elected MPs, could not afford to be very complacent anymore with the Ernest Koroma led APC Executive Government as their "parliamentary seats are now at stake".

One APC MP opined that, "this same big book talk of macro-economics" that was being espoused by current Finance Minister Samura Kamara was what erstwhile SLPP Finance Minister used to espouse as evidence of positive service to the country but that it had did not resonate back then with the voting populace who proceeded to vote out the SLPP because of hardship. He opined that similarly, Samura Kamara’s current "big book talk of macro-economics" won’t resonate with a semi-illiterate voting populace.

"With the general discontent amongst the populace rising, we cannot afford to be complacent anymore. Our parliamentary seats are now at stake so we need to let our constituents know we are working to relieve the sufferings" said a senior APC parliamentarian adding "We are going to be regularly grilling ministers who are failing in their duties so we count on your paper to publicise our efforts." He however asked not be named if quoted.

It is a fact that there is a lot of disillusion amongst the local populace in Sierra Leone who are suffering from unprecedented hardship and with no viable solution yet in sight. The refrain of "tin trong" is now regularly heard all over the country. Life is just too tough for the ordinary citizens despite claims of macro-economic financial successes.

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