• January 9, 2023

SPEAK TO COST OF LIVING – CITIZENS

SPEAK TO COST OF LIVING  – CITIZENS
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The trending high cost of commodities including rice, the country’s staple food, continues to serve as a very topical concern in public discussions across the country, as it is adversely affecting the standard of living of everyone.

The soaring prices of commodities and the attendant plight of the people in the last four years have continued to pose serious threats to peace, stability and national security to an extent that the people are always trying to express their displeasure about their current economic predicaments owing to bad governance.

It is therefore a legitimate concern that requires government’s urgent attention provided political leaders campaigning for re-election into public offices mean well for the people.

Government as the chief public servant is expected to be serving the nation from all fronts, providing social services for communities everywhere, although it is a different case under the Julius Maada Bio administration. A complete new phenomenon under the present leadership which is certainly serving only a few people amid the challenging economic hardship, whilst the multitudes are suffering the brunt of the unbearable economic conditions. What a democratic government for the few?

It would be recalled that when the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) was elected into office in 2018, there were high hopes and poorly managed expectations that the burning issues of high cost of living, fiscal mismanagement and indiscipline as well as hike in foreign exchange rates were going to be adequately addressed by the Bio-led administration as was promised in his New Direction campaign manifesto.

Bio even bogusly promised to fix the economy using proceeds from the sales and exports of the country’s fish. Sadly though, fish products are hardly seen in Sierra Leone markets nowadays. That speaks fact of bad governance and mismanagement of the country’s natural and state resources, due to leadership incompetence backed by gross indiscipline of duty bearers hired by Bio to serve in the growth and related sectors.

Four years three months down the line the economy of Sierra Leone is still in an absolute shambolic status, with skyrocketing prices of food and essential services at the disadvantage of low-income earners. Another giant challenger is the foreign exchange rates, which continue to militate against the already collapsed Leone, and the national economy, due to ill-advice to government on fiscal management by bunch of failures in the finance and fiscal sector. The more reasons there are urges emerging from everywhere calling on the Bio-led SLPP government to urgently address the bread-and-butter challenges and avoid the blame-shifting tricks. Enough of hearing the Russia-Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic excuses. Other nations have intelligently overcome those challenges and are now forging ahead economically successfully.  People are fed up and tired of listening to such cooked episodes of cock-and-bull tales. Thus the failed government of Bio must stop hiding deceitfully under weak excuses that are far away from Sierra Leone and have nothing to do with situations back home. That won’t solve the problems, nor would it in any way help in shaping the campaign messages of President Bio. So the blatant spins and lies must end now. Besides, lies won’t save the image and reputation of a failed government and its leaders, especially Bio.

President Bio should therefore tender a public apology to the nation for its failure in delivering his campaign promises to the people, because no amount of change can remedy the economic mess, not even the sacking of one finance minister after the other will address the present economic challenges. That is why the nation looks forward to Bio to provide sustainable answers to the bread-and-butter problems. But he had long told the world in several international media interviews that there is nothing he (Bio) could do about the trending economic poverty, characterised by high cost of living and the poor standard of living of Sierra Leoneans.

The widely discussed problem is adversely affecting all and sundry everywhere as the country is fast approaching the June 24, 2023 multi-tier elections. And it has already posed security concerns. Thus it is against this backdrop that this page is submitting to readers that the challenges should be a priority concern to the Government of Sierra Leone if really it is bent or determined to deliver the people from the abyss of economic hardship and let them enjoy some good standard of living. The state should therefore work hard to meet such legitimate needs and national concerns by way of offering the people better conditions, as part of its responsibilities.

President Bio has no power to free himself from an undone task of providing the people with formidable solutions and remedies to the current economic hardship. He is by law obliged to accomplish tasks of that nature in national interest. Bio has certainly not done as he said or promised. Mr President is really not free outside the laws of Sierra Leone. And he should consider that he took an oath on 4 April 2018 to serve Sierra Leoneans, not Gambians or other nationals. He should therefore not going about wasting citizens’ and taxpayers’ money on overseas trips and personal luxuries.

So why are you Mr President skipping your responsibilities to the people, by telling the world that there is nothing you can do about the economic burdens precipitated by high cost of living, whilst your counterparts in other nations are busy engaging their people in constructive dialogues on how they can jointly address economic diversification, through growth and reforms in fiscal managements? Cases in point are the president of Kenya who recent engaged citizens on high cost of living and the United Kingdom Prime Minister who held talks with industrial workers across the UK, whose actions demonstrate strong leaderships. It is not so in Sierra Leone; it is a whole different thing here. The rest is history.

The Bio-led government is still finding it hard to learn from the fact that unbearable economic hardship in the country forced the women of Sierra Leone to take to the streets in peaceful protest on 4 July 2022 braving the arrest and detention of the security apparatus and about five weeks after (on 10 August in the same year), scores of people including police officers were killed during a protest against high cost of living and economic hardship in the country.

Yet the problems remain unsolved, with hikes in public transportation fares, pump price of fuel and other petroleum products among other utility bills. But government spokespersons after the other, including cabinet ministers, always shift blame for their failures on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and the defiant foreign exchange rates and the high cost of goods and services always tagged with the almighty United States Dollar, even though Sierra Leone businesses are mandatory to be done in Leones. Excessive reliance on the USD and other influential foreign currency are not too good for consumers at all. And as a result of that there is hue and cry everywhere, especially when the flying USD rate has climbed to 19 Leones a dollar. These among other challenges have worsened the economic hardship by the tick of the clock. That is why much is expected from Bio to fix the problems now as the nation moves into the electioneering process to enable the electorate make informed decisions come 24 June this year.

No matter the situation FORUM holds the strongest view that Sierra Leoneans deserve better livelihood with good living standards and not what they are going through in the hands of the failed leadership of Julius Maada Bio as president. So Mr President speak to the issue of cost of living and save lives now!

 

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