“2019, Year Of Hope…” Bio Speaks

 

Addressing his fellow countrymen and women on New Year’s Day, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio said that the moment gives Sierra Leoneans an opportunity not only to look back but also to look ahead into a new year of hope and boundless opportunities. He thanked God for all what the people of this country have gone through in the recent past including the landslide and flooding in Freetown.

Beyond the crippled economy that, he said, his government inherited when it came to power in April 2018, President Bio outlined what his ‘New Direction’ government has achieved in the eight months it has been in power.

First among these, he said, is his government’s flagship Free Education programme; and establishment of a Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation to leverage the benefits of tech for education delivery, research, business and governance.

He also mentioned his government’s disciplined management of economy leading to renewed engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and international donor partners.

He spoke of the Le8.4 billion recovered by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in fight against corruption that, he said, will be invested to build a diagnostic hospital for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.

He also spoke of the country’s improved fight against corruption rating from 49% to 71% which puts the country in good stead in meeting the benchmarks for qualification for MCC development funding.

Among his government’s achievements he also mentioned what he called the first ever pilgrimage without scandal. With all these, he assured that in 2019, the ‘New Direction’ administration will continue to head in the right direction.

“We will continue with efficient economic management and creating enabling environment for economic investment in order to create jobs for our youth,” President Bio said. He also spoke of his government expanding investment in energy, Wash, meaningful infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and tourism. Human capital development, he said, will continue to preoccupy the attention of his government in order to pave the way for future advanced development. Protection of the girl child, he assured, will be strengthened with the review of laws as well be considerations for the disabled, women and the aged.

His government, he added, will continue to open democratic space with the repeal of the criminal libel law and promotion of press freedom. Access to justice, he further assured, will be built upon and the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) Report followed up on.

President Bio also promised investments in healthcare and agriculture with the launching of the Torma Bum and Gbondapa rice and irrigation projects early this year.

To cushion the effect of the hard times, his government has offered all public sector workers salary increases of 5% and 10% and reduction of PAYE from 35% to 30%, whilst a Wages and Compensation Commission is to become effective. Also, the welfare of pensioners, he said, has been improved by raising minimum monthly pension from Le200, 000 to Le250, 000.

To bring the nation closer in inclusive governance, President Bio announced the setting up of a Peace and National Cohesion Commission.

He ended by stating that the Commission of Inquiry that starts this month is intended to send a clear signal to the international community that his government is determined to fight against corruption and establish democratic accountability.