Make Or Break For Bio

Many sympathetic Sierra Leoneans looking at the enormous unexpected fiscal and socio-economic challenges that COVID-19 has brought down on the government and its people have opined that 2023 is the make or break year for His Excellency the President of the Republic of Siera Leone.

Looking at the formidable mountain-high challenges in different sectors of the country’s development plan that a hard press President Bio has to face and deal with satisfactorily before he sits to his reelection exams in 2023, coupled with having to deal with the effects that COVID-19 has had on the people, it can be said that the President has the most difficult job in the country right now.

With two years and five months spent of his five years mandate, the president is under intense pressure to deliver on the main promises that he made to the people during the presidential campaign and after he was installed as the country’s head of state on April 4, 2018.

Probably, the most burdensome challenge the president faces going into 2023 is how to unite a nation seriously fragmented along regional, ethnic and political lines between the South-East and the North-West.

The president who has cried out loudly quite recently that he is been fouled by the opposition needs to not only think outside the box on how to solve this problem that dates back to the 1960s in order to move the country away from the current state of political tension that the country is in.

Some say he can do so if he brings onboard statesmen and women from all parts of the country that the people love and have respect for to help him take the message of unity and oneness of purpose to their people in different parts and regions of the country; as he has said many times that he needs all hands on deck to push forward the nation’s development agenda.

Equally problematic for the president is delivering on his many election promises, given that the external dynamics of the country’s economy has been severely affected by the covid-19 pandemic that has had severe effects on GDP growth, economic productivity, internal revenue generation by NRA, foreign exchange earnings and employment in many sectors affected by the pandemic.

The president is also hard pressed to provide our expanding cities, towns and communities with sustainable electricity supply and water supply; two very essential social services the people need that have been in short supply in the country since the 1980s.

Closely allied to the above is the thorny issue of a very fluid bread and butter situation wherein prices of both imported and locally grown foodstuffs keep going up fueled in part by the value of the Leone against the international trading currencies and the hardship faced by traders in moving goods from one part of the country to the other.

Closely tied in with the critical bread and butter situation in the country is the cost of transportation which many people says has a tidal effect on all other prices in the country; with farmers and traders reporting that a lot of food lie rotting in the rural production areas due to both the non-availability of transport to bring them to the urban areas as well as the high cost of transportation.

This is a very burning issue that the people across the board want the president to pay serious attention to; especially people living in the outskirts of the capital city that in their tens of thousands have to shuttle daily to their places of work and business who report that the cost of transportation is killing them.

With schools reopening soon, another challenge the president faces is the implementation of his flagship Free Quality Education project which though very laudable has to deal with the social distancing problem in overcrowded classrooms brought on by the covid-19 pandemic.

With classroom space inadequate to meet the increased number of learners that FQE has brought in at all levels, another challenge is the provision, retention and remuneration of trained and qualified teachers; as well as the dearth of STEM teachers and laboratory equipment in all the schools in the country. Added to these is the complaint by teachers that they are lowly rewarded compared to their counterparts in the public health sector.

At the broader political level, the president faces the issue of the pending Government White Paper on the findings and recommendations of the commissions of inquiry; as to how the main opposition which has called the inquiry a kangaroo court would take the government’s verdict and what this would mean for the president’s call for inclusive governance.

Given the above, there is a lot on the president’s plate that demand attention and determined action to tackle; the outcome of which would go a long way to determine his and his party’s rating with the electorate in the next national elections. 

Going forward, the issue of the State of Emergency that was declared in March to help deal with the covid emergency raises the question of what effect its continued retention would have on resuscitation of the tourist and entertainment industry that was on the verge of blossoming into full prosperity before covid landed in the country.

With the country approaching the Xmas and New Year season when nationals, tourists and visitors from other parts of the world traditionally flock into the county in their tens of thousands, what effect would still having the SoE on arrival numbers?

As such, 2023 is a very critical make or break year for the president and his team, with many suggesting that a cabinet and administrative shakeup of the state governance machinery would be a very effective tonic for gingering up performance in the various sectors; especially in those that the people think the New Direction government is tottering badly and not living up to expectation in terms of service delivery.