Security, economics top list of concerns
By Nsikan Ikpe
As the people of Sierra Leone head to the polls in the next few weeks, in crucial elections to decide the successor to outgoing President, Ernest Bai Koroma, there are several issues that have since come to occupy the front burner.
First is the issue of security. One of the fragile members of the Mano River Union belt, Sierra Leone was caught in the throes of a most debilitating civil war a few years ago that necessitated the intervention of the then ECOWAS Monitoring Group, ECOMOG.
Another critical issue is that of the economy. Only a few days ago, the International Monetary Fund, IMF announced a decision to delay a loans disbursement to the West African nation on account of its ‘failure to improve revenue collection.’
However analysts say that the government;s interpretation of the cause of this delay as well as its announcing that the fund would return in May to continue discuss the programme are essentially damage control measures designs to calm voters ahead of the forthcoming polls.
According to the IMF statement which was published on its website, Wednesday, the exact reason why it delayed its disbursement of the second tranche of programme financing as per its earlier undertaking with the country was “due to a weak budget revenue outlook, where measures that were to be taken under the programme to increase revenue did not yield.’
The keenly contested presidential election is scheduled to hold on March 7, even as the specific issues in dispute include the Koroma government’s failure to take action on promised reforms such luxury car import taxes and the removal of subbsidies on fuel and rice.
Analysts say that it is clear that the regime is hedging given that the expected reforms would not be popular with the majority poor in what is clearly one of the poorest nations on earth, yet.
Koroma, who cannot run again having served his mandatory two-terms in office, is however routing for his former foreign minister Samura Kamara as successor on the platform of the ruling, All People’s Congress, APC. Kamara’s main opponent is former military junta leader, Retd Brigadier Julius Maaada Bio of the Sierra eone people’s Party, SLPP. Also running is Dr. Kandeh Yumkella of the National Grand Coalition, NGC.
The country largely depends on exports of diamonds and iron ore for revenue but has also been hit by several man-made and natural tragedies, including a civil war, an Ebola epidemic, coastal flooding, mudslides and falling commodity prices.
Like is the case with its fellow Mano River Union traveller, the new President’s work is all cut-out for him!
Samura Kamara, APC Presidential Candidate