Economic Growth and Development

20 August 2013 at 19:45 | 26982 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Strategic Media & Development Communications Unit.

Governments of developing countries are often faced with challenges of managing expectations, meeting the needs of their people with the desire to be seen to be performing rather than being dragged down by mundane issues or problems well beyond their control. Sierra Leone is a developing country and hence shares the same concerns and faces the same issues encountered by others. The question then turns on what differentiates the Government and leadership of Sierra Leone from other countries and to what extent the leadership of this country hold a promise for moving ahead.

There are indeed times when it would be considered necessary to manage the expectations of a people existing in poverty and want whilst at the same time ensconced within an environment endowed with abundant natural resources and potential. Simply put, the problems facing a country like Sierra Leone are inordinately poverty and the social ills that accompanies it. These could be determined by weak social and cultural systems or a very poor physical infrastructure to anchor growth and sustainable development. The framework of social and cultural systems relate to the attitudes and behavior that compel adherence to best practice, good interpersonal relationships, nationhood, pride and honor in being called a Sierra Leonean. This is where issues such as corruption, gender inequality and social exclusion take prominence and the efforts of government in stamping out malcontents come into focus.

There have been various theories over the years on how best to tackle economic growth and one of the most sustaining has been the argument that the reduction of poverty enables nations to attain growth faster than any other measure. There is the anecdotal evidence given for why there are less riots in developed countries. It is said that people living in such economies have too much at home to protect such that any attempt to go out on the streets to riot would leave their homes unprotected. In the event, their homes could in turn become a target for rioting. No one in their right mind, with a mortgage, household equipment and gadgets that they treasure plus a beautiful family would go out and break shop windows just to be promptly arrested and thrown in jail. The reduction of social unrest is therefore related to the economic status of the general citizenry to the extent that such economies enjoy less instability than those of less developing economies. The aspiration to reduce poverty is therefore a function of democracy, good governance, peace and stability which are the basic foundations of sustainable economic growth.

Sierra Leone has now had the opportunity to fashion its third generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). It is aptly referred to as the Agenda for Prosperity because it envisions the President’s aspirations for this country to become a Middle Income Country by 2023. It is an ambitious programme but it is well reasoned, well crafted and robustly thought through. The document outlines how it hopes to be funded even taking care to account for risks and threats to its realization. Now that it has been launched, the Agenda for Prosperity is a clear manifestation of a leader determined to be accountable and at the same time bold enough to dare the rest of the country to rise up to a challenge of greatness. Working together, it is expected that Sierra Leone would be able to attain all the objectives contained in the Agenda for Prosperity.

Therein lie the challenge of managing expectations. The President did warn that prosperity is not a gift, handed down to every citizen on a silver platter. It requires work, effort and hard graft. It is time to manage the expectations of the country and to focus on the reasoning behind the Agenda for Prosperity. To attain MIC status would be a road well traveled wherein hard work, commitment to deliver and a common conscience of nationhood festers amongst all Sierra Leoneans, at home and abroad.

The Agenda for Prosperity is therefore a mirror into the collective psyche of Sierra Leoneans. To enable them be true to their own aspirations and thereby committing to do something positive for Mama SaLone. To chastise the nation into reflecting on the sort of behavior that does a disservice rather than bond its citizens into one cohesive whole. That the Agenda for Prosperity is derived from an election manifesto is significant. It endorses its legitimacy as an aspiration to which the people of Sierra Leone has given a mandate for it to proceed. The President has fostered a covenant with the people of Sierra Leone when he asked to be re-elected on his promise to do more. The Agenda for Prosperity is the manifestation of that promises and it crystallizes the President’s vision to see Sierra Leone uplifted from one of the poorest countries in the World to one of pride and honor in the community of nations.

The onus for enshrining these aspirations for growth and progress into a commitment for advancement rest with every Sierra Leonean. The President can only set the pace as he has done by leading with integrity and compassion. There will always be those who would wish to derail the vision but the preponderance of those who wish this country well must always drown out its detractors. The die is cast and the race started. The race is not for the swift nor the battle for the strong, but surely, it is the end game that matters. As history is written, there ought to be several chapters on the vision of Ernest Bai Koroma, his journey from Makeni via Magburuka to Freetown where he founded a family and favor through his business acumen but more importantly, how he took up a failed PRSP from the previous Government and turned it into an Agenda for Change which then became the forerunner to the Agenda for Prosperity. History is what we did yesterday, and we are paying for today but would only be written about tomorrow.