On Monday, 5th February 2018, the APC 2018 Presidential Candidate, Dr. Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara presented his Manifesto in which appear like hurriedly dumped documents gathered from a dusted shelf full of unrealistic promises to the grassroots. The very realism of empty promises starts with his forward. He said:
- His Foreword
“My fellow compatriots, with passion, commitment and determination, I have served Sierra Leone throughout my professional life. With a much greater passion, commitment and determination I entered the race for the Presidency of our great nation under the ticket of the All People’s Congress (APC), with the solemn determination and commitment to dedicate the next five years to leading our beloved country even closer towards middle-income status by 2035”.
The repetition of the words commitment, determination and dedicate ending with “towards middle-income status by 2035 clearly shows that Samura is not only ill-prepared but he has no new ideas that addresses the excesses of Ernest Koroma Government if he becomes President. The equation of Sierra Leone reaching middle-income has irreversible imbalance as the first commitment made by President Koroma was predicated on continuing economic boom. When President Koroma vision Sierra Leone for middle income country, Sierra Leone economy was growing at 21 percent per annum. It was projected to level at 15 percent for next the five years from 2018 and slow down to 9 percent from 2022. Unfortunately, since Samura has no agenda, he still made the empty promises when the economy has collapsed to an unprecedented 5.6 percent in 2018 (IMF Press Release). How can you achieve middle-income status in 2035 when you cannot achieve a minimum threshold of economic growth?
- Dedication of APC Manifesto “ Governing for the Grassroots (G4G)”
This is another area of ill-prepared manifesto commitment-Governing for the Grassroots is the flagship commitments of APC Presidential Candidate. At least, Mr. Samura should have defined what grassroots means in Sierra Leone and who his target beneficiaries are. Instead, he vaguely concluded that grassroots are our “common man and common woman”. What is the definition of common man and common woman-an insulting phrase in our traditional communities. Many a time, APC Youth League is headed by people in their late 40s and 50s. By definition, Youths are those between the ages of 18-35 years. So who is Samura referring to as grassroots?
Samura said “We shall focus on the grassroots, ensuring their greater inclusion in the socio-economic and political life of the country in all our programmes and also through the following: promoting the inclusion of the common man and woman in the national insurance health scheme; specially targeting the common man and women in financial inclusion schemes; enhancing the registration of lands and such other assets which may be collaterised for low interest loans and other financial inclusion schemes; promoting better housing for the common man and woman through public private partnerships, mortgage schemes, land grants and other programmes; etc • Promoting the adoption of communities and vulnerable groups as part of corporate social activities of companies, corporations and other organisations;
- Develop programs enhance the livelihoods of ‘border’ communities.
It is quite clear that these are empty promises to the poor voters in Sierra Leone. How much the G4G cost Mr. Samura; how do you finance the G4G and how do you coordinate the G4G? We have seen other political parties; in particular the SLPP who have cost their Flagship programs (Free Primary and Secondary school education) for next 5 years and how they intend to finance it. Whether the costs and financing of Mr. Bio’s agenda is realistic or not, but he presented a clear vision of his direction to implement Free Education-a program successfully implemented by President Addo of Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. For instance what’s relevance of “reviewing timeframes for paying rents and encourage financial institutions to provide rent advances for workers with regular income to G4G?
In summary the commitment of Samura to his so-called G4G is an empty insulting promise to the poor voters.
- The Economy
Former SLPP Chairman and Leader deposed Chief Somano Kapen once proclaimed Samura Kamara as a seasoned Economist Sierra Leone should be proud of. Unfortunately, Samura’s Manifesto does not represent that assertion. Economic Governance spanning from formulating and implementing decisive economic reforms, revenue mobilization, sound expenditure management and transparent and accountable use of public funds are either absent or loosely mentioned in several parts of the Manifesto. We have put together some assertions are put out in Samura Manifesto; many believed either Samura never read the document or he’s become a complete Ranka APC Politician that Pay Attention to populist statements than quality education and service to the People.
On Page 2 of the Manifesto, Samura said “the All People’s Congress (APC) inherited a difficult economy; one that was saddled with many challenges, not least being high rates of poverty and low economic growth rates. Over the past 10 years, the APC, under President Koroma, has moved Sierra Leone from very poor growth rates to the second fastest growing economy in the world in 2014 and among Africa’s top ten fastest growing economies (IMF, 2016)”
Unfortunately, Samura was not honest with the truth. Serving NPRC and SLPP for 14 years, he was at the helm of economic management from 1992 to 2006. One then say, if APC inherited a difficult economy, he has no moral authority to say that he can do better. Not honest with truth was his denial that APC inherited sound economy from SLPP, much better than current collapsed economic situation. Here are the facts, which Samura cannot deny. SLPP handed over to APC in 2007 a total cash reserves of Le524 billion and negotiated donor funds for projects of 400 million dollars. Today, the Government accounts with Bank of Sierra Leone are in RED. The overdraft is in the tune of Le140 billion; so they moved from surplus of Le520 billion to negative Le140 billion. When SLPP handed to APC, Sierra Leone international debt was 250 million dollars and in 10 years Sierra Leone’s debt is 1,500 million dollars (see 2017 & 2018 Budget Statement). In 2007, exchange rate between the Leones and dollars was Le2,900=1$ but today exchange rate is Le7,800 to 1$. In 2007 economic growth was 7.0 percent but in 2017, IMF forecast economic growth as 5.3 percent. From these figures, you can see that the Manifesto reflects a situation where Sierra Leoneans happiness of good economic management have been stolen from them and now faced a situation of Empty Promises to Governing for Grassroots.
Samura’s Manifesto identified what he called Areas of focus: Establishment of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council; Effective Public Financial Management; Diversifying the Economy, Increasing Trade and Wealth Creation, Improving International Development Cooperation; Strengthening development financing and Financial Sector Development. Here again, the listing of the priorities shows that Samura never read the Manifesto. Technically the focus areas are duplicated and not well discussed. For instance, what’s the difference between improving international development cooperation and strengthening development financing? Where is the theme of the manifesto in this; the G4G? Taking effective public financial management brings another dimension to making empty promises to the citizens. For instance, how can “engaging community leadership, women’s groups, youths, pensioners, and the physically challenged in structuring self-empowerment programmes in their communities; or expanding the Financial Inclusion programmes to increase community banking and access to the formal economic sector to ensure that we grow together as a nation or decreasing imports and promoting commercialization of specific products across the value chain in the agriculture sector have any business with effective public financial management. The anomalies in the manifesto are too severe to contend with and they must be highlighted.
Revenue & Expenditure
Another grave area in the APC Manifesto is the mismatch between revenue and expenditure. Corruption in revenue collection and uncontrolled expenditures are the main reasons cited by IMF for suspending disbursement in December 2017. Notwithstanding and despite Samura has called on other presidential aspirants to teach them on IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank issues, he has left his friends in limbo for failing to clearly articulate how to mobilize revenue and how to control excessive expenditures. On page 4 of the Manifesto, Samura said “we will increase revenue to 18 percent of GDP by the end of my first term, ensuring that each year domestic revenue increases by a minimum of 1.2 percent of GDP. This is grossly inadequate commitments to raise revenue and it is seen by revenue experts as business as usual.
According to the APC’s Minister of Finance, Momodu Kargbo’s Budget Speech, it states clearly that for a country to finance it basic services, you need to raise domestic revenue by 20 percent of GDP but Sierra Leone was on 13.3% percent. Samura has only committed 18 percent in 5 years; increasing revenue by 1.2 percent. But Samura committed to undertake expansionary spending. On page 5 Samura commits to “Increasing Government development spending from US$274 million to at least US$1.5 billion” in 5 years. You can no see the gross mismatch between revenue and expenditure. While revenue will increase by a mere 5 percentage points from current 13.3 to 18 percemt, capital expenditure alone will increase by 447 percent. Therefore, Samura core economic policies are predicated on increasing debt on the people of Sierra Leone.
At a recently Global Partnership for Education Conference held in Dakar, Senegal, the President of Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said to the world that “We cannot depend on other people to finance education in Africa”. We can only have control over destiny if raise the resources to finance our programs. That Africa has the resources to finance our programs. He called on Africa to eliminate illicit financing, fight corruption, negotiate your mineral contracts well and improve on transparency and accountability. From our assessment, Samura Manifesto didn’t demonstrate commitment to the above tenets and therefore depends on international cooperation to increase expenditure by over 400 percent in 5 years from 274 million dollars to 1,500 million dollars but at same time raise revenue by only 5-6 percent.