President Bio Addresses 1st Session of 5th Parliament of Second Republic

President Bio inspecting a guard of honour
Let me start by thanking the people of this great country for giving me the opportunity to address this honourable House for the first time as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. My victory is not only for myself or the Sierra Leone People’s Party, but also for the people of this great nation. This historic victory demonstrates the advancement that the people of Sierra Leone has made in consolidating our nascent democracy.
2. I am here this morning to translate my campaign promises as articulated in the New Direction People’s Manifesto into policy actions. The underlying principles of the New Direction are Disciplined Leadership, Integrity, Efficiency, Professionalism and Delivery. I am making this address against the backdrop of the worse economic situation that this country has faced since independence and characterized by double-digit inflation, low domestic revenue mobilization, high domestic debt burden, unsustainable external debt, and huge arrears to contractors. Therefore, taking tough policy actions is imperative to tackle the current serious economic situation that we have inherited.
The Economy
3. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, real economic growth rate slumped to 3.5 percent in 2017 from 6.3 percent in 2016 largely due to the slow down in mining activities especially iron ore and diamonds. Growth of the non-iron ore economy also slowed to 3.4 percent compared to earlier projection of 4 per cent owing to reduced activities in construction and trade sectors. In 2017, while agriculture sector including fisheries and services grew by 4.6 percent and 4.8 percent respectively, but mining and quarrying plummeted by 16 percent.
4. Mr. Speaker, to reduce the vulnerability of our country to external shocks, my administration will reduce its reliance on minerals. To this end, I will diversify sources of economic growth with special focus on agriculture, marine and tourism.
5. The recent past efforts in agriculture have not produced the desired results. Despite the large acreage of arable land, Sierra Leone continues to be a net importer of rice. The Budget Statement 2018 estimated rice import at US$108 million for the first half of 2017. For 2018, this figure is projected to be at least US$200 million. According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis study conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 49.8 percent of households were food insecure in 2015 compared to 45 percent in 2010. That is, they consumed limited or insufficient food to maintain a healthy and active life. Global Hunger Index 2017 ranks Sierra Leone as the third hungriest country in the world with percentage of population that is undernourished estimated at 38.5 percent compared to 28.6 percent in Guinea and 16.2 percent in Ghana.
6. In the New Direction, the overall goal of our agricultural policy is sustainable and diversified production of food on a scale enough to feed the growing population as well as providing gainful employment. Our immediate priority actions will focus on (i) attracting and increasing investment in agriculture (ii) sustainable investment in mechanized commercial agriculture (iii) increasing food crop production (iv) increasing and diversifying cash crop production (v) increasing livestock production (vi) improving irrigation water management (vii) improving land management and (viii) improving governance and research.
7. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, investment in agriculture will largely be private sector driven. While my administration is committed to increasing budgetary allocation to the sector to a minimum of 10 percent in the next 2 years in line with the Maputo Accord, we shall rely on private investment in the sector. The political class and urban middle class must demonstrate interest in agriculture. Accordingly, effective 2019, investment in agriculture (including animal husbandry) will be a pre-condition for holding political office. The Office of the President and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will work out the details to implement and monitor this policy directive. Additionally, my administration will encourage local banks to lend to the private sector for agricultural purposes.
8. To increase food crop production, my administration will (i) improve the seed bank system to attract reliable private sector players (ii) support the private sector for large scale agricultural production, processing and marketing (iii) support local industries engaged in the fabrication of farm tools and supply for other farm inputs (iv) put mechanisms in place for public and private partnership in tractor management and (v) rehabilitate feeder roads linking farming communities to markets.
10. Mr. Speaker, cash crop constitutes a major source of foreign exchange earnings and job creation. My administration will focus on (i) providing support for rehabilitation of existing plantations and establishment of new ones (ii) adopting the use of improved varieties of cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm and non-traditional cash crops (iii) facilitating the establishment of cash crop cooperatives and providing training in processing to ensure our cash crops become competitive for export.
Marine Resources
11. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, Sierra Leone’s fisheries resources are estimated to worth over US$100 million annually. The sector provides direct employment to about 200,000 people and indirect employment to an estimated 600,000 persons along coastlines in Freetown, Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba and Pujehun. The sector contributes nearly 10 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
12. The critical challenges in the sector are the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the limited accessibility to the international market. As a result, the total annual revenue loss to Sierra Leone is estimated at over US$ 50 million. The overall policy objective of my New Direction administration is to create a profitable fisheries sector that contributes significantly to socio-economic development through sustainable management and utilisation of our fisheries resources while also conserving the environment. My administration will focus on (i) improving marine resource governance and sustainable management of fisheries (ii) reducing illegal fishing (iii) improving the quality of marine products and (iv) developing fishing infrastructure.
13. To improve on governance in the sector, the priorities of my administration will be on (i) strengthening policy and regulatory framework for the management of marine resources and (ii) promoting transparency by publicising all fisheries management information such as the revenues, license fees, vessels committing infractions and fines paid by vessels.
14. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of Parliament, it is a necessity that we reduce illegal fishing if we are to increase revenue from the fishing sector. Therefore, the focus of my Government in this regard will be on (i) establishing an enabling legal and regulatory environment for combating illegal fishing and (ii) implementing effective and sustainable surveillance systems.
15. My administration will also take the following measures to promote the attractiveness of our fish products to European Market (i) training in basic hygiene practices and sanitary operating procedures (ii) rehabilitating existing laboratories for improving fish quality and (iii) strengthening the capacity of the competent authority to certify fish and fishery products for export. Additionally, to improve on the infrastructure for fisheries development, my administration will (i) construct a fish harbor with solar- powered cold chain facilities and (ii) construct or rehabilitate existing fish landing sites.
16. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, retailing of fish products is largely the business of women. Accordingly, my administration will facilitate micro-finance support for women engaged in fisheries.
17. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, despite its high potential for tourism development, the tourism sector remains one of the most underdeveloped and underfunded sectors of the economy. The critical challenges include lack of a Master Plan for the development of the sector, weak policy and regulatory framework, limited human capacity, poor, infrastructure as well as unfavourable country image.
18. In the New Direction, the strategic objective is to increase revenue, provide jobs and promote the cultural heritage of the country. The specific policy actions will cover (i) improving the policy and legal environment (ii) developing historic sites (iii) developing the relevant Infrastructure (iv) promoting marketing and improving the International Image (v) skills development and (vi) diversification of tourism products.
19. Specifically, improving policy and legal environment will entail reviewing and upgrading all tourism-related laws, regulations and policies to ensure consistency with regional and global best practices, developing a master plan for the tourism sector and establishing a Tourism Information Register (TIR).
20. My administration will rehabilitate and develop historic and cultural sites, establish Public-Private Partnership to manage historic sites, designate tourist attraction areas and provide them with the needed infrastructure including water, electricity and communications and develop tourist infrastructure (such as beach resorts, eco villages and research camps).
21. In the area of promoting marketing and improving the international image of Sierra Leone, my administration will (i) develop an improved web portal for tourism promotions (ii) participate in international tourist activities and (iii) collaborate with our Embassies/Missions to showcase the tourist potentials of Sierra Leone to the outside world.
22. In developing skills in tourism, my administration will conduct skills audit of the tourism sector, prepare a Labour Force Development Plan for the Tourism Sector, upgrade the existing training school for hotel management, support private colleges pursing tourism-related disciplines in terms of materials, equipment and staffing and introduce higher education programmes for tourism training.
23. Diversification of tourism products will include adventure tours such as safaris, jungle tours, mountain trekking and support local entrepreneurs to promote tourism-based activities to link with the rural economy, harvest seasons, wildlife, farming practices, art, culture and religions.
Mineral Resources
24. The mining sector contributes about 24 percent to GDP and over 80 percent to export earnings. However, it contributes well below its potential, on average of 15 percent of total revenue. Direct and indirect employment in large-scale mines engage over 30,000 people, with an estimated 300,000 people (including dependents and extended families) deriving their livelihoods from these mines.
25. The mining sector suffers from extreme lack of transparency and weak institutional capacity. The 2009 Mines and Minerals Act was enacted to regulate the industry. There are however huge gaps which serve as disincentives to serious investors.
26. Mr. Speaker, my New Direction Government will immediately embark on the following (i) review the Mines and Minerals Act 2009 as well as Mining Lease Agreements to realign with the Mining Policy and ensure it is consistent with international best practices (ii) enact the Extractive Industry Revenue Bill (iii) establish the Natural Resources Account for all revenues generated from extractives (iv) strengthen the National Minerals Agency (NMA) (v) allocate percentages of revenue from the mining sector to education, health and the general development of mining communities (vi) ensure full transparency in the sector through complying with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards and provide updated and validated information on tax and other contributions from the mining sector to the government (vii) support value additions to our mineral resources with a view to generating jobs and additional income to Sierra Leoneans (viii) ensure that all mining companies comply with the local content policy and (ix) enforce corporate social responsibility in all mining activities.
Improving the Management of Oil and Gas Exploration
27. Oil and gas exploration in Sierra Leone has had a very chequered history. From 2009 to 2013, Sierra Leone drilled three successful exploration wells and one highly prospective appraisal well. By 2015, due to undisclosed reasons, all operating oil and gas companies in Sierra Leone, except African Petroleum, had backed out of their contractual commitments and abandoned their operations.
28. Mr. Speaker, in the New Direction, the primary objective is to use oil and gas development to generate wealth without compromising environmental protection and sustainability. Accordingly, the focus will be on (i) Oil and Gas Governance (ii) Petroleum Fiscal Regime and (iii) Capacity Building.
29. Hence, on oil and gas governance, the focus of my administration will be on (i) reviewing policies and laws on oil and gas to be guided by a clear vision (ii) investing in geological data acquisition and strengthen pre- qualification criteria and ensure transparency to attract the best oil and gas companies (iii) simplifying both negotiations and tax structures to mitigate knowledge asymmetries with oil companies to reap early revenues and maximize long-term national benefits.
30. Regarding improving fiscal regime, as in the case of mining, my Government will enact the Extractive Industry Revenue Bill. In terms of capacity building, my Government will restructure the Petroleum Directorate by recruiting trained and qualified Sierra Leoneans without reference to their ethnic or regional origin.
Developing the Manufacturing Sector
31. Currently, the manufacturing sector is dominated by informal small and medium-scale enterprises and a few formal consumer goods industries producing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cement, paint, flour, fruit juice, textiles and apparel, handicrafts and furniture. The contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP is very minimal at about 2 percent of GDP.
32. The main challenges in the manufacturing sector are weak infrastructure, unfavourable business environment, limited access to finance, limited skilled workforce and unreliable supply of raw materials. The focus of manufacturing industrialisation will be on value addition to agricultural products through agro-processing, consumer and intermediate goods and high potential job creating industries. The specific policy actions will focus on (i) improving manufacturing infrastructure including cost effective energy sources, transport network and technology (ii) improving the environment for manufacturing industrialization (iii) establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Export Processing Zones (EPZ) (iv) providing finance to local entrepreneurs for manufacturing industrialisation (v) technical skills development (vi) promoting manufacturing industries producing farm implements, schools materials and medical supplies and (vii) promoting the production of agricultural activities.
Fiscal Situation
33. There has been persistent fiscal imbalance with government expenditure far exceeding revenue. This is largely due to the bloated public spending against the background of shrinking domestic revenue. Our domestic revenue make up only 11.5 percent of GDP and is one of the lowest in the World.
34. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government is determined to reverse this deplorable situation. Within the first month in office and in fulfilment of Manifesto commitment, my Government has taken extraordinary measures to mobilise revenue and control expenditure. On revenue mobilisation, my administration has instituted the following three measures (i) suspended all duty and tax waivers to organizations, agencies, companies and contractors excepting organisations that fall under the relevant Vienna Convention on diplomatic missions (ii) in fulfilment of my Government commitment to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government that collect and retain Government revenues to transfer all such revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund with immediate effect consistent with the provisions of the Fiscal Management and Control Act 2017 and (iii) export of Timber logs is suspended with immediate effect.
35. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am pleased to inform you that there has been an unprecedented surge in domestic revenue mobilisation resulting from these measures. For the period, 11th April to date, a total amount exceeding Le300 billion has been collected. I am also pleased to report that my administration paid salaries for April and arrears to educational institutions without recourse to central bank overdraft. Furthermore, in the bid to reduce fiscal deficit, my Government has further instituted stringent expenditure control measures as articulated in Executive Order Number 2.
36. It is anticipated that both the revenue mobilisation and expenditure control measures will expand on the fiscal space needed to finance our development programme and pay for our essential services. My administration will review these measures in the next few months to ensure they sustain revenue gains without undermining private sector investment. Already, my Government has established a Committee to review duty and tax exemptions, consistent with existing legislations.
37. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my administration will institute the following additional revenue mobilisation measures (i) evaluate the on-going tax reforms (ii) implement all audit reports findings and recommendations (iii) develop and legislate a National Tax Policy (iv) develop the capacity of local councils, particularly the city councils in revenue assessment and collection (v) simplify processes and reduce transaction cost for clearing imported goods (vi) enforce tax laws especially rental income taxation and ensure timely settlement of all tax obligations.
38. My Government will also implement the following additional expenditure control measures (i) develop and introduce a standardized overseas travel policy for the public service and covering all categories of workers including Government Ministers (ii) develop the capacity of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies in expenditure planning, management and reporting (iii) strengthen Audit Service Sierra Leone and the involvement of Non-State Actors in monitoring public spending (iv) develop a Vehicle Pool and movement tracking system (v) re-establish the authority of the Public Service Commission (PSC) as the primary authority to recruit civil servants (vi) harmonize the wage structure in the public sector to keep the wage bill sustainable and (vii) develop a National Development Monitoring and Evaluation System.
Public Debt Management
39. The current debt situation is unsustainable and constitutes a critical risk to effective budget management. As at March 31, 2018, external debts stood at US$ 2 billion and domestic debts at Le 4.9 trillion (US$ 636.4 million). Repayment and servicing of these huge debt burden means that there is hardly any resources left to finance priority investments in human capital development and basic services. In the New Direction, my administration will (i) introduce the practice of annual debt ceilings beyond which Government cannot borrow and link the borrowing ceiling to a clearly laid out medium-term debt management strategy (ii) limit external financing of social services to grants (iii) reform the institutional and legal framework for accessing external and domestic debts for the central government, local governments, and parastatals (iv) establish a Sierra Leone Sovereign Wealth Fund to build up a modest surplus of domestic savings.
Exchange Rate Management
40. The New Direction exchange rate management strategic objective is to maintain a stable and competitive exchange rate through increasing exports and reducing imports of consumer goods. The specific policies are (a) review of existing policy framework for supporting cash crop production and marketing (b) improve supportive marketing infrastructure and facilities and (c) promote agro-processing to add value to farm products for exports.
Monetary Policy
41. The main objective of my administration’s monetary policy is to achieve single digit inflation and realistic interest rate. My Government will therefore consolidate public finances to reduce high level domestic borrowing which will free up resources for private sector lending at affordable cost.
Private Sector Development
42. My administration will promote competitive, fast-growing and liberal economy led by the private sector. Evidence from the World Bank Doing Business Report and the Global Competitiveness Report shows Sierra Leone is relatively uncompetitive. According to World Bank Doing Business Report, Sierra Leone dropped in ranking for ease of doing business from 140 out of 185 in 2012 to 145 out of 190 in 2016 and further to 148 out of 190 in 2017. Similarly, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked Sierra Leone 133 out of 134 countries surveyed in 2012. Subsequent ranking did not change significantly and stood at 132 out of 138 countries surveyed.
44. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government will ensure that Sierra Leoneans are given priority in many businesses and employment without compromising efficiency. Companies will be required to provide the necessary training for Sierra Leoneans and review their procurement and employment rules to ensure this is achieved. Specifically, the focus will be on (i) increasing access to finance (ii) reducing the cost of doing business (iii) promoting local entrepreneurship (iv) capacity building and (v) developing the infrastructure.
45. Some specific policy actions for increasing access to finance will cover (i) introducing a partial guarantee scheme to provide loans to high private sector entities and (ii) establishing Funds to provide access to medium and long-term capital to support Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for women and youth.
46. In terms of reducing the cost and risks of doing business, my administration will (i) review all policies and laws governing business and update them in line with best practice (ii) broaden and deepen regulatory reforms in areas such as labour laws, property registration and licensing procedures (iii) sustain stable and competitive macro-economic environment (iv) review licensing procedures (v) capacitate the fast track commercial courts to reduce the time and cost of enforcing commercial contracts and (vi) provide mechanisms for low-cost alternative dispute resolution.
47. My administration will also promote local entrepreneurship through reviewing and implementing the Local Content Act to give preference to Sierra Leoneans in the award of contracts and employment. My Government will withdraw fiscal incentives from companies that do not comply with employment and local content laws.
Strengthening the Financial Sector
48. The financial sector is critical for any economic development. It pools and allocates resources to promote productivity and economic growth. Currently, there are 14 licensed functional banks in Sierra Leone. Only one of these (Sierra Leone Commercial Bank) is solely owned and another (Rokel Commercial Bank) is partly owned by the Government of Sierra Leone. One is entirely owned by Sierra Leoneans and all others are foreign dominated banks. These foreign dominated banks control 75% of financial sector assets.
49. Some of the challenges in the banking sector include weaknesses in the central bank, particularly in the area of banking regulation and supervision; weak infrastructure; weak policy and legal environment; inadequate bank coordination; shortage of skilled professionals; insufficient technological resources; a weak interbank market; the lack of payments mechanisms; absence of credit-risk information; inadequate short-term financial markets; absence of longer-term finance and foreign currency lending and ignorance of banking products and procedures.
50. My Government’s efforts to developing the financial sector will entail developing a strong, sound and effective banking system that will increase access to both short-term and long-term capital for investment purposes. My New Direction administration’s efforts will focus on (i) capacitating Bank of Sierra Leone (ii) strengthening commercial banks (iii) developing Micro-Finance Institutions (iv) commencing actions towards a re-establishing of a Development Bank and (v) strengthening Non-Bank Financial Institutions.
Human Development
51. Mr. Speaker, the New Direction recognises that human development is both a means and an end to development. Human capital development covers improving education and developing skills, improving health care, protecting the poor and vulnerable population groups.
Improving Education and Skills Training
52. The primary objective of the New Direction is to increase access to quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, technical and vocational education and training as well as university education that will enable them engage in meaningful productive economic activity. To demonstrate our commitment to education, my Government will increase and sustain budgetary allocation to education to a minimum of 20% of the national budget.
53. The change in the education system from 6-3-3-4 to 6-3-4-4 is challenging. The existing classroom blocks and teachers are not adequate to meet the needs of pupils for an additional year of schooling. This change in the educational system has also impacted on teenage pregnancy and early school leaving among girls who consider the number of years of schooling to be too many. There is no evidence to show that it has improved learning outcomes. Rather, it has imposed pressure on Government for additional classrooms and promoted teenage pregnancy. In fulfillment of my Manifesto commitment, we shall revert to the 6-3-3-4 system of education. The relevant authorities will advise when it will be best for this change to be effective. To improve on the system, My Government intends to increase contact hours, build additional classrooms, eliminate the two- shift system and develop technical and vocational education.
54. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am pleased to officially pronounce that effective next academic year starting September 2018, my Government will introduce Free Education from primary level to senior secondary school as promised. I have already engaged many of our partners for support of this programme and I am pleased to report that, our international and donor partners have expressed commitments to support my administration. To ensure effective coordination of support of this programme, Government will establish a Multi-Partner Education for Development Basket Fund. In support of this, two Committees will be established. First, a High Level Inter-Ministerial and Partners Group (IMPG) on Free Education comprising of relevant ministries and partners will be set up. This Group will provide the strategic guidance to the planning and design of the programme, mobilise resources and oversee the implementation. Second, a Technical Group (TG) on Education comprising professionals from the relevant MDAs and partner agencies will be established to design the programme, coordinate and monitor the implementation. The Technical Group will report to the High Level Inter- Ministerial and Partners Group.
55. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, improving education governance is critical for the success of the New Direction in education. To this end, my Government will (i) review the Education Sector Plan to ensure it is realigned with the priorities of the New Direction (ii) strengthen Education Management and Information System (EMIS) to support informed strategic decision-making (iii) develop a robust policy and legal framework for Public-Private-Partnership in the education sector (iv) develop the capacity of School Inspectorate for effective school monitoring and supervision (v) build the capacity of School Management Committees (SMC) (vi) de-politicise the Board of Governors of schools, redefine their roles, and introduce a compulsory reporting requirement (vii) respect and support the autonomy of the National Union of Students (NUSS) and (viii) promote social dialogue with relevant stakeholders in the education service delivery including the Sierra Leone Teachers Union.
56. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, none of us would have been here today without our greatest asset, teachers. Yet, they have been least recognized and least rewarded. This is demotivating. Let me simply state that without qualified teachers, our Free Education Programme will not be fully implemented. In the New Direction, Government will raise the morale and productivity of our teachers. To this end, I hereby pronounce a Presidential Initiative for Teachers. The Initiative will ensure that matters relating to teachers are treated with utmost importance. Additionally, my administration will (i) review and make functional the Teaching Service Commission (ii) develop a special incentive scheme for Science and French teachers as well as teachers in remote areas and those in special needs institutions (iii) introduce THE BEST TEACHER Award Scheme for the most innovative, ingenious and dedicated teachers at national and district levels (iv) provide free university education for three children of every school teacher with at least 10 years’ teaching experience.
57. There is limited number of qualified teachers at all levels. Only 55 percent of teachers at pre-school level, 42 percent at primary level, 35 percent at Junior Secondary School, 49% at Senior Secondary School, are qualified to teach. Increasing the number of qualified teachers and ensuring fair distribution amongst districts is critical for the successful implementation of our Free Education Programme. In support of this, my administration will establish Teacher Training campuses in all districts, expand and improve on distance learning education for teachers and provide free tuition for teacher education.
58. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the amounts of public spending on fee subsidy for university education is unsustainable. Whilst we will improve on the management of the Grants-in-Aid policy, my administration will introduce Students Loan Scheme that will provide loans to deserving students to access higher education.
59. Mr. Speaker, Free Education will increase demand for school. As a progressive Government, we need to prepare for the anticipated increase in school enrolment. Therefore, my administration will adopt a policy of One-Administrative Section-One Primary School, One-Electoral Ward-One Junior Secondary School and One-Electoral Constituency-One-Senior Secondary School. Additionally, my Government will construct new classroom blocks in urban towns to reduce congestion in schools and eventually eliminate the two-shift system in the next few years.
60. To sustain high school enrolment and improve learning, my administration will work with World Food Programme and other food agencies as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to expand school feeding programmes in all public assisted primary schools.
61. The cost of transportation constitutes a major share of urban household expenditure on education. This high cost of urban transportation causes lateness and affect school attendance which further affect learning. My Government will re-introduce school bus system in large urban towns on a cost recovery basis and less than the prevailing market price.
62. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, the high level of adult illiteracy in Sierra Leone estimated at 60 percent is unacceptable in any progressive nation. As part of my commitment to education, my administration will work with partners to develop and implement cost effective strategies for providing basic literacy and numeracy training for our adults who were not fortunate to attend school. Some of these will include (i) initially establishing one functional adult literacy centre in every district and later expanding to every chiefdom using existing school facilities and (ii) integrating literacy programmes into agricultural and livelihood programmes.
63. The New Direction believes that training is the foundation for enhancing the country’s competitiveness. To this end, my Government will (i) review and standardise the curriculum and certification for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) (ii) develop a national apprenticeship scheme which can provide internship for trainees of TVET institutes and at the same time provide direct training for youth and (iii) develop a robust Public-Private-Partnership framework to increase private sector participation in TVET training. Also, my Government will establish in every district capital one Polytechnic Institution that will be fully equipped with modern tools and equipment for technical vocational education and training in areas with high potential for job creation.
64. Mr. Speaker, the conditions of our institutions of higher learning and in particular the citadel of knowledge, University of Sierra Leone and Njala University are deplorable. We have lost the glory of being the Athens of West Africa. We require urgent actions to develop our Universities and all other higher institutions. Already, my Government has created a separate Ministry of Technical and Higher Education that will solely focus on technical and higher education. My intention is to establish a university system that employs its own leadership as chancellors and Vice Chancellors with distinguished and proven records of higher education leadership and significant international clout and contacts (funding and research networks). In this light, effective 2019, I as President will cease to be the Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone. In the coming months, the 2005 Universities Act will be reviewed to reflect this and many other changes where necessary.
65. Science and Technology is the bedrock for the development of any modern economy. Unfortunately, in Sierra Leone, the schools and colleges lack even the basic facilities for scientific research. My Government is setting up a Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation to develop a framework for scientific research. Initially, this Directorate will be midwifed in the Office of the President but shall work closely with the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education.
66. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, one of the reasons for attitudinal challenges is limited civic education among the population. This is compounded by mass illiteracy among the population. If we are to develop as a nation, we must educate our people on rights, responsibilities and obligations as good citizens. To this end, my Government will launch a National Civic Education Programme to provide civic education in our educational institutions and communities. Additionally, my administration will direct that civics be re-introduced in our schools and colleges, comprehensive curriculum for all levels will be developed and civic educators be provided training to cascade the training in schools.
67. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, life expectancy in 2015 was estimated at 50 years compared to 53 in neighbouring Liberia and 59 in Guinea. According to the Demographic and Health Survey (2008), infant mortality rate increased from 89 per 1,000 in 2008 to 92 per 1,000 in 2013 and under-five mortality rose from 140 per 1,000 in 2008 to 156 in 2013. Maternal mortality was 1,165 per 100,000 live births in 2013 compared to 857 in 2008. WHO even estimated maternal mortality at 1,360 per 100,000 live births and puts Sierra Leone as least on the child survival league table. Two (2) out of every five (5) maternal deaths is due to teenage pregnancy.
68. The figures above indicate that the Free Health Care launched in 2010 has not created the desired impact. There are still reports of leakages in the distribution of drugs, limited manpower to provide health care and poor incentive for the limited staff and probably wrong entry point to reduce
mortality among children and mothers. Despite the health system strengthening efforts under the Post-Ebola Recovery Strategy, healthcare services delivery remains gloomy. The health sector continues to be plagued by limited public investment and untimely disbursement, weak human resource base, weaknesses in disease prevention, control and surveillance, poor service delivery and poor governance.
69. The strategic objective of the health sector in the New Direction is to transform the under-resourced, ill-equipped, dysfunctional and inadequate health infrastructure and healthcare delivery system to make it high quality, efficient, reliable, cost-effective, affordable and sustainable. The thrust of the New Direction is increasing access for all the population (particularly mothers, children and the elderly) to quality health services in an equitable and efficient manner. The focus will be on (i) health governance (ii) health financing (iii) human resource (iv) free health care (v) disease prevention and control and (vi) service delivery.
70. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my administration will implement the following (i) strengthen Health Management and Information System (HMIS) to support informed strategic decision-making, planning and programme development, monitoring and coordination (ii) develop a robust policy and legal framework for Public-Private-Partnership in the health sector (iii) review laws and policies relating to regulatory bodies such as the Medical and Dental Association and make them more functional (iv) promote dialogue with relevant stakeholders in the health sector including but not limited to the Sierra Leone Health Service Workers Union, the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association and the Nurses and Midwives Association.
71. If we are to reverse the appalling statistics in the health sector, we need to increase both public and private investment in the sector. Accordingly, my Government will take the following measures (i) raise the current public spending on health and sanitation from its current level of less than 10 percent to 15 percent as required by the Abuja Declaration and ensure timely disbursement of allocated resources (ii) review and implement the National Health Insurance Scheme (iii) strengthen the management and coordination of all resources allocated to the health sector and effectively track all donor resources to the sector and (iv) develop public- private sector framework for health care service delivery.
72. Our health care workers constitute the most important input in the sector. Specific action will include (i) strengthening Health Service Commission and developing a comprehensive Human Development Plan that would ensure the immediate absorption of trained health workers in the public service (ii) improving on the conditions of health workers for all categories to attract and retain them (iv) developing special incentive scheme for trained medical doctors and health workers working in remote areas.
73. The figures above also indicate that the Free Health Care launched in 2010 has not created the desired impact. There are still reports of leakages in the distribution of drugs. To address this malaise, my Government will strengthen national, district and community-based monitoring of free health care drugs and services.
74. Preventive health care saves costs. Therefore, my administration will institute cost effective disease prevention measures. Already, we have re-introduced National Cleaning Day. My administration will closely work with local councils to strengthen the cleaning, collection and depositing of garbage. To support regular cleaning exercise, my Government will support sanitary inspectors under the supervision of local councils.
75. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, Government spends huge amount of foreign exchange on basic diagnosis of diseases and treatment of severe ailments overseas. To save cost and increase citizen’s access to quality health care services, my Government will (i) equip laboratory facilities in all district hospitals with modern equipment and materials for testing and x-ray facilities and (ii) provide modern equipment including CT and MRI scanning and other diagnosis and treatment equipment in all regional hospitals.
76. Despite the many donations of ambulances during the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, it is disappointing to note that to date, we do not have a National Ambulance Service. We still do not have a clear number of ambulances. In the next few months, my Government will conclude arrangements for a National Ambulance Service.
77. Mr. Speaker, the New Direction particularly notes the rise in teenage pregnancy and its calamitous implication for maternal mortality and the development of our female population. About 15 percent of our girls have sexual intercourse before 15 years; our adolescent pregnancies are among the Top 10 countries in the world and about 28 percent of adolescent women age 15-19 years are already mothers or pregnant and 44 percent of girls are married before 18 years. About 44 percent of pregnancies below 20 are lost after 7 months of gestation or babies die within 7 days of life. Teenage pregnancy accounts for 40 percent of maternal deaths. To address this serious problem, my administration will launch a National Programme on Sexual and Reproductive Health for adolescents to reduce teenage pregnancy and the alarming maternal mortality. In addition, my Government will initiate discussions towards the re- introduction of Family Life Education in schools.
78. Sierra Leone’s population is mostly youthful. Youth, that is, persons 15-35 years, account for about 33 percent of the country’s population and represent about 67 percent of the economically active population of which 67 percent are unemployed. Our youth are untrained and lack the skills required in the job market.
79. Overcoming youth unemployment will be at the centre of our fight against poverty and our efforts to consolidate peace. In the New Direction, the youth problem will not only receive our topmost priority, but will also be viewed as a human development and security challenge. It is our view that stimulating job creation requires a holistic approach. Our approach will be integrated and coherent. Specifically, in addition to scholarship scheme, my Government will (i) develop Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to provide technical skills to youth in areas relevant for the job market as earlier elaborated on Education and Training (ii) review the current design of the National Youth Service and support its implementation (iii) establish a special Youth Empowerment Fund to support youth engaged in small and medium scale entrepreneurial ventures (iv) promote youth engagement in agriculture through the provision of direct support in the form of finance, market information, technology and technical advice to youth (including agricultural graduates) to engage in commercial agriculture and agro-processing activities.
Music and Performing Arts
80. Mr. Speaker, despite its huge potential to create jobs, past Governments have done very little to promote music and the performing arts. Overall, the policy and legal environment is weak. The past Government legislated the piracy law but failed to put in place the necessary mechanisms for enforcement. Piracy is still very rampant as the copyrights laws are not enforced and the infrastructure is not attractive to investors. The National Dance Troupe which used to be the cultural ambassadors of our nation has been rendered dysfunctional largely because of their eviction from the Aberdeen Cultural Village. There are limited studios for music and film production and no auditorium for musical shows and screening of films. Low private investment in music and the performing arts is due to a combination of factors including the weak policy and legal environment, particularly the seditious libel law. In addition, training in music and the performing arts is not done by most schools and colleges.
81. To promote music and performing arts, my Government will (i) review and enforce the copyright laws (ii) review policies and establish standards for promotion of music and performing arts (iii) establish a National Arts Gallery and Theatre for Performing Arts (iv) promote Sierra Leonean music and musicians nationally and internationally and maintain good business ethics in the industry (v) re-establish and develop cultural village.
82. There has been a dramatic decline in sports over the past decade. The critical challenge facing sports development include weak policy and legal environment, and constant crisis in the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) largely because of political interference. For many years now, we cannot even organise national competitions in football and athletics and there has been virtual elimination of physical education in schools. Consequently, Sierra Leone has not qualified for any major international sporting competition in recent years.
83. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government will (i) review the policy and legal environment for sports development (ii) increase budgetary support to sporting activities, football, athletics, cricket, volley ball and basketball (iii) establish a Sports Development Fund that will be financed from various sources including corporate establishments and international sporting organisations and Government (iv) develop and implement a comprehensive capacity building programme for all sporting disciplines (v) reactivate school and community sporting activities with a view to identifying and developing talents for national and international competitions (vi) recommence national competition for all sporting activities.
84. Women account for 51 percent of the population and face major challenges in their communities to access justice, social and economic opportunities and seek their overall advancement. Specifically, the challenges of women include (a) gender-based violence (b) barriers to women’s economic empowerment, especially in terms of access to markets, training, finance, infrastructure, technology, education, counseling and entrepreneurship development (c) exploitative or hazardous forms of the livelihood of poor, unskilled women and girls, especially commercial sex workers (d) inadequate sensitisation and education on gender and development issues and (e) low political participation as a result of socio- cultural, educational, legal and policy environment and economic factors.
85. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, in the New Direction, my government will promote gender equality, equity, empowerment, and the protection of the rights of women either as mainstreamed interventions or as stand-alone initiatives. Our specific actions will be to (i) provide training and educational opportunities for our women (ii) establish a Women’s Development Fund to support female entrepreneurs (iii) promote women in agriculture through direct support to them for farming and agro- processing activities (iv) provide improved facilities for fish processing and poultry, and promoting female access to land and other strategic resources (v) transform the Gender Directorate into National Commission for Gender Affairs.
Persons Living with Disability and our Aged
86. The most disadvantaged group in Sierra Leone is the physically challenged. Although the last Parliament enacted the Disability Bill, no concrete action was taken by the out-going Government to provide basic services to persons living with disability or even implement the provisions of the Act. To date, the basic structures for implementing the Act are weak. Government budgetary allocation is low and actual disbursements are not regular. Additionally, support by NGOs is limited and restricted to provincial capitals.
87. In the New Direction, the SLPP government will (i) review and implement policies and laws relating to disability, especially making public facilities disability friendly (ii) review and improve incentives for Teachers in Special Needs Institutions (iii) provide free health care for the physically challenged and the aged (iv) provide livelihood support to persons living with disability for economic empowerment.
88. Government recognises that childhood is a one-time opportunity for physical, mental, emotional and social development. Some of the critical child protection issues identified in the New Direction are sexual based violence, teenage pregnancy, early and forced marriage, child trafficking and child labour.
89. In the New Direction, my Government will ensure a Child-First approach for the survival, protection and development of children, including those living with disability and vulnerable children. Specifically, my administration will implement policy actions and programmes to address (i) sexual violence (ii) teenage pregnancy (iii) child marriage (iv) orphans and vulnerable children (v) child trafficking and (vi) child labour and juvenile justice.
90. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my administration will embark on the following child protection measures (i) review and increase budgetary resource
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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.


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