Sierra Leone’s Economy Is Now In The Gutters

Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)

If the king’s wife tells you that her husband has planted his royal seed inside their chief cook’s garden; who are you to deny without doing any DNA paternity test?

This is true for the recent survey conducted by the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR), which has finally painted the economic picture of Sierra Leone as it really is under the watchful watch of President Julius Maada Bio and his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government.

Before the June 24 general elections this year, the IGR had published two surveys, dated 29 May and14 June 2023 respectively, in which it appeared to have given the Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), Mohamed Konneh, the blueprint which he seemed to have eventually used to perform the electoral sleight of hand in announcing the final Presidential election results on 27 June 2023.

In hindsight, those predictions in those two IGR surveys prior to the June 24 elections had auras of witchcraft that could only be matched by those performed in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Examining the bastardized manner in which Mr Konneh performed that electoral sleight of hand gives me the hypothetical feeling that Mr Konneh and the IGR might have sat in a round table (or probably a square one), with Sierra Leone’s electoral map stretched between them, and apportioned percentages reminiscent of the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885 where the colonial powers partitioned Africa!

Most critical Sierra Leonean minds, who religiously followed the IGR surveys prior to the June 24 elections, with the religiosity of Catholic acolytes, are still holding the theoretical standpoint that the IGR appears to be complicit in Mr Konneh’s electoral sleight of hand. They may not have had hard evidence to prove any complicity but the near parallelisms between those two IGR surveys (29 May and14 June 2023) and the final results announced by Mr Konneh are enough reasons to harbour such suspicions of complicity.

But with this latest survey, dated 14 September 2023, it seems the IGR has atoned for its supposedly sins. Under the subhead “Economy and overall direction of the country”, the IGR doesn’t mince its words. It doesn’t even try to use euphemisms. And it doesn’t even attempt at whitewashing the fact of the facts. It goes straight to the hearts of majority of ordinary Sierra Leoneans: “….Nearly 9 out of every 10 Sierra Leoneans (87%) are worried about the economy. Continuous rise in prices of food and essential commodities, coupled with the depreciation of the Leone, and more recently, a steep 40% increase in fuel prices in one month alone have eaten deep into livelihoods of almost every household….” This could be likened to a home truth from a home boy! Or in my “Soja Tong” colloquialism: “E tan lek way witchman dae prove witch”!

That portion of the IGR’s 14 September 2023 survey cannot be contested even by opinionated SLPP eggheads or sheep-heads. Because it is as realistic as it is palpable! No one can deny the fact that majority of Sierra Leoneans are worse off economically today than they were seven years ago. This is because the Bio-led administration appears to be clueless on economic matters. President Bio seems to be a captain who appears to be perennially sleepy on the rudder, which is why the ship of state is now directionless.

This directionlessness of the ship of state is not lost on the 1,200 respondents whose feelings are captured in the IGR survey, under review, thus: “….almost 3 out of 4 (72%) Sierra Leoneans say the country is going in the wrong direction….During the early days of the Bio administration, in 2018, less than half (45%) of the population expressed such concerns. Strikingly, the latest data reveals a 27-percentage-point decline in confidence in the direction of the country since Bio assumed power in 2018….” Again, these are facts that cannot be spun. And no amount of crude propaganda from, and by, SLPP apologists on both national radio and TV can whitewash these factual facts. This portion of the IGR survey has hit at the heart of the matter like a professional sniper eventually hitting an impregnable target!

This subhead, “Economy and overall direction of the country”, of the latest IGR survey has not only killed the SLPP government’s lame propaganda of the Russia-Ukraine War as being the reason for its inability to solve the bread and butter issues in Sierra Leone, but has figuratively taken that lame propaganda from the gas chamber to the crematorium. This survey has finally revealed that, “a record-high 87% of the population expressed deep concerns about the country’s economic performance, with 7 in 10 (72%) believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction….” In disrobed language: Sierra Leone is economically doomed, and will always be doomed, today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow under the watchful watch of the Bio-led government!

And that doomsday doom was expressed in the World Food Programme (WFP)’s “State Of Food Security In Sierra Leone 2020: Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis” Report. In it, we are told that, “Sierra Leone has a serious level of hunger…. Over 4.7 million people out of a population of just over 7 million in Sierra Leone are food insecure. Sierra Leone has the highest hunger levels in West Africa….”

Coming back to the IGR’s survey of 14 September 2023, I will not comment on the third portion of it, titled: “Election results”, because it’s déjà vu. As I see it, most of what is presented there appears to be muffled echoes of the Institute’s 29 May and14 June 2023 surveys. A close examination may reveal that this portion might have been the cardinal reason for the survey itself but the researchers had to beat about the bush before eventually taking the road not taken earlier!

And the swiftness with which persons from the IGR and the ruling SLPP have gone on both national radio and TV to elucidate on the IGR’s three-pager survey has raised red flags. Throughout their discussions, or elucidations if you will, the over-emphasized emphases on the “Election results” and the “Demand for democracy” portions in the survey tell trained minds that everything is being choreographed!  

But to give the devil his due; the IGR’s survey of 14 September 2023 appears to have striven, a little bit, towards some semblance of objectivity. And it is somehow reflective of the current economic situation in Sierra Leone. So, it could be likened to the king’s wife telling me that her husband has impregnated their chief cook. But knowing how connected the queen is to the king’s inner circle; I have no reasons to ask for a DNA paternity test!;

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