*_‼Question Marks over JJ Saffa’s Bread & Butter Issues_*
*_A Commentary By Ranger_*
Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa was grilled on recently by the presenter of Radio Democracy ‘Good Morning Salone’ program on Wednesday 5th December 2018 on the New Direction 2018 election campaign promise of solving the country’s bread and butter issues.
In the past six months, the New Direction government has made very impressive gains in the finance sector which is commendable by any previous government’s standard.
This has led to the IMF giving Sierra Leone a vital financial lifeline of almost $200 million over the next two years to cushion the effects of inflation and to induce robust economic growth activities.
However, what worries the population is that they want to see the government translate these impressive economic gains into welfare gains – primary amongst this, food, and specifically rice.
Economically, the distribution of gains remains a challenge. The pace of poverty reduction has been very slow, not due to this government’s neglect but the bad macroeconomic policies of the former government that this one is trying very hard to remedy within the shortest possible time.
In terms of their welfare, when asked what they consider the most important problem that government should address, many Sierra Leonean youths identified poverty and unemployment as their top priority; followed by health, education, housing, water and transportation.
Unemployment, corruption, crime and security, housing, and other economic issues concerns they added that water supply, health, agriculture, infrastructure, and food featuring prominently in poor rural communities is lacking.
For the majority of the people, what they stress on is bread and butter issues that directly affect their family’s day-to-day survival with poverty, jobs, food, water, health, education added to the list.
The educated see the fight against corruption as critically important but regard democracy as the essential means for bringing about transparency and accountability.
Many however said that corruption still remains rife, especially in the police force and in the judiciary and they also said that they want to see President Bio do something drastic to reform these two vital state arms if the rule of law is to be strengthened and lawlessness and impunity put under control.
What do these findings mean for development? First, satisfaction with gains made so far would be premature. Ensuring that the benefits of political, economic, and social progress reach the poorest citizens remains an especially pressing challenge.
Second, addressing everyday “bread and butter” issues and supporting democracy and better governance are both essential and complementary goals that the people – literate and illiterate, rich and poor – believe the Bio Government must vigorously and relentlessly pursue if it is to succeed to drag the country out of poverty, greed and selfishness and lift it into shared prosperity.