The Sierra Leone Web


Friday 18th JUNE 2004

1. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, it is a great honour and privilege for me to join you in this Chamber to deliver an address on this occasion of the State Opening of Parliament. I particularly appreciate the opportunity it gives me to present to you an account of our efforts to manage the affairs of our nation and the challenges we faced in the preceding year.

2. Mr. Speaker, the significance of this occasion goes far beyond the present Parliament. While the occasion itself calls for a statement of account of the stewardship of our nation over the past year, it also represents a critical stage in a long process that began in 1996 when I took office as Head of State and vowed that together we would lift our nation from the quagmire of conflict, poverty and underdevelopment.

3. I will be sharing with you progress that we were able to make in such areas as consolidating peace and security, the development of democracy and good governance, developments in education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, the economy, and the judiciary, addressing the perennial problems of corruption, among others. We encountered significant challenges over the period, especially due to the impact on the nation of an unstable and ever-changing external environment. Nonetheless, our hard work, resilience and commitment to our objectives enabled us to register notable achievements in many areas.

4. Today I will also present to you my Government's programme and vision for the coming year. I look forward to the close scrutiny of this address by Parliament, as it always provides useful insights that will guide us in the execution of programmes that are dedicated to the full realization of our common aspirations of a peaceful and prosperous nation.

5. When we finally concluded the war in 2002, we set ourselves specific goals in pursuit of sustained peace and national development. A peaceful and stable environment is a pre-requisite for national development. Our greatest concern, as I said in this honourable chamber last year, was how to maintain the peace we had fought so hard to achieve and at the same time safeguard the security of this country. We have taken significant steps over the year in this direction. Mr. Speaker, Honourable members, for a start, I am pleased to inform you that the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme was successfully completed in February this year. A total of 72,490 combatants were disarmed and 71,043 demobilized including 6,845 child soldiers. By end of February also 55,122 ex-combatants had received support for their reintegration into active community life. This is a remarkable achievement for which, I wish to thank every Sierra Leonean, and our international partners in development for working towards realizing our objectives of maintaining peace and security.

6. Cooperation with our international partners has enabled us to build robust Military and Police Forces that are now far more capable of conducting effective operations throughout the nation. Significant progress made towards achieving the benchmarks set by the United Nations Security Council for the eventual departure of UNAMSIL, is testimony of my Government's commitment to ensuring that Sierra Leone's sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity are never again compromised. I should like to reiterate our grateful thanks to UNAMSIL and those countries that are contributing to IMATT, particularly the United Kingdom. We shall never forget the invaluable contribution of ECOMOG to our peace process.

7. While thanking fellow Sierra Leoneans on this tremendous achievement, Let me at the same time remind all of us that the price for freedom is the relentless effort every one must invest in its preservation. To enjoy the full benefits of Unity, Freedom and Justice, we must be prepared to pay the price and sacrifice "the self" for the common good. Good governance, I must say, can only be achieved through good citizenship. A good citizen is one who takes advantage of his/her Rights and fulfils his/her Obligations to himself/herself, to one another and to the state. A good citizen is one who imbibes the principles of honesty, sincerity and integrity; one who does not reach out for political and economic gains by propagating falsehood and dishonesty. A good citizen must be law-abiding. Without good citizenship, peace, stability, development and indeed good governance will remain a distant dream.

8. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, it is now my honour to share with you the main achievements, on-going efforts and challenges of my government during the past year in the governance of our nation. I will also use this occasion to highlight the vision of Government and give indications as to how we can all work together towards achieving good governance and prosperity for this country.

Mr. Speaker,
9. In this year's address I will not be presenting a resume of each sector, Ministry or Department as my Ministers have already given in the cause of the year detailed accounts of progress in their Ministries to Parliament and the nation. Rather, I will simply provide highlights of some of the very important Government activities and programmes.

Mr. Speaker,
10. As we continue to secure gains from our hard won peace, economic development and security remain the paramount concerns of our foreign policy. It is essential that we continue to intensify multilateral cooperation and bilateral engagements with our development partners, so as to accelerate our economic growth and social stability. In that vein I am delighted to say that while we continue to receive cooperation from the Governments of the United Kingdom, the USA, Nigeria, China and other friendly states, the German Embassy, which was closed in Freetown about a decade ago, has now been reopened. Early this month, France also reopened its Embassy in Freetown. Ireland will open a development office to serve Sierra Leone and Liberia. Other countries are expressing an interest in opening diplomatic missions in Sierra Leone. These developments clearly signal the high level of assured confidence and stability that currently exists in Sierra Leone.

11. In May this year, I joined President Lansana Conte of Guinea and Chairman Bryant of Liberia at a very productive Mano River Union Summit in Conakry, Guinea. The Presidents of Cote d'Ivoire and Mali attended as observers. The resumption of dialogue under the auspices of the Mano River Union highlights our collective desire to build regional peace and security. I took the opportunity to clear up the issue of Yenga with President Conte who offered to dispatch an envoy to work with our Minister of Internal Affairs to seek to finally resolve this long-outstanding boundary issue. It will be recalled that negotiations on this matter started some thirty years ago but were inconclusive. Mr. Speaker, my Government is fully committed to the resuscitation and effective functioning of the Mano River Union.

12. There are yet still expanding opportunities that Sierra Leone can, and will, seek to utilize through appropriate diplomatic channels. We shall continue to vigorously reach out to friendly nations in order to explore these opportunities. We remain appreciative of those Governments that have supported our development efforts, security and stability. We also appreciate their cooperation in other areas.


13. Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, alongside my Government's concern for the peace and security of our country, the issue of good governance also rated highly on our agenda for national reconstruction. It is now my honour to share with you the main achievements of my Government in promoting good governance in our country in the past year. I will also use this occasion to highlight the vision of Government and give indications as to how we can all work together towards achieving good governance for this country.

14. Considering the poor state of governance at the time when we took up office, we deemed it necessary to take good governance as a cardinal element in the administration of the country. Good Governance involves, among other things, consultation with and participation of citizens in managing the affairs of the public realm and their local communities. A cardinal feature of Good Governance is that it allows the people to choose their leaders without fear, intimidation or undue interference from any Pressure Group. Every citizen must be permitted to freely exercise his or her rights to realize his or her full potential.

15. That is why my Government committed itself, from its inception, to the re-instatement of decentralization of governance and a democratic local government system. On this note, I am pleased to inform you Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members that my Government has finally fulfilled the promise we made to you and the nation from this podium last year, that is to say, to restore to our people their democratic local government institutions which were dissolved some 32 years ago. In that regard the Local Government Act recently enacted has finally re-established those institutions thereby empowering Councillors and local communities to take control of the management of their own affairs. And, what is more, we have just successfully conducted a nation-wide election of councilors for district, town and city councils throughout the country, which is a necessary step towards re-constituting these bastions of local governance. Permit me to say, that it is particularly gratifying that all registered political parties and independent groups or persons were free to field candidates anywhere and everywhere they wished to, that at least one political party did so in all wards throughout the country which showed that it enjoys support nationwide. In this way we can all help to bring about national cohesion which other political parties will hopefully emulate in future. On the whole we are proud to say that the elections themselves were free and fair and very peaceful indeed.

16. I take this opportunity to congratulate each and every one of us for the peaceful way in which we, by and large, conducted ourselves during those elections, just as we had done in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections of 2002. These two elections in addition to the recent paramount chieftaincy elections have sent a strong and positive signal to the rest of the world that we have made considerable progress in realizing one of our objectives of organizing violence-free and democratic elections. Let us all hope that we shall build on this new political culture and sustain it. By that same token, Sierra Leone once again re-asserted itself as a worthy member of that very select community of civilized democratic nations of the world. My Government will continue its relentless effort in encouraging Sierra Leoneans to pursue this path at all times, as a matter of course.

Mr. Speaker,
17. A critical element in upholding the values of good governance and free and peaceful elections is my Government's consistent policy of actively encouraging the resolution of public issues through free and open debates in the print and electronic media, both public and private alike. Indeed, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and the recognition and protection of human rights have continued to be part of our political culture during my Government's life. The role of civil society as an unfettered and vibrant partner in development is fully recognized and supported by my Government at all times. I ask well meaning and knowledgeable Sierra Leoneans to join the ranks of civil society so as to enrich the contribution of this vital institution in the country.


Mr Speaker,
18. At Independence and immediately thereafter, our Civil Service was an efficient institution. Civil servants were highly motivated and were committed to the service of this nation. Accordingly, public esteem in the service was high. Regrettably, the same cannot be said of our Civil Service today. Over the years, we have in various ways overseen, participated in and/or witnessed the degeneration of the service into an inefficient institution plagued with a host of problems. As the bulwark of Government, the problems of our Civil Service have to be addressed, if we are to ensure an efficient implementation of development policies as well as an effective delivery of services. It is essential that we transform our Civil Service into a proactive institution to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

19. In our search for excellence, I appointed, in September last year, a Commission on the Restructuring of the Senior Civil Service. The Commission has completed its task, and its recommendations have provided the basis for Government to take radical steps to reform the Civil Service, particularly at the managerial level. Very shortly, a Senior Executive Service cadre of highly trained, sufficiently motivated and committed Civil Service will be established. The SES will have a performance-based character, providing opportunities for merit-based recruitment and a reward system contingent upon performance. As a radical departure from the current Civil Service, the new Civil Service will accommodate lateral entry and encourage accelerated promotion for high achievers. It will have no place for those who do not satisfy performance requirements.

20. Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, in short, the Civil Service that will be led and managed by the SES will be performance-oriented, where recruitment, posting and promotion will be transparent, fair and devoid of nepotism. Henceforth the guiding principle for advancement in the Civil Service will be based on meritrocacy and not length of service only.


21. The struggle to eradicate corruption has been a major preoccupation of my Government. We promulgated the Anti-Corruption Act in February 2000 establishing an Anti-Corruption Commission. Then last year I declared corruption a national security issue - a threat to the security of Sierra Leone. This was intended to underscore the gravity of the problem and its effects on the economic, social and political stability of the country. Prior to enacting the legislation, the mere mention of the word corruption was a taboo. We have come a long way.

22. Corruption has been a scourge and like a cancer, eating into the very fabric of government and society. It thrives at the expense of stability and economic development. It particularly deprives the poor who are made to pay the greater price.

23. I am fully aware that the task of fighting and suppressing corruption is difficult but not impossible. It can and must be done. In the final analysis it is the duty of every Sierra Leonean, and all those who are genuinely interested in alleviating the poor economic and social plight of our people to help remove the scourge of corruption.

24. I am also aware that the activities of the Anti-Corruption Commission since its inception in 2000 have attracted a lot of public attention and opinions of varying shades. One thing that is of certainty though is that there is now a general awareness of my government's stand against corruption and its intolerance of the looting of our national resources by public and commercial predators.

25. The Anti-Corruption Commission has a mandate to investigate instances of alleged or suspected corruption, and take such steps as may be necessary for the eradication or suppression of corrupt practices. In order to achieve this mandate a three-pronged strategy has been put in place: Education, Prevention and Enforcement.

26. In the area of Education, there is distinct evidence of a higher level of awareness regarding the ills of corruption with the victims being the poor and deprived; that corruption is increasingly becoming a high-risk venture.

27. The Corruption Prevention Department has been able to identify a number of generic issues that have emerged from Ministerial and Departmental analysis. A significant outcome is the write-up of "Best Practice Guides" which are aimed at ensuring the highest quality of service delivery and management of these institutions. These guidelines will also help to maintain public confidence in service delivery and serve as audit trails for future monitoring exercises.

28. In the area of Enforcement the Consultative Group benchmark of 50% reduction of caseload were achieved during the year. Four hundred and fifteen investigations were started, out of which 225 were closed because of insufficient evidence. Four convictions were obtained in Magistrate Court, with eleven cases on going, while five convictions were obtained in the High Court, with 2 cases still in progress. The appointment in October 2003 of a special High Court Judge to enhance the trial of corruption cases has contributed in no small measure to the success rate achieved above.

29. With regards to coalition building, Civil Society has a critical part to play in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. Corruption is often perceived as a menace only in government and among government officials, but in reality, corruption should also be looked for in the entire society including the private sector. The Commission will continue with its dedicated policy of enriching and strengthening its liaison and activities with Civil Society. We shall look forward to any initiative from Parliament for amendments to the Act that may help us achieve our objective.

30. It is also worth mentioning at this point, two significant developments on the international level in the forms of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption which came into being in mid 2003, and the UN Convention which was adopted by the UN General Assembly later that same year. While the AU Convention provides a formula to pursue a common penal policy aimed at protecting society against corruption, including the adoption of appropriate legislative and adequate preventive measures, the UN Convention on the other hand constitutes the very first global Anti-Corruption Legal Instrument. It stipulates a number of preventive measures to fight corruption and requests all UN member states to establish as criminal offences, such acts as bribery, embezzlement, money laundering and obstruction of justice. We have signed both Conventions.


Mr. Speaker,
31. Consistent with my resolution since assuming the Presidency of this country, my Government has continued to make impressive progress in reviving the economy. Economic activity is rapidly recovering particularly in the key sectors of agriculture, mining, construction, transport and communications. These are the essential sectors for driving growth, poverty reduction and sustained development.

32. In this context, the macroeconomic framework for the next three years targets a further increase in real GDP Growth rate from 5.5% in 2003 to about 6.8% in 2004 and an average rate of about 7% in 2005 and 2006. Unfortunately however, we are currently witnessing a period of inflationary pressures after having brought inflation significantly under control over the last five years. This inflation reversal is substantially due to the unexpected higher prices for petroleum products and imported rice as well as the pass through effects of very expensive bank credit and the depreciation of our local currency vis-à-vis the United States Dollar. We are taking all necessary steps to minimize the impact on our people.

33. Fiscal Policy has been prudent with continued improvement in fiscal performance, including additional funding for critical spending priorities, especially development expenditures. The fiscal programme of my Government will continue to focus on growth while contributing to macro economic stability. The programme targets higher economic expenditure especially on infrastructure, power and water supply, construction and rehabilitation of public buildings, schools, hospitals and health centers. Government will also target lower current spending and overall budget deficit. Given the daunting nature of post-conflict reconstruction and the serious developmental and social challenges facing our country, efforts will go towards aggressive revenue mobilization and effective tax administration. Government will also continue to ensure full accountability and transparency in the management of public funds. Monetary policy will be restrained to reinforce inflation control. A responsive commercial bank lending and interest rate policy will be pursued to cater to the very large financing needs of the private sector especially for Sierra Leonean business people. Government will strengthen and strongly support the activities of the National Revenue Authority and the National Commission for Privatization.

34. Government will continue to create the conditions necessary for trade and private sector development which is key for breaking away from our dependence on exporting primary commodities and moving to the promotion of value-added goods.

Mr. Speaker,
35. Poverty Reduction is the overarching goal for my Government, strongly supported by our development partners, and its centrality is being reconfirmed in our full poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP), which is currently being prepared. It is now generally acknowledged that growth can only be truly sustained when poverty is explicitly taken into account in all government decision-making processes. In this respect, the importance of focusing on rural development as a means of reducing poverty in our country is clearly demonstrated by the fact that more than three-quarters of our total poor live in rural areas. In our circumstances, poverty reduction is particularly facilitated by indirect or multiplier effects of agricultural growth, gender equity, and empowerment of the physically challenged. Government is fully aware that politically empowering the poor and vulnerable groups is not enough to improve their livelihood unless they are able to find ways of making a living to feed their families, send their children to school, access medical facilities, provide affordable accommodation and improve their quality of life.

Mr. Speaker,
36. My Minister of Finance will in his next budget statement articulate the appropriate measures and mechanisms aimed at achieving sustained growth and poverty reduction. Domestic actions will include maintaining good economic performance and corporate governance, and pursuing pro-poor growth policies, while supporting private sector development both foreign and indigenous. Our relations with the international community should include calling for more effective measures to address our debt problem, provide increased and diversified market access for our exports and enhance mutual accountability. Government will continue to depend heavily on the joint Development Partnership Committee (DEPAC) as a framework for improving partnership cooperation in the reconstruction of Sierra Leone.

Mr. Speaker,
37. We continue to be aware of the importance of trade as a vehicle for economic growth and social development. Consequently, over the past year we have placed added emphasis in developing this area. I am happy to report that we are reaping tangible benefits from our efforts.

38. Our bilateral ties with the Government of the People's Republic of China were strengthened over the past year. This has led to the signing of a Joint Venture Agreement between a group of companies from China and the government of Sierra Leone, for the establishment of an Industrial and Economic Zone within the old National Workshop Complex. This venture will provide jobs here in Sierra Leone, by the twenty or more industries that will be established within the zone. Added benefits will include an improvement of our export opportunities, and the availability of relatively less costly goods for the local market.

39. Several other Chinese companies have indicated an interest to commence operations in Sierra Leone. They have expressed a desire to engage in various ventures, including the construction of an assembly plant for the production of tractors and other agricultural equipment; the construction of holiday homes and tourist facilities, establishing a cement factory, to name a few. Government will do its utmost to encourage these and other potential investors, who have also expressed an interest in operating in our country.

40. The Sierra Leone Export Development and Investment Corporation (SLEDIC) is providing fast track registration services to investors who want to operate in Sierra Leone. In a matter of weeks we expect to enact an Investment Code for Sierra Leone which will provide attractive incentives to businesses wishing to operate in our country.

41. Our healthy partnership with donors continues to bear fruit. In collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Government is putting together an integrated programme for the development of small and medium enterprises, to the tune of seven million United States dollars.

42. However, Sierra Leoneans are yet to take advantage of both the European and American markets under the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and the EU's concessions otherwise known as Everything but Arms (EBA) initiatives. A vibrant private sector is essential for our economy to move forward. We are, therefore, calling on the private sector to become more pro-active, form partnerships and/or Joint Ventures so as to boost capital and thus improve prospects for taking advantage of these opportunities. We as a government are prepared to assist Sierra Leoneans to achieve these objectives. Let us move away from the quick and inflated contracts to more profitable and sustainable ventures. It is one of the elements that gives rise to allegations of endemic corruption in our society, particularly where people affiliated with politics are involved.

43. The recent price escalation of essential commodities, particularly rice, palm oil, petroleum products, and cement, has primarily been caused by factors beyond our control. On the one hand, our needs, that is, national demands have increased significantly in the last two years as constraints imposed by the war have been ameliorated by Government's actions to bring peace and stability to the country. Thus, as an example, demand for Cement which averaged less than 100,000 tons per year in 2002, has skyrocketed to over 250,000 tons per year, a 150% increase! and we are importing over twice as much fuel as we did a couple of years ago. At the same time, foreign exchange inflows brought in by our peace- keepers and NGOs have declined, while international prices for most of our exports have increased substantially. So, while our domestic production of food, cement etc. have also increased significantly, they have not been able to satisfy our increased demand. Inevitably, the domestic prices have increased, although much less than in neighbouring countries, due to Government's efforts.

44. Mr. Speaker, let us take the case of rice. At least one third of the cost of rice landed in Freetown is freight charges, which are fixed without the participation of Government. These charges may be reasonable when you consider that rice coming from Asia takes at least three months to get to Sierra Leone. The price of rice itself is determined by producers in Asia over whom we have no control. If the people of Sierra Leone want Government to be directly involved in determining the price of rice, we must work hard to achieve food security, that is, we must grow more of our own rice. This explains why Government is creating the enabling environment for increased agricultural activities. By continuing to depend on imported rice we are only exporting job and business opportunities to Asia and other rice exporting countries and leaving our people unemployed. We must not leave the production of our staple food in the hands of foreign countries. It will be regrettable therefore, if anyone or group of persons tried to play politics with the present hiking of prices of commodities, which in fact is a worldwide trend over which we have very little or no control. Such practice constitutes a dangerous misrepresentation that detracts from our effort to mitigate these difficulties. But more than that these deliberate, reckless and irresponsible misrepresentations with a view to making undue political gain can bring about such tragic results as we witnessed in a neighbouring country in the late 1970s.

45. As I indicated earlier, volatile conditions in the external environment had severe negative impact on efforts to build up our economy, eliminate shortages of essential commodities and stabilize prices. Oil prices in the International Market rose from US$21 per barrel in June last year to US$43 per barrel this May, representing over 100 per cent increase. One effect of this development is to raise the fuel bill for NPA alone by about 20 per cent. By effective price monitoring and collaboration by major stakeholders, we have managed to restrict the increase in the pump price of petroleum products recently by a similar percentage. These increases are minimal, compared to world market price or price increases in our neighbouring countries, although they have inevitably led to higher costs of goods and services. To have prevented any price increase at all, Government would have had to transfer resources from Education and Health to subsidize fuel, cement and food prices, an unsustainable and damaging strategy for the future welfare of the population in general, and our women and children in particular.


Mr. Speaker
46. Over the years, there has been a steady deterioration of our road network, energy supply and telecommunications due mainly to a lack of maintenance culture and the willful destruction of government property even in peacetime. This has not only impaired economic and social recovery but also constrained Government's desire to govern effectively. Concerned about these constraints and the desire of my Government to "reach-out" to every Sierra Leonean and beyond, we have undertaken extensive road reconstruction/rehabilitation programmes throughout the country. Several trunk and feeder roads are being constructed, maintained or rehabilitated and this programme also includes several jetties, bridges, ferries etc. I will only highlight some of the major infrastructure projects to give you an idea of their distribution in the country. No part of our territory is left out as witnessed by new road construction in the Western Area right on to road improvements on the Kurubonla-Kabala axis. My government's concern for infrastructural development is sustained.

47. Mr. Speaker, some of these programmes have now been completed. Work is in progress on the Koribondo - Blama - Gendema Ferry Road. Construction of the peninsular road is far advanced to around Tokeh. The remaining sector, Tokeh to Lumley, for which funding has been secured, will be completed shortly. This will open up opportunities for orderly development of settlements around the peninsula and provide a convenient by-pass to and from the provinces.

48. Similar progress is being made in the rehabilitation of the Makeni-Kamakwie Road. I am pleased to inform you that the contract for the construction of the Rogbere-Pamlap (Freetown-Conakry) Road has been awarded and construction will start after the rainy season. Currently the European Union (EU) is working with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) on tender documents for the rehabilitation of the Masiaka-Bo and the Songo-Moyamba - Moyamba Junction Roads and construction will start before the end of the year. The 65 km stretch of road: Bo-Yele-Petifu junction has been completely regravelled including the rehabilitation of minor bridges and culverts. The reconstruction of 600km of feeder Roads in Port Loko, Kambia, Kenema and Pujehun Districts will also start shortly. We have also secured funds for the rehabilitation of 550km of Feeder Roads in Bombali, Tonkolili and Kono Districts. Already, the rehabilitation of the Masiaka-Makeni road is in progress.

49. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that about a year ago, the African Development Bank (ADB) approved a grant for the feasibility and design study for the new Freetown-Lungi link. The Kuwaiti Government has committed funds for the feasibility and design study of the Kenema-Koindu Road. Funds have already been secured to carry out much-needed maintenance road works on the Pendembu-Koindu sector and work is expected to start by end July this year. Funding has also been secured for the construction of the four lane Hillside Bye-Pass Road which will run behind Pademba Road Prison, along the hillside below Fourah Bay College and exit behind Kissy Road Cemetery at the New Kissy Bye-Pass Road. This will decongest traffic in the main east-west axis in Freetown. To link Bonthe Island to main land Sierra Leone, the Bonthe Town Jetty has been reconstructed. Some dredging of the sand bank on the approach to the Island of Bonthe needs to be done. Funding will also be provided for the construction of the jetties at Tombo, Rokupr, Gbondapi, etc.

50. Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I am pleased to state that major road maintenance works are also currently being carried out using our locally generated Road Fund. Several roads, such as the Segbwema-Koidu road, the Kenema-Tongo-Jaiama Nimikoro-Koidu road are being re-gravelled. The Road Fund is also financing the asphaltic concrete overlay of several streets in Freetown. The benefits of this project will soon be extended to streets in the provincial headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni, and later extended to Koidu in Kono. Basically, all routine and maintenance activities for trunk and feeder roads are financed from the Road Fund.

51. Mr. Speaker, apart from the need to rehabilitate our road network, Government is aware of the acute housing needs of this country. We acknowledge that this is a huge task for Government and steps are being taken to address this challenge. Last year, Government, together with our development partners assisted 20,000 families in the construction of their homes. This year, the number will increase to 30,000 families. I appeal to all our partners for assistance in achieving adequate and affordable shelter for all in a rapidly urbanizing Sierra Leone.

52. Land management is a matter of serious concern to government, state institutions and to the general populace. The return to peace and stability in the country has heightened this concern over the ownership and use of land.

53. There are fundamental problems associated with land management in this country. These problems include general indiscipline in the land market, characterized by land encroachments, falsification of documents, multiple land sales and registrations, unauthorized use of the land, haphazard development, improper survey practices, indeterminate local authority and chiefdom boundaries, resulting from lack of reliable maps and plans, rampant encroachment on, and illegal acquisition of large tracts of Government land which have either not been surveyed, registered and otherwise protected, or have not been utilized; a weak land administration system and conflicting land uses, such as, the activities of mining which lead to erosion and destruction of productive farm land and farming which is the mainstay of the rural economy, and the time-consuming land litigations, which have crowded out other cases in our courts.

54. The proposed draft National Land Policy therefore, provides the foundation for the review of existing laws and the enactment of new ones to create the enabling environment to accommodate the rapid socio-economic development programmes and plans of government, in general, and specifically, to regulate and streamline access to, and the use of land in order to ensure the equitable development of a sustainable environment. Alongside this proposed policy will follow the creation of a Lands Commission which henceforth will preside over and advise Government on Land Management and Administration.

55. Mr. Speaker, Government is also aware of the precarious situation of our electricity and water supply, and the need for our attention in these areas. In this regard, Government has finalized arrangements for the completion of the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Project on which work has already recommenced. This project will be completed next year, and help improve electricity supplies in Freetown and some parts in the Northern Region.

56. We have asked the Chinese Government to consider expanding and upgrading the Dodo Hydro Electric facility from 4 mega watts to 8 mega watts. In addition, we have secured funding of US$35m for a Power and Water Project. We have also secured funding for the procurement of one thermal generator. With these and the Bikongo Hydro Electric Project which we are pursuing with a Chinese Company, our power problems will be adequately addressed in the near future.

57. Mr. Speaker, water, we all know, is life, and Government is now more than ever before committed to addressing the needs of every Sierra Leonean for access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services in the country. My government's policy is to ensure we provide funding to resuscitate and increase accessibility to safe drinking water. It was for this reason that government took steps in the very early 60s to provide water supplies to virtually every large community in this country. Regrettably, these facilities, the Degremont Water Scheme, were never maintained and were left to fall into irretrievable decay. Government will look into the possibility of providing alternative water supply facilities in the affected communities. The rehabilitation of water supply in our provincial headquarter towns of Bo, Kenema and Makeni is already on course. This is in addition to plans to rehabilitate the water facility in Kabala. Using appropriate technology, Government will soon expand the construction of water wells and sanitation facilities in rural areas throughout the country.

Mr. Speaker,
58. We all know that education is a great asset as Governments all over the world rely on trained and competent people for national development and for the efficient delivery of services. Government is obliged to direct its policy in ensuring that every citizen is given the opportunity to be educated to the best of his or her ability, aptitude and inclination by providing facilities at all levels and aspects of education. My Government will continue to place emphasis on education. This is against the background that having won the rebel war as a nation, the greatest challenge ahead of us is war against ignorance, illiteracy, poverty and disease. Government will continue to search for, and pursue programmes aimed at creating opportunities and equipping every Sierra Leonean to enable us to win the battle against these social ills. In this regard, we believe that education has to be appropriate for this knowledge-based and rapidly evolving world of the 21st Century. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the Education Act of 2004 empowers the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to, amongst other matters, launch a concerted action for improving the quality of, and access of relevant education, and to adopt appropriate curricula.

Mr. Speaker,
59. Parliament has enacted a new University Act. It provides for two separate universities - Njala University and the reconstituted University of Sierra Leone. There will be one Chancellor for both Universities, but each will have its own principal who will also double as Vice-Chancellor. Each University will grant its own degrees separately. The Northern Polytechnic has also been inaugurated. All these interventions will ensure that we bring tertiary education to the doorstep of all Sierra Leoneans.

60. In accordance with the Local Government Act 2004 and the Education Act 2004, dealing with decentralization and devolution of authority, Local Governments will now oversee the provision of service foreseen in those Acts for Primary and Junior Secondary Education. They will also be responsible for recruitment of teachers and payment of salaries. The Ministry's role in relation to Government Assisted Schools will be confined to the provision of subvention to those schools through the Proprietors. The subvention is to be based on agreed pupil/teacher ratio. It is hoped that with these arrangements, the perennial problem and delay relating to the payment of teachers' salaries will be finally resolved. The arrangement for the appointment and functions of Boards of Governors of Schools will remain unchanged

61. Generally, Government remains committed to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools and the provision of schools facilities at all levels of our educational system. The Complementary Rapid Education for Primary Schools (CREPS) has increased access to primary schools. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in our literacy rate. Government continues to pay school fees for all primary school children, as well as fees for candidates of the National Primary School Examination (NPSE). In this same vein, we have undertaken the payment of examination fees for BECE and WASSCE candidates. Government is also addressing gender disparity in our educational system. For a start, we are providing financial support to all girls in the Northern and Eastern provinces who progress to the JSS level. It is my hope parents will take advantage of this facility for their girls.


Mr. Speaker,
62. The challenges posed by the health sector are great. The recently concluded conflict was accompanied by a prevalence of common communicable diseases. Sexually transmitted infections are spreading. There is emerging epidemic of HIV/AIDS, and a slight resurgence of Lassa Fever in the Eastern Province. The nutritional status of our children and childbearing women is not encouraging. In short, Mr. Speaker, some of the abuses perpetrated during the war vis-à-vis the health of our people are only now becoming apparent.

63. In the face of these realities, my Government is determined to make quality health services accessible to, and affordable, by all Sierra Leoneans. In this regard we will continue our policy of providing basic health services at no cost to such vulnerable groups as pregnant women, lactating mothers, under five and school going children. Government will also continue to extend vital health services to previously inaccessible areas. Such services include school Health and the Communicable Diseases Programmes and the Expanded Programme of Immunization.

64. Considerable progress has been made in the rehabilitation and/or reconstruction of our health infrastructure. The rehabilitation of referral hospitals - Connaught, P.C.M.H, Children's Hospitals, and the Kissy Mental Home - in the Western Area is at an advanced stage. The reconstruction of hospitals in Kono, Kailahun and Kambia is complete and extensive repair works have been undertaken on a number of other hospitals throughout the country.

65. As a way of decentralizing health care provision, the District Hospital Boards Act 2003 makes provision for District Medical Boards and Hospital Management Committees. This Act, together with the Local Government Act, considerably empowers local communities in the management and delivery of healthcare services.

66. As noted earlier, the spread of HIV/AIDS poses the greatest challenge to global health. The HIV/AIDS scourge is not a disease of poverty, although poverty in general increases vulnerability to the risk of infection and to the impact of the disease. If we allow this disease to spread, we would have mortgaged the lives of all the peoples of the world. Therefore, combating the spread of HIV/AIDS is to be the concerted responsibility of every Sierra Leonean, and indeed every citizen of the global community. My government will continue to play a lead role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country. Our approach is a multi-sectoral response, involving state and non-state actors in NGOs, Community Based Organizations and civil society organizations.


Mr. Speaker,
67. Food security and poverty, after state security, is the most important item on my government's agenda. As a means of ensuring that my pledge to this nation is upheld, we are targeting agriculture and fisheries as empowerment tools for the people of this nation. By such empowerment, we can manage our peace together.

68. We are aware that 80% of the rural population are small-scale subsistence farmers of about 450,000 farm families. These farm families cultivate only about 0.5 - 2 hectares each, on average. At present, these farmers produce food only for their own consumption, which for the most part is inadequate and can feed their own families only for part of the year. It is also unbalanced, as far as dietary requirements are concerned.

Mr. Speaker,
69. My government's major policy objective in the short term is to empower the small-scale farmer as a means of ensuring that the majority of rural people can produce sufficient food for their own consumption and throughout the year. In this regard, as a first step, we are increasing our support to these farmers with enough seeds for two planting seasons. Government will provide this support for a period of two years with a view to enabling farmers to achieve a measure of self-reliance. It is only by becoming self reliant that our farmers can hope to break the cycle of subsistence farming and increase their crop production to marketable levels. This will form a solid base for the rapid development of large-scale commercial farming that could also produce a surplus for export. Government reiterates its commitment to purchase rice directly from our local farmers in districts where government supplies rice items to government institutions. The purpose of this policy is to help farmers have ready markets in areas where food is produced.

Mr. Speaker,
70. We know that support to these farmers is a pre-requisite to encouraging agricultural production. Therefore over the past two years, our support has increased by 300%. This support has comprised of seeds, planting materials, tools, basic machinery, fertilizers and pesticides. I am delighted to report that these inputs including 1,574 metric tons of seed rice, 800 bushels of groundnut, 24,000 bags of sweet potato cuttings, 10,000 bundles of cassava cuttings, 150,000 cashew seedlings and 35,000 improved oil palm seedlings have resulted in substantial increase in farm production. For instance, results so far received have shown that rice production has increased by 43% in the year 2003/2004 with an increase of 51% in the production of cassava over the same period. At the same time, our restocked totals for livestock amount to 72,000 small ruminants, 220,000 chickens 6,900 cattle and 24,000 pigs.

71. As a result of the continued high level of dedication and expertise by our scientists at the National Agricultural Research Coordinating Council, we are now distributing improved and high yielding varieties of cassava and sweet potatoes, together with high yielding NERICA rice varieties to farm families to ensure multiplication in the cropping seasons. Our support to farm families has been distributed fairly and equitably across the country to ensure our aim of household food security and growth in all communities is realized.

Mr. Speaker,
72. We know that the supply and distribution of farming inputs alone will not be sufficient to ensure household food security. These measures have to be complemented by a transfer of appropriate agricultural technologies from the research institutions through extension services to the farmers. We also have to strengthen our post harvest processing and marketing facilities.

73. In this regard, I am pleased to inform this house that government, in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has established thirty farmer field schools per district as a pilot phase. These field schools will incorporate a total of 120,000 farm families in the first two years of activities and will be used as a complement to agricultural extension services. Moreover, these field schools have been proven, in most parts of the world, to be the most effective means of conveying extension messages to farmers and at the same time contributing to increased production of food at the household level.

Mr. Speaker,
74. With regard to post harvest processing, my government is also supporting farmers through the supply of rice threshers, small-scale mills, cassava graters and we have also distributed over 84,000 assorted farm tools. At the same time we have constructed 110 drying floors and stores. The Commonwealth Secretariat has supported us by supplying equipment for oil palm and rice milling.

75. At this juncture, I would like to convey my government's appreciation to the NGO and donor community for the parallel support in the areas of post harvest facilities in various parts of the country under their rehabilitation, relief and resettlement programmes. The government of the People's Republic of China will provide machinery and other inputs for our food security programme and train up to thirty Sierra Leoneans in the various aspects of production. The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has provided funding to set up the Right to Food Security Secretariat and are currently implementing food security projects in Kono and Kailahun Districts. Additionally, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has approved a loan of US$10 million for agricultural and rural development projects in Kono and Kailahun Districts. The NERICA rice project funded by the African Development Bank and costing US$4 million will cover five districts and commences this planting season. We have received twenty-one tractors with complete implements donated by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

76. We know that a greater incentive to production is storage and marketing. Over the past two years, government has invested in the building of storage facilities and markets. However, in order to help us maximize the benefits of the anticipated increase in production through our investment in inputs, government will embark upon an expanded programme of constructing storage and markets including the provision of marketing facilities in every chiefdom.

77. As an additional way of empowering our farmers, Government has targeted the incomes of small holder farmers and small-scale producers by providing micro-financing facilities, which make small loans and credit easily accessible to farmers. In this direction, the micro-credit disbursement for 2003/2004 has been around US$5 million. Though this is a significant beginning, we are aware that much more has to be done if we are to attain food security by the year 2007. This is a vision to which my Government remains fully committed. I therefore appeal to the private sector to invest in agriculture and to all of us to embrace farming as a profitable investment activity. Mr Speaker, on this note, I am pleased to announce that the Law Reform Commission is proposing Legislation on the commercial use of land. This Legislation will make provision for capital investment in land and thereby contribute to national development through the economic empowerment of our people. This will also increase commercial use of land that would otherwise lie fallow and hence increase food production.

Mr. Speaker,
78. To complement crop and food production, government took measures to enforce fish landing obligations. In view of these measures, there has been a substantial increase in both industrial vessels and small-scale fishing activities for domestic consumption. There has been excessive illegal fishing and poaching in our territorial waters and we are at an advanced stage of negotiating with the EU for assistance to counter this menace which represents a serious economic drain on our national resources. My government notes with satisfaction the progress being made in the development of inland fisheries and aquaculture. Over 50 fish ponds have been constructed in several districts. In addition, about 900 community and private fish ponds have been developed with the support of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The aim of these efforts is to improve the population's access to fish within the government's food security programme.

Mr. Speaker,
79. As I have said earlier, our strategy for food security involves production for home consumption and export, supporting farmers by providing storage facilities, markets and marketing facilities and encouraging private investors.

80. This is a strategy that demands teamwork and collaborative efforts. The Honourable Vice President is playing a lead role under my direction as Chairman of the Ministerial Committee on the Right to Food Co-ordination Committee. Other players include the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance, Trade and Industry, Youth and Sports and Social Welfare. I would like to stress here that the achievement of food security demands total commitment and collaboration, especially at the ministerial level. A perfect illustration of this collaboration is the current Youth Employment Project in which over 120 youth groups have been mobilized and given support in the form of tools, seeds and other inputs. This project which is assisted by the Food and Agriculture Organization brings together three ministries - Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Youth and Sports and Fisheries. The ministers and their professionals have been working jointly on a day-to-day basis from the conception of the project right down to the current implementation stage. I am certain that the impact of such collaborative efforts will soon be felt and hopefully bring more young people to realize the immense potential for youth empowerment through agriculture and its related activities. This collaboration between ministries will be replicated in other areas to achieve our various policy objectives.

81. In conclusion, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all the Members of Parliament for their cooperation with the Executive especially for seeing through all our legislations and for the diligent exercise of their oversight responsibilities, which I found very useful. My government always looks forward to the healthy and vibrant debates of Members of Parliament in discussing our ideas, proposals and programmes in Parliament. This is a very necessary democratic process as it adds legitimacy to our action when the peoples representatives endorse and support government's programmes.

82 Let me again express my government's appreciation for the meetings of the Development Partnership Committee DEPAC). Membership of DEPAC involves all donors based here and abroad as well as all ministers and senior civil servants who deal directly with development matters. The Committee has been meeting once every two months since the Group Consultative Meeting in Paris in November 2002, under the chairmanship of the Vice President. It provides an excellent opportunity for the donor community and my government to exchange views on our development efforts. It allows both sides to engage in frank dialogue, to enrich the cooperation process, enhance coordination, review achievements, respond to challenges and plot the way forward.

83. It is also a good avenue to improve communications, especially to separate fact from fiction in the sensational stories produced by the fertile rumour mill of our country, an inevitable outcome of our commitment to respect freedom of expression and maintenance of an unfettered press. More importantly, this respect for freedom of expression and transparency enables us to sustain the interest of the international donor community in our development efforts. Otherwise, donor fatigue would have set in by now particularly in view of the propensity of some Sierra Leoneans to always depict a very negative image of our country. In this connection I wish to call the attention of Honourable Members to a portion in the Hansard of 8th June 2004 recording a debate in the British House of Commons. It was a reaction by a member of the British Parliament to a negative comment made about Sierra Leone by one of our nationals living in the United Kingdom. The Member of Parliament said, and I quote:

"It sometimes falls badly from our mouths and the mouths of colleagues - - - to make allegations about corruption when often there is not corruption but gross inefficiency borne out of a lack of resources."

84. We are grappling with the Herculean task of post-war reconstruction of this nation to lead to its development. It takes determination and hard decisions to achieve this, and my government will remain steadfast in this endeavour. I will also now like to appeal to my compatriots to remain equally steadfast and resolute in their commitment to bring peace, security and prosperity to our nation. We have made significant strides, and have started on the road to prosperity. This process is generally long and arduous. We however have good reasons to congratulate ourselves on our own progress and achievements within so short a time. With good faith, hard work and honesty, the current hardship will only be a passing phase before we achieve our desired goal of a peaceful and prosperous nation.

I thank you all for listening. May God/Allah continue to bless us all.