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Let me join the Chairman and other speakers to heartily welcome you all to this gathering, which has been rightly described as the first of its kind in the history of this country, and probably in many other countries particularly in Africa. In our desire to promote the general wellbeing of the people of this country, my Government is today taking another giant step forward by launching the first ever Social Assistance Programme (or Social Safety Net Scheme) in the country. We are proud to be part of this history.

Before I proceed to do the launching, let me first of all make a few remarks.

Post-conflict countries like Sierra Leone often face a range of social protection needs, which may include:

" an increase in the number of persons without work or income support;
" the emergence of vulnerable groups such as widows, widowers, orphans, disabled, etc.

Therefore, an appropriate social protection system is crucial in promoting social justice and peace that support the vulnerable amongst us.


Mr. Chairman, it is precisely as a result of these considerations, among others, that in my inaugural address to the nation during the State Opening of the First Session of the First Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in 1996, I committed my Government to addressing the deepening poverty situation in our country, in all its manifestations. As in 1996 then, it is still my firm conviction that the most precious gift to workers and their dependants in retirement is an effective National Social Security Scheme. Those who give their best years to the service of their nation deserve a comfortable life in retirement. This remains the driving force behind the establishment of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT).

NASSIT as you may know attracted criticisms and misgivings from some quarters when it was being established. After four years of commitment and hard work, NASSIT is not only a reality today, but has become a huge success.

Mr. Chairman,

The social protection provided by NASSIT is for those of our compatriots who have contributed to the scheme during their working lives up to and until their retirement at 60. This leaves out a large number of other vulnerable persons - our compatriots who are already 60 years and above, and who never had the opportunity to contribute to NASSIT. These people, old and perhaps now incapacitated, may have, in their own little way, contributed towards nation-building. Some of these people may have lived a decent life only to be faced with extremely challenging circumstances in old age. In most cases, women, particularly widows in traditional customary settings are the most affected. Therefore, my Government had equally conceptualized the establishment of a Social Safety Net Scheme for this special category of the aged and other vulnerable persons.

However, unlike NASSIT, which is a Contributory Scheme by the active working population, the Social Safety Net/Social Assistance Programme is a non-contributory programme, which will rely heavily on Government and the support of the private sector and our development partners. My Government has already opened a separate Account for this purpose, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that appropriate budgetary provision is always made by Government for this programme.

Mr. Chairman,

The current budget basket of the scheme has been developed from several sources.

When we were setting up NASSIT, we realized that it needed to be complemented by a Social Safety Net Scheme. However, we encountered severe resource constraints to finance this scheme. Consistent with our commitment to enhancing the social well being of our people, when we received ship loads of rice from the Chinese, French, Libyan and Italian Governments as commodity aid in 2001 and 2002, we sold it at concessionary rates to our people, with the following amounts realized:

Libyan Food Aid - Le2,027,684,370
Italian Food Aid - Le579,260,100
French Food Aid - Le558,364,154
Chinese Food Aid - Le961,599,184

These funds were invested, yielding an interest of Le345,487,497.24. The Government also augmented these resources with dividends it received from the Rokel Commercial Bank in 2001 in the sum of Le571,069,200.00.

Part of the funds from these sources was later utilized as seed money to set up NASSIT as a first step in the establishment of a comprehensive National Social Security System. We thank all these friendly countries for having provided such valuable assistance. I am sure that they will be pleased that their assistance has been used in such a constructive way especially when one recalls that in the past such food aid was either shared among politicians and other government functionaries or otherwise misappropriated. Today NASSIT, being in a good financial standing, has been able to pay back over Le5.3 billions towards the establishment of the Social Safety Net Scheme. Additional support to the scheme amounting to Le5 billion will be made by government sometime in the future, as a demonstration of our strong commitment to, and faith in the value of the potential contribution of this scheme to the general well being of our people. The total amount available for the operation of the Social Safety Net Scheme is now about Le5.7 billion. Since all the money is not going to be spent at the same time and NASSIT is not going to charge administrative costs for administering the Scheme, the bulk of the money will be invested and the returns from such invested funds will be placed into the Safety Net Scheme account to ensure its sustainability.

Mr. Chairman,

Beneficiaries of the Social Safety Net Scheme comprise:

" the Disabled
" widows and Widowers
" the Aged
" children up to 15 years, who lost contacts with their parents during the war and are still separated and
" Orphans

The Social Safety Net Scheme will ensure that eligible beneficiaries have:

(a) basic provision for food
(b) reasonable housing
(c) access to basic health care
(d) access to rehabilitation in the case of the disabled.


Those eligible for the Programme should:

a have no regular income;
b have no other regular means of support;
c unable to work;
d must be sixty years and above except for separated children, orphans and the disabled.

Scrupulous efforts will be made to ensure that only those that meet the strict eligibility criteria benefit from this Scheme.

Mr. Chairman, my Government is finalizing plans for the construction of moderate homes in each of the 12 districts for those who fall in these categories and who may prefer to be at those homes. A number of consultants and Programme officials of the Social Safety Net programme will shortly undertake visits to the districts and chiefdoms with the view, in consonance with all stakeholders, to identifying suitable sites for these construction activities to take place.

In a bid to facilitate the effective take-off of the scheme, a nation-wide sensitization exercise was embarked upon, in all the 149 Chiefdoms in the twelve (12) districts in the Provinces and in twenty-one (21) communities in the seven wards in the Western Area. A Pilot Verification exercise was undertaken in November 2005 in some parts of the country to determine potential beneficiaries. I am informed that all stakeholders welcomed the idea and are anticipating a successful implementation of the Programme.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion I wish to emphasize that the success of the Social Safety Net Scheme should be the concern of every citizen. Social Safety Net Committees have been established in all Chiefdoms across the country with a responsibility, among others, to identify eligible persons. I am pleased to announce that these Committees are providing voluntary service to their communities, a practice, which is very highly commendable. We all have a collective responsibility to ensure the success of this Programme. By so doing, we would have been, in diverse ways, our "brothers' keepers".

I now have great pleasure in launching the Social Assistance Programme otherwise known as the Social Safety Net Scheme, and I wish it every success.

I thank you all for your attention.