The Sierra Leone Web



Saturday 11 August 2001


Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Vice President,
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

In my address to the Nation on the occasion of our Fortieth Independence Anniversary last April, I asked all of us to look ahead beyond the senseless and brutal conflict of the past decade. I also asked us to pledge to create a new Sierra Leone based on three cardinal principles, principles which I believed, and still believe, should guide us through the next decade towards our jubilee anniversary in the year 2011.

The first of those principles still is "self-reliance." As I explained it, self-reliance implies an honest and determined effort to reduce our dependence on other nations; to reduce our dependence on foreign institutions, including the so-called donors. I emphasized that we should try, as far as possible to rely more on our own human and natural resources.

Today, we are here to give practical effect to the principle of "self-reliance." We are here to demonstrate that one of the most effective ways of building self-reliance is to encourage and make good use of our own human resources or expertise, especially those in the private sector. I am referring for example to our own agriculturists, medical practitioners, civil and mechanical engineers, and skilled artisans, many of whom have established their own indigenous private commercial institutions. The idea is to create the environment, the opportunities, and where possible, the facilities that will strengthen their capacity to assist our country in reducing its dependence on foreigners.

Mr. Chairman, this is the main reason why the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), is transforming its equipment holdings in the Department of Equipment and Supplies into a semi-autonomous Mechanical Services Unit. This Unit is expected to be a commercially viable plant pool within the Authority. It will facilitate the development of indigenous contractors in the public works market, in particular, road maintenance works. But how? One may ask.

Well, the answer is simple. We are aware of the fact that our indigenous road maintenance industry is still young. Its potential for growth, especially in this period of postwar reconstruction is promising. However, we also know that development of the industry is hampered by a lack of capital to buy equipment, including heavy maintenance equipment.

One answer to this problem is that indigenous private road maintenance contractors, and force account brigades will now be able to rent or lease such equipment from the newly-established Mechanical Services Unit at competitive, but reasonable commercial rates. The plant pool would therefore afford indigenous road maintenance contractors more flexibility in building or upgrading their own tool stocks at a convenient pace. Establishment of this Unit would also provide an opportunity for them to develop management skills; skills required to enhance their ability to cope with the high financial risks involved in the acquisition of capital equipment.

Today, therefore marks an important stage in the development of both the indigenous road maintenance contracting industry, and the construction industry in Sierra Leone. The equipment and vehicles we are about to commission were procured by Government with the assistance of the World Bank and the European Union. This is consistent with our development strategy of partnership with governments, regional and international organizations, as well as with private industry within and outside Sierra Leone. It is also based on the second cardinal principle I identified and advocated last April, to guide us in the coming years, namely "interdependence." As I said, we

should not see international organizations and institutions, such as the World Bank, the EU, the UNDP, or their individual member States, as permanent donors or benefactors, but as development partners in an interdependent world, partners whose sole objective is to help boost our capacity to be more self-reliant.

We would like to assure them that the equipment and vehicles will be used efficiently, and to the benefit of the nation as a whole. I have no doubt that our partners in the private sector of the road maintenance and construction industries would avail themselves of the services of the new Mechanical Services Unit in the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).

Mr. Chairman, your Excellencies, distinguished guests, I am delighted to be part of this important event, and to formally commission the new equipment and vehicles.

I thank you.