By Joseph A. Kamanda
For several weeks now I have not been coming out with the Mixed Bag; a column that always potpourri news and current affairs activities of Ministries, Department and Agencies, the private sector, Civil Society Organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations. It also touches on what political parties and politicians do on a daily basis as and when required for public attention.
And as always, before even going into the details of newsy issues of the exposure of the President Julius Maada Bio’s government, the Chief Minister, Professor David John Francis’ deliberate failures to provide relevant detail ‘confidential’ information that was provided him by Iluka mining company, on the alleged sales of shares in the Sierra Rutile.
That confidential document could have serve as possible evidence to the Transition Team, the Commissions of Inquiry and to a large extent the Anti-Corruption Commission theirs is not a calculated ploy to humiliate former president Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and render the main opposition All People’s Congress incapable for the approaching 2023 general elections.
Also deserve a wider public attention to get the gullible populace well informed and aware of political governance around them, are the deceptive and ‘fake’ provisions of ‘steady’ electricity supplies to Bo and Kenema, the bragging invite being extended to the incompetent ACC and Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala, by the Mayor of the Municipality of Bonthe, Layemin Joe Sandi to name just the few, before delving into who should be answerable or blamed for drop in mining revenue in Sierra Leone.
Mining revenue did not drop by itself without the involvement of government and the bungling implementation of bad mining policy, which forced mining and other extractive industry investors including Shandom Still, Sierra Mining and so many others to pull out of the country irrespective of its rich mineral wealth.
The killer policy is the new guide, rules and regulations that has been provided by government under the central-Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) to ensure that Sierra Leoneans benefit from mining proceeds. And by extension improve of the management of mineral wealth as promised by the new direction blueprint.
Ironically mining communities continue to be plunged into under development and abject poverty by the day, as most companies can hardly stand the test of the time under the new law, and are therefore rapidly bowing out of investment in the mining sector in Sierra Leone.
That in itself has caused drastic dropped in mining revenue amid thousands of jobs lost in the sector, making the new mining policy rather unwelcome by miners at all levels and imaging where a miner has to register even an excavators before start operation is also a huge burden.
Also largely responsible for the extreme drop in mining revenue is the gross covert engagement of government workers in self-serving mining operations at the detriments of diamond and gold rich communities in north, east and southern regions of Sierra Leone, where they almost always evade taxes.
In fact, good number of high placed government workers including cabinet ministers, names withheld for now, the press secretary to President Bio, Yusif Keketoma Sandi, the Chief Minister, Prof Francis in partnership with the Kenema District Chairman, Thomas Tagbateh Baio and host of them are having field days in mining communities, using their higher offices at the detriment of the state.
They are reported utilizing their political party and status in government to be skipping payments of revenues meant for mining licenses and taxes to the appropriate mining authorities as National Mineral Agency, which are largely responsible for drop in mining revenue.
Something need to be done about the involvements of government officials in domestic mining for their personal gains, if not at all factoring such divided attention as corrupt practices, especially when they are holders of public offices, that require much of their times and energies to deliver on their mandates for which they are being paid from tax payers’ money. These must stop now if government actually means well in its fight against corruption and not a mere ‘cherry picking’, as recently described by my friend and brother, journalist Salliue Tejan Jalloh of Times SL.
Sadly for the country, the Gross Domestic Product accounts for just 1.6% of mining revenue. This is a major concern that requires extreme urgency for a sustainable fix up of the situation by those classroom economists at the Ministry of Mines, and that of Finance.
It could be recalled that in 2017 and 2018 the mining sector recorded over 24% contributions to the country’s GDP if we are to go by the accounts of Hon. Emerson Lamina of the opposition Coalition for Change party.
This however means that with all promises made by the SLPP and President Bio during the 2018 presidential campaigns, the new direction killer mining policy has failed the nation completely especially Sierra Leoneans in their support base in rich diamond and gold mining communities in the south, eastern and northern regions of the country, that closed to three years in office now it still can’t provide a clear road map ensuring that benefits from the extractive industry especially mining are placed on the tables of the people as promised by ruling SLPP party.
Rather, the hostile policy has victimized private sector investors than ever in the history of the country to a peak that most of them are left with no alternative but to go out of businesses as if that was the human development dream Sierra Leoneans were promised.
Mining revenues under former president Koroma made significant contributions to the country’s GDP compared to now. The sector recorded key contributions of well over 35% to the GDP of Sierra Leone from 2013 to 2015 and even beyond with strong projections of assuring then of a viable economy had it been the twin shocks of the deadly Ebola Virus disease outbreak and the fall in price of mineral wealth commodities across the globe.
That remarkable success was due to the friendly investment policies of the then government that ensured the huge number in sober direct foreign investors who created so many jobs for Sierra Leoneans in both formal and the informal sectors.
Those employees were then making their fair shares of civic contributions to the national economy through their various pay as you earn, national social security inputs and other means of honouring their tax responsibilities as citizens all through mining revenues, which were contributing factors for the then impressive increase in mining revenues during the reigns of the last administration.
With that I think the past mining regime deserves laudable commendations from government, direct present and fleeing investors for creating such a business friendly environment for a win – win deal that almost placed Sierra Leone on a strategic verge of take-off for a middle income status.
Did I hear the oversight committee chief in the House of Parliament Lamina calling on key players in the mining to appear before the house to provide detail explanations as if that will fix up the fault, without reviewing the whole script? Until the law is favourable for investors to enable businesses in the mining and mineral sectors realize meaningful gains, mining revenue will continue to fall and the blame will always go to government, with president Bio and his team stand guilty of lowering income flow from the country’s only bread basket.