Friday, December 15, 2006

SLHC information attaché response

Sierra Leone High Commission

I have read, with utmost interest, an article that appeared in your Tuesday 28 November, 2006 edition captioned above.

My intention is not to entirely contest the veracity or lack of it of the article in question.

What I intend to do and what I am doing right away is not only to inform you about the positive things that have happened in my country since the end of a very debilitating civil war, but to also let you know that the government is satisfied that it has put in place the right policy framework to move the country forward.

For example, Government has a programme with the IMF, the World Bank, the UNDP, the EU and bi-lateral donors.

The Government has a Poverty Reduction Strategy which has received positive response from donor partners. Government is preparing to receive a team that would assess the benchmarks set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

It will be of great interest to your avid readers, and perhaps, all patriotic Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone to learn that by the end of this year, the government would have reached the HIPC completion point which would eventually lead to a total debt cancellation.

You would appreciate the simple fact that debt servicing has greatly affected frontline services such as electricity supply, water supply and even medical facilities.

On the issue of electricity supply, government is working tirelessly with its partners to provide this service to its people. Hopefully this will be realised sooner than later.

Contrary to your report, security across the country is of paramount importance to the country. The upsurge in the number of tourists to the country testifies to these positive results. Recently, British Airways started service to the country. This was followed by a visit of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

You mentioned in your article that ‘reliable figures for diamond exports are hard to find’. This is factually incorrect.

I wish you had read the November 11-17, 2006 edition of the ‘The Economist’. But for the sake of convenience, the magazine quoted official export figures from the war years to date, which I wish to share with you.

For the year ending 2005, official diamonds exported stood at a whooping $140m compared with a mere $1.2m in 1999. Since we initiated the Kimberley Process, in 2000, the government has seen a substantial increase in revenue collected from official diamond exports.

On the issue of Youth Employment, which you mentioned, let me share with you what the Hon. Vice President, Solomon Berewa said on 29 November, 2006 "government has launched the Youth Employment Scheme, we are now looking to our partners to complement our effort by supporting the other elements of the Youth Employment Programme". This scheme will not only provide micro credit facilities to the youth but will continue to reduce the mass youth unemployment the country inherited after the war.

Lastly, it must be realised that projects that are presently in the course of implementation take some time to yield the beneficial effects. Four years after the end of the war, may be too early to assess the impact of such projects. Let’s give the planning process and programme implementation some space to mature.

I hope you would be kind enough to publish my letter.

Yours faithfully,

Sorie Fofana

Information Attaché