Friday, March 23, 2007

An Interview with Charles Mambu

Charles Mambu is Chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society and Human Rights Activists in Sierra Leone.

In January 2007, he shared his thoughts on developments in his country.

What has changed in Sierra Leone since 1999?

I observe much change for the better since the climax of the war in the country in January 1999. But the changes have been more visible around the time of the end of the war in 2002. The economy is growing fast, despite increasing oil prices in the international market. But I must hasten to say that in the midst of high expectations amongst post-war Sierra Leoneans, the connection between economic growth and real household income - which people concretely rely on to make their living – is yet to be seen as real change for the better. There seems to be a paradox that whilst the economy is doing well, inflation and interest and exchange rates are being held stable for nearly five years now, the power to purchase essential commodities is plummeting.

What about people's living conditions?

This is another paradox. Whilst most Sierra Leoneans grumble about how little power their present earned and hustled incomes has -- to buy the basic things they and their families need--, their chances of sending their children to school are increasing, their access to clean and safe drinking water in the rural areas is increasing, and other progress markers of the MDGs seem to be doing well generally. I know that many of those who grumble live in the urban areas and are often influenced by the politics of regime-in-power versus opposition.

Throughout these various changes, the Government has worked with IDA and other international partners. How did IDA contribute to the changes you have outlined? 

In terms of thoroughness in project conception, design and supervision, IDA projects in Sierra Leone have been unmatched. IDA’s policy lending has also contributed immensely to economic performance. And key reforms have been influenced by the World Bank’s analytic works in concert with other partners.

What are the two or three challenges that most require international support?

There are two ways I look at poverty reduction: (1) creating and/or improving people’s power to purchase for their basic needs, and (2) giving people an increased access to social services and amenities like water, education, healthcare, etc. In my view, alot more has been (or is being done) with regards to the latter than to the former. Maybe the way the growth pillar of the Poverty Reduction Strategy is supported should be revisited, or we need an explanation as to why the economy is said to be growing without much increase in real incomes -- at least as expected by many Sierra Leoneans

Link to IDA - An Interview with Charles Mambu