Friday, October 05, 2007

Anxiety Over New Cabinet is Unwarranted

It has been fifteen days or so now since Hon. Ernest Bai Koroma was sworn in as the fourth President of the Second Republic. Speculations as to who will serve the President in the Executive Branch are all over the media both domestic as well as international. All last week we were told by those who thought they had inside information on State House affairs that the new cabinet will be announced last Friday. Then again on Monday and neither of these predictions materialized. Meanwhile, the nation’s business is being conducted by ministers from the previous government of President Tejan Kabbah along with their respective Permanent Secretaries and Directors General whose job it is to provide for proper functioning during transition whether from one government to another as in this present case or simply from one minister to another.

There is also a new Parliament with its own executives including the Speaker - who is second in the line of succession - his deputy and other members of the legislative leadership. There is a functioning judiciary despite the absence of a new Chief Justice and an Attorney General and Minister of Justice. In short, there is no power vacuum in the country. So undue anxiety over the appointment or announcement of the new cabinet is in the opinion of this observer highly misplaced. No one is dying in Sierra Leone simply because we don’t know who the next Minister of Health is, neither is the country less secure because we don’t have a new Deputy Minister of Defence. The professional army, police and all other national security apparatus appear to be in place.

Without being an apologetic for the new government of Ernest Bai Koroma, it is my considered view that the priority of the new government should be to fully consider government policies before the men and women who will be administering and implementing those policies are put in place. Sierra Leone is not acutely in need of new leaders - it is in need of new leadership. In addition to whom the next minister or deputy is going to be, Mr. Koroma and his Transition Team should also focus on what that minister or deputy minister is going to be doing once in office.

A case in point is the President’s enthusiasm for sustainable energy for all Sierra Leoneans, not just those few with the money to buy noisy and air polluting private generators. Speaking to the Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers recently, the President spoke of a need to find ways and means to make the nation secure in its domestic energy needs. In particular, he mentioned the very disgraceful statistic on Sierra Leone’s infinitesimal consumption of electrical energy. Those of us in the field of professional engineering know fully well that a country’s development index is measured not on the number of cell phones and private generators in the backyards of a few fortunate citizens, but the number of kilowatt hours consumed per person per year, which the president placed at about 8 compared to Ghana’s 400 or so kilowatt hours per capita. The rest of the world consumes about 1,200 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy per citizen per year. Comparatively, we are not even in the same century or on the same planet as the rest of the global village in terms of energy consumption - hence our chronic and severe poverty and under-development.

Although this seems like too much details for the average citizen, this level of defining the national problem is exactly the kind of thinking a leader should have if he or she wants to demand “results and not too many excuses” from his or her subordinates, as Mr. Koroma has been saying lately. It shows to me, any way, and perhaps to the engineers to whom he was speaking that the President has some fundamental grasp of our energy problems. Our children are not going to make it to the world stage if they continue to study on candles and kerosene lamps. We cannot invite industrialists to Sierra Leone to build factories if they have to bring along their own generators. There are plenty of other places in the world to invest their money and create jobs such as China, India and Mexico with functionally educated workforce and plenty of kilowatt-hours of electricity to run their machines and equipment.

It should, therefore, be the duty of all Sierra Leoneans - those in government and those in the private sector - to consider ways to put our country on the same playing field as our fellow citizens of the world. Our engineers and other technical experts should busy themselves with matters related to sustainable and renewable alternative energy resources such as wind, solar, wave and geothermal in addition to the never-ending Bumbuna Hydro-electric Project. Sierra Leone happens to be blessed by the Almighty with virtually inexhaustible solar energy, an almost perfect location on the earth’s latitude, a strategic location on the Atlantic Ocean and seven rushing rivers to nourish our land. What more can God do for us?

Worrying over who the next Minister of Energy and Power is, will not help us get to where we need to be. Formulating a sound energy policy will. And that should be our collective priority - as well as that of Ernest Bai Koroma and his Transition Team.

Anxiety Over New Cabinet is Unwarranted