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Maada Risks Losing Popularity if he Fails to Put Food on Citizens' Breakfast Tables

By Ranger (07/10/18)

Many difficult existential realities confront ordinary Sierra Leoneans living on less than the United Nations poverty figure of $2 dollars a day.

Or 16,000 Leones a day, which has very obvious implications for the vast majority that are not formally employed and worse of all many have several mouths to feed every day.

Back in the 1960’s when lots more people were living in the rural areas and engaging in farming etc. Sierra Leone’s population was less than 2.5 million. Then, many average Sierra Leoneans were not having food problems at all.

Back in those days, a middle-class earner could send his wife to market with 50 cents. Out of that money, believe it or leave it, the wife would buy a pound of beef, fish, palm oil, pepper, yabass, maggi, salt, to cook a nutritious meal for a family of five or more.

Maybe, the only thing she would not buy would be rice, because every middle-class family living in Freetown could afford a double bag of good quality imported rice. And for those living in the provinces, they eat varieties of locally grown rice that was cheap and abundant in markets.

We, old-timers, like to remind our leaders who come up with all kinds of fantastic development theories about taking the people to the moon and back; forgetting that for every human being, food is the most elemental existential need; without which one has very little ease, well-being, laxity and freedom.

And yet, our leaders since the 1970’s have woefully failed to place the correct emphasis on agricultural productivity - specifically aimed at achieving national food self-sufficiency as a pre-condition to ensuring every man’s fundamental need is met.

We do not want this President to be carried away by praise-singing; forgetting the fact that the minimum wage in this country is still Le500,000 per month - that is for the relatively few percentage of the population that are lucky to be regularly employed.

Now let us take Le500,000 to the market for the month and let’s see what it can buy for a family of five for a day’s meal - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. But let us first focus on dinner. As for the majority of poor families, this is the only meal that is guaranteed in these days of inflation and unemployment.

You buy fish. Let us say because you are poor and must manage the little you have. Let’s say, you have Le5,000 and with this money, you buy a pint of palm oil at Le3,000. You then buy three ties of plassas for Le3,000. You then buy yabass at Le1,000, pepper at Le1,000, charcoal at Le2, 000, five cups of rice at Le6,000.

Without adding any other item, let us check how much you have spent…You have spent at least Le21, 000 and your husband earns the minimum wage of Le500,000 a month. Multiply Le21,000 by 30 days. How much you and your family need for only one meal per day for one month?

We have brought up this fundamental existential issue in this editorial to remind the current government that they have to really roll up their sleeves and pull up their trousers to first of all ensure that a stop is put on inflation.

Secondly, let the Government not tell us about this being a free market economy. The fundamental duty of Third World developing governments is to protect its citizens from the greed and selfishness of the capitalists and their agents who control market forces and calibrate it only to fit the size of their greed.

That means that the Ministry of Trade and Industry must put in place robust monitoring institutions and mechanisms for monitoring the prices of all goods, items, commodities and services bought and sold in the country to ensure that they reflect true market force reality in terms of how much they are bought for and how much they are sold for.

Failing to do so, this government too, like the two previous ones we had after the war, would end up being very unpopular to the masses and reviled for promising what it cannot deliver - a better Sierra Leone predicated on shared prosperity.

Last but not the least is the vital suggestion that government must consider increasing the daily wages for low earners as the present salary structure for ordinary citizens is a pittance and an insult.

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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