The Minister of information and communication, Mr Mohamed Bangura has on Friday 21st October, 2016 told the people of Sierra Leone that the government is removing the subsidy in fuel as a austerity measure to save the country’s economic crisis.
He made this statement this in a well attended meeting with the people of Portloko, Kambia and Bombali.
According to him, the decision to remove fuel subsidy was not political but based on a recent world Bank advise to the President Koroma’s Administration on fuel. “It is time that the people of this county take leadership, it not about APC or SLPP but for Sierra Leoneans”, said the Honorable Minister.
The Minister used the podium to reflect on the Ebola Outbreak in the Country and its corresponding impact on National Development. He explained how the situation has been worsening by both the scale- down operations in the Mining Sector and the deteriorating World Economy. He said this simply imply that things are tough and rough the World over.
He informed the gathering about the approximately 200 Billion Leones Government normally factors in subsidies including the 85.5 Billion Leones it has already paid as Fuel Subsidy for 2016 alone, and the 70 Percent it normally pays for University Students and other areas. The Minister said Government does all of these with the sole aim of improving the living standards of its People.
He said the Government is therefore taken aback when it was recently discovered that the bulk of fuel is being smuggled into neighbouring countries. He said the activities of such ill-meaning people have excercebated the already challenging times the Country is faced with. The Minister said because these are no normal times, People should therefore be willing to make some sacrifices.
He then went ahead to brief the Audience about the conditionality of the International Monitory Fund [IMF] which is of the perception that the amount of money Government is paying on Fuel Subsidies is too high and ought to be removed. Hon. Mohamed Bangura said even though Government is somehow compelled to adhere, yet it deems it equally fit to sound the opinion of its People before a decision could be developed.
He said if the Fuel Subsidies are removed, the money could then be used to increase the Salaries of workers and address other spheres aimed at improving the welfare of Sierra Leoneans. He said Government would also be able to give a thorough look at some key sectors such as Health, Agriculture, Energy, Water and Education, adding that plans are afoot to reintroduce the School Feeding Programme in all Government and Government assisted Primary Schools.
A Handful of the District Members of Parliament who availed their presence confirmed that Government is indeed going through hard times and that the money used on Fuel Subsidies is not only too much , but that is could be far more useful if it is removed to address other key needs of State.
In their separate contributions, Hon. Alhajie Serray Dumbuya, Hon. Komboh Kamara, Hon. Barbah Kamara and Hon. Osman Karankay Conteh admonish the People to show the expected understanding.
In their response, the Paramount Chiefs, Ward Councillors and representatives of the various Pressure Groups in the District, feared that the removal of Fuel Subsidies is bound to have some ripple effects on the living standards of People.
They explained how this could lead to price increase and how certain Dealers have already started hauling fuel at the various Stations in anticipation of an increase in Price Increase.
Mr Ibrahim Bakarr Fafana, The Director Of one of the leading civil society and Human rights organization in Kabia said fuel smuggling has nothing to do the general masses but does that are into the smuggling, he appealed to the government to look at the current economic challenges in the Country and continue to subsidise in the fuel. ‘if government remove the fuel subsidise it will affect the poor people and many will suffer’ the Director said.
It was further observed by Ward Councillors that the removal of Fuel Subsidies might endanger their Political aspirations especially when General Elections are pending. But the fears of the respective speakers were allayed by the Minister in his closing remarks. He said apart from the fact that there is enough in Fuel in the Country which suffices there should be no commotion, Government will continue to engage with other relevant stakeholders for the setting up of the required modalities.
He expressed optimism that the trend will be revised as soon as the situation is normalised. The deliberations were chaired by the Senior District Officer in Port Loko- Alfred Lahai was graced by Governor- Ahmid Munirr Fofana. (By Chernor J. Bah)