We Need Bread and Butter; Sierra Leoneans are Under Pressure in Flailing Economy
A bread-and-butter issue is one that affects everyday people, like the price of rice, oil, bread, fuel, water, healthcare, electricity, tax rates, education, inflation, housing, transport, childcare costs. Basic, fundamental matters are bread-and-butter issues that have some connection to money and our standard of living. These bread and butter issues matter most for all Sierra Leoneans at home or abroad. Every Sierra Leonean is worried about being able to buy food, pay rent or pay for medical care.
Without labouring with the knowledge sophistication within the finance and economics sphere, a general conversation with a primary school student would help anybody understand that in order to sustain a basic livelihood there are three elementary human needs - food, shelter and clothing.
Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A theory of Human Motivation” he presents his hierarchy of needs in a pyramid shape, with basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid and more high-level, intangible needs at the top. A person can only move on to addressing the higher-level needs when their basic needs are adequately fulfilled. These basic needs he called the Physiological needs. The most basic human survival needs include food and water, sufficient rest, clothing and shelter, overall health, and reproduction. If these basic needs are not addressed in our society, we have a big problem.
In an interview with Tumac Radio (FM 89.3) on Friday March 19, Dr. Richard Konteh - aspirant for the All Peoples’ Congress Party Presidential Candidate, explains the why and how of the bread and butter struggles in Sierra Leone.
“We all know in Sierra Leone today, getting access to these basics - food (bread, butter, cooking oil, fuel, etc.), shelter (decent and affordable accommodation) and clothing is becoming financially strenuous. In instances where the goods and services are available, a significant number of breadwinners cannot afford to purchase these necessities,” said Dr. Konteh.
Although the current economic adversities are not a new phenomenon for the average Sierra Leonean household; the current hardship has triggered a variety of uneasiness and survival tactics for most Sierra Leoneans.
“We’ve seen and heard public officials reporting positive statistics whilst the situation at household level is largely unpleasant. Since 2018, Sierra Leone is on a backward trajectory when it comes to meeting basic human needs. Right now, the people of Sierra Leone don’t care about building a fancy bridge to Lungi, or building an airport. We need bread and butter, period!
The reduction in household incomes’ purchasing power has been aggravated by the poor bargaining power of labour resources, the inability to access foreign currency on formal markets and using parallel markets as the last resort (where exorbitant premiums are charged, greater exposures to frauds, currency counterfeits and slipshod deals are inevitable). Whilst incomes have been constantly eroded (loosing value), prices have been running amok.
It is the basic economics of demand and supply.
As businesses are confronted with reduced demand for their goods and services, cutting the expenditure side has become more ideal. Though the preservation of the limited revenue resources remains a prime concern within an inflationary environment, building cost conscious operations has become the epitome of most corporate strategies.
The currency instabilities have even worsened scenarios where short termism is the new industrial order. Long term projects are slowly being shelved and priority is placed on financing present-day working capital requirements. Under such circumstances, it is highly unlikely for labour services to be rewarded handsomely since the survival mode is the dominating entrepreneurial motive. One should not also forget the excruciating effect of our tax system,” said Dr. Konteh.
An attempt to interweave these market developments leaves one with a basic conclusion that household incomes are deteriorating whilst being confronted with price escalations. Having such constrained budgetary positions, breadwinners have largely been struggling to make ends meet.
Dr. Richard Konteh is an educator and an expert in development planning; management; peace building; conflict resolution; advocacy and governance.
He has served in the public service as Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development in 2007, and Minister of Trade and Industry in 2010. In his service, Dr. Konteh led the development and implementation of Trade Policy and provided policy guidance and supervision to affiliated institutions. He established the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Fund that provided affordable loans to SMEs. He developed and domesticated the Local Content Policy (now Local Content Law) of Sierra Leone. He registered marked improvements in Sierra Leone’s Ease of Doing Business rankings achieving the status of 6th most improved country in the world for Ease of Doing Business. He rebranded Sierra Leone around the world and attracted more investors to Sierra Leone more than ever in the history of this country. Hosted the first ever investment forum in Sierra Leone that attracted over 300 reputable investors to the country.
Dr. Konteh also served as the Chief Minister (Chief of Staff to the President) in 2012 where he coordinated the successful implementation of the President’s Agenda for Change and the Agenda for Prosperity. He facilitated the implementation of key government and Cabinet decisions, and provided technical and managerial oversight over critical activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies. Achieved Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Compliance. He facilitated the fulfillment of all criteria to achieve Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact. He successfully established the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Programme, Performance Management and Service Delivery (PMSD) Directorate , and the Right to Access Information Commission.
Since 2014, Dr. Konteh has been a private businessman and development consultant. He offers consultancy services to a range of organisations and institutions at the national and international level. He is a proprietor of small to medium size businesses in the hospitality industry, education industry, agricultural and real estate.
Dr. Richard Konteh is currently campaigning for the All Peoples’ Congress Party Presidential Flagbearer for the 2023 elections. His “Unifier Campaign” is big on social reforms. D-Unifier is a movement that seeks to change the social and political landscape in Sierra Leone. Dr. Konteh is particularly concerned about injustice - be it social, economic, political, legal or tribal. “We believe sustainable poverty alleviation is possible in Sierra Leone only when greater equity among all the population groups is achieved”, Dr. Konteh affirmed. D-Unifier is helping to shape a poverty-free and socially-just Sierra Leonean society.