He explained that because his administration inherited dire economic challenges, he instructed the Ministry of Finance to make no budgetary allocations to fund this year’s Independence Day celebrations until the country can generate sufficient domestic revenue to make up 20% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said however that “we have made very significant progress in domestic revenue mobilization over the last one year and we are collectively determined as a nation to achieve that objective.”
He said amidst the turmoil of our short history as a nation, some of our citizens have shown remarkable patriotism and selflessness in serving our great nation and went on to thank “every one of you who wakes up every day with the singular objective of working even harder to make Sierra Leone a better place.”
He lamented however that “corruption, theft, fraud, waste, and bad deals have left us with huge debts,” or that “connivance to sell off the country’s mineral resources to predators, have not added value to our determination to build a productive nation.”
He also lamented that “our failure to manage our environment and wildlife, protect our beaches and seas, and keep our living spaces clean and healthy at all times has not made our country a land worth living in; in addition to lawlessness, nepotism, discrimination, greed, crass opulence, mismanagement, and bad governance at all levels which have not made our country a land worth living in.”
Our disregard for our traditional values of deep faith and religiosity, respect, tolerance, justice, good neighborliness and peaceful coexistence has not always made our country a land worth living in.
He maintained that “on this day therefore, I ask Sierra Leoneans to make a solemn pledge or prayer to do all they can to make our country a land worth living in again. Let us embrace those values and attitudes that make us patriotic Sierra Leoneans.
“We have certainly made some gains. We have enjoyed 18 years of peace. We have had five successive democratic elections and three peaceful changes of government.
“Some of our brightest young brains have taken on the challenge of leadership and are contributing to national development. Our women and girls are taking their rightful place in national dialogue, leadership, and development. We must and we will continue protecting them and opening up opportunities for them.
“We have started salvaging the name and pride of our nation. Slowly, the world no longer sees us as the land of a cruel civil war, of corruption, of mudslides, and of Ebola. We are being seen as a truly inspired nation and a land of opportunity and great promise.
“From a steep downward plunge of our economy, empty coffers, and endemic corruption that saw our development partners disengage our last government, we are closing leakages for fraud and waste, and increasing domestic revenue intake.
“We are continuing to clamp down on corruption because it is the right thing to do for the economy and for the reputation and future of our nation. We will also continue to live within our means.
“Multilateral development partners have reaffirmed their confidence in our competent management of the economy by re-engaging and supporting us in even bigger ways than before now.
“We have created an investor-friendly ecosystem by making processes, regulation, and incentives more favorable for win-win investments.
“We have expanded investment opportunities in tourism, renewable energy, fisheries, agriculture, and other sectors. We desire more investment and trade. Credible investors around the world are taking a favorable look at our country.
“Our medium-term national development plan lays out our national development priorities in easily understandable clusters.
“We will continue to invest heavily in Human Capital Development through free quality education, quality healthcare, and food security initiatives.
“We will seed and scale science, technology, and innovation in order to fast-track revenue generation, governance, service delivery, and for developing the private sector.
“We believe that a skilled, educated, and healthy population is critical for expanding private sector growth and driving inclusive national development. Our goals remain capacity building and job creation.
“We will continue institutional and governance reforms and relentlessly pursue national cohesion. As a government, we also recognize that our national constitution must be reviewed to reflect the rights and aspirations of all our citizens.
“We thank our development partners for their continuing assistance towards the development of our country. We have agreed a principle of mutual transparency and accountability and together, we will plan, implement, and also assess the impact of their interventions.
“Cabinet has passed and will soon submit to parliament progressive legislations that will promote accountability, expand democratic spaces, and protect vulnerable populations.
“I expect that parliament will soon vote to support my government’s tougher anti-corruption laws, the amended Sexual Offences Act, and also strike the 54-year criminal libel laws. The Chief Justice has established Special Divisions of the High Court for corruption and sexual offences related cases.
“Our investments in infrastructure will continue to be purposeful, beneficial for development and service delivery, cheaper, and not burden future generations with unreasonable debt.
“We will continue to meet all our regional and international obligations and provide continental leadership for the reform of the United Nations Security Council.
“Fellow citizens of this our great republic, as we observe Sierra Leone’s independence at 58, let us remind ourselves that we have a unique opportunity to get it right again as a nation. For the seemingly intractable questions and tasks facing our nation, let us ask “why not” and be inspired to do the very best for our nation.
“We all have an obligation to make Sierra Leone a peaceful, progressive, and pluralistic democracy. May God bless us all and may God bless our great republic. I thank you.”