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As Salone conference starts today, coordinator says … “We failed in managing our natural resources”

Today Monday, January 30th to Wednesday February, 1st 2012, Sierra Leoneans from all works of life and social backgrounds will come together to draw up proposals and make suggestions that many hope will reshape Sierra Leone into a successful, law-abiding and peaceful country, Herbert McLeod, the National Coordinator of the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation disclosed to Awoko over the weekend.
Mr. McLeod said they have consulted extensively both within and outside Sierra Leone, and have discussed with specialists, ordinary people; looked at the past history of Sierra Leone in terms of policies and how they were developed and implemented.
According to Mr. McLeod, during their consultations and wide ranging reviews of all past government programmes, they have been able to evaluate the successes and failures and as they gather today, they have a picture of what Sierra Leone looked like before, how it is today and likely it would be in the next 25 to 50 years.
“We have many failures-I think the most obvious failure is the way in which we have managed our natural resources over the last fifty years. The fact that so much of our mineral wealth has gone through without much to show for it, is evidence that we could have managed it much better,” the Coordinator for the Sierra Leone Conference maintained.
According to him, what he considers to be one of the major failings in the development of this country is, “we tend to think that we understand our problems-but what we really do is look at the symptoms of these problems-and then when we offer solutions these are solutions to the symptoms, rather than the root causes-or the foundation of the problems. If we look at the foundation of the problems, then we can construct solid answers or solutions that would enable us to deal with the problems,” Mr. Herbert McLeod noted.
McLeod called for bold policies because, he maintains, the path that Sierra Leoneans took for growth hasn’t proved worthwhile. He suggests, “We should move to seven-year plans instead of 3-year plans in the guise of 5-year plans,” he said, and noting that this is because most development projects go beyond 3 to 5 years which he stated will force every government to work on the basis of that plan and not get into the business of one government starting it and another discarding it, etc.”
Sitting on a swivel chair in the vast boardroom which he uses as office on the 6th floor of the former UN building on Siaka Stevens Street and wrestling his mind with the thorny issues that have confronted past and present policy makers, McLeod pointed out that there should be a plan that is worked out, approved and adopted by Sierra Leoneans which governments must tie in their manifestoes to. “At a certain point of implementation of that plan, they evaluate to ensure that they are on track, and then move on,” McLeod stated.
From the interview, one can tell he is evidently relishing his role as the Master architect of a future Sierra Leone that will be above political party lines. He called on Sierra Leoneans to think, work and cooperate above party colors. With his affable demeanor and razor-sharp intellect he seems to enjoy engaging skeptics and the doubters of the conference and President Koroma’s motives for calling the conference.
His tone is friendly, but there is steel beneath especially when he implies that Sierra Leoneans should have more control over the revenues from their country’s vast mineral wealth.
“I believe that the people need to be much more involved in the way our revenue is being managed-in particular, the wind-fall revenue,” he said. He revealed that Sierra Leone is going to have a flood of revenues from the mining and agriculture sectors-beyond what is normally managed.
He was quick to inform Awoko that one of the recommendations they will be making to the conference is to “ring-fence” wind-fall revenues and only put 25 percent into the Consolidated Revenues Fund.
Asked what should happen to the “ring-fence” wind fall revenues, Mr. McLeod said the money should be used for development purposes. He pointed out that investing the revenue, means “converting our wealth in the ground to wealth that will yield resources overtime.”
McLeod stated that his hope for the future of Sierra Leone is hinged on the general cooperation of every Sierra Leone at home and abroad, by investing everything that they think is good for the country.
By Winston Ojukutu-Macaley Jnr.

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