China is the biggest bilateral trading partner of Sierra Leone. China buys almost all of the iron ore produced and many of the imports to the country from Asia are from China. There are strong economic and trade linkages apart from the political relationship with the second largest economy on the globe. Each time therefore that the President visits the People’s Republic of China, Sierra Leoneans expect much in terms of building the economy and trade.
President Ernest Koroma being seen speaking to passengers in the economy class instead of sitting comfortably in the business class on his flight home from China dominated lately the social media space and some presented it like the President went against his practice of flying business class even before he was elected. That is very important if we got the figures officially on what was spent on the September 2016 United Nations meeting and after the announcement of cuts on travelling how much the President spent on the trip to China with a small delegation and no free-riders. The President of Tanzania is known for taking those extra-ordinary decisions against his own comfort which has turned him into an icon on the continent. The truth is, the president flew business class but took time to chat with people in the economy class according to his spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay.
The delegation of less than 10 including the President is a prudent way to cut down expenditure. But the end result of advocating for visa free entry for holders of diplomatic and service passport to China excluding importers who carry ordinary passports makes it an agenda of the politicians and not for the general good.
Some businessmen and women import from China. It is expected that the visa free entry will apply to them also. In small one-on-one discussions with business owners on visa free entry into China for politicians and civil servants, they all said the same thing that politicians know what they want and are good at protecting what they already have especially with a Trump presidency in the United States come 2017. China does not care about your human right record and what you do in your local politics. Trade is the biggest concern in their dealings with other nations. Could China be a haven in 2018 if there would be presidential election(s) after addressing what swept Jammeh and Mamamah in recent elections? This is just thinking aloud.
China provides capacity building opportunities for the civil service. The political class with diplomatic passports are always invited to Beijing. Holders of ordinary passports also benefit from training opportunities. We should be asking for what will grow this economy and not what facilitate easy movement of the political class.
The biggest iron ore company in the country is owned by the Chinese state-owned company Shandong Iron and Steel Group (SISG). The China Seventh Railway Group is doing major road construction in the capital Freetown. Chinese companies have leases in the mining and agricultural sectors to mine iron ore and other minerals; and grow fields of rice and rubber. Had the economy being booming, Mamamah Airport project would have been in construction prefunded with Chinese money. We should therefore be seen to speak for businesses and what facilitate their movements. That way we can boast of running the country like a business.
Tuesday December 13, 2016