NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. JULIUS MAADA BIO, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE.

Fellow citizens, welcome to a new year – a time to   bid   farewell   to   2019   and   a   time   to   look forward to 2020.

As   we   look   back   into   2019, we   were   shackled with high domestic and foreign debt repayments, unfavourable   mining   lease   agreements, low domestic   productivity, high   youth unemployment, high   inflation   and   currency depreciation.   Throughout   the   year, our confidence   and   optimism   as   a   nation   were shaken   by   mild   economic   turbulence   and unavoidable shocks we inherited.

Typically, Sierra Leoneans have made light of the situation with the usual humorous jibe, “the grown dry”. But in 2019, we also made huge progress. We   launched   the   medium-term   national development   plan; increased   domestic   revenue mobilisation   by   streamlining   and   automating revenue   collection   and   deposit   processes; clarified and reduced the tax and duty burden on businesses; made it easier to establish and run a business   including   providing   aftercare   at   the highest   levels   and   provided   more   support   for small to medium enterprises. We do this with the firm belief that private enterprise is the engine for economic expansion.

As we look forward into 2020, our Country is at peace   with   falling   crime   rates, lower   prison populations and no security threat. At Bintumani 3, Sierra   Leoneans   suggested   ways   to   further lower   tensions   and   establish   a   permanent infrastructure   for   peace.   We   have   moved   to repeal   criminal   libel   laws   that   successive governments had used to suppress free speech. We   continue   to   open   up   civic   spaces   and   we encourage our citizens to speak up and make our democracy stronger and better.

In spite of the cynicism about foreign travel, we have, through   those   travels   transformed   the reputation and image of Sierra Leone abroad by comprehensively telling our friends and partners who we really are and where we are taking our nation. And they have   watched our unrelenting and determined fight against corruption. We passed the MCC’s “Control of Corruption „indicator with very high scores.   They   have   watched   us   crack   down   on fraud   and   waste   and   reform   public   institutions and practices. And you know what, the IMF, EU, DFID, World Bank and our international partners have   all   expressed   confidence   in   what   we   are doing and they have re-engaged fully. We have actively   promoted   business   in   Sierra   Leone through   various   investment   conferences   and foreign   delegations   have visited   our country   to explore investment opportunities.

The   fisheries, tourism, and   agricultural   sectors are   set   for   significant   foreign   private   sector investments in the near future. We are focused on   rice-sufficiency, cash   crop   production   and agricultural value-chain addition.

As   we   go   into   2020, more   than   two   million children, especially   girls, have   access   to   free quality   education, free   teaching   and   learning materials, expanded healthcare services, school buses and free school feeding in some areas. We have   intensified   our   national   campaign   against early   child   marriage, introduced   robust enforcement   and tougher   sentencing guidelines for sexual and gender-based violence. Teenage pregnancy, menstrual health and hygiene are no longer taboo topics. Our women are   at   the   centre   of   our   country’s   future development and security and we have recruited more women into our armed forces than at any time in our country’s history.

We   are   investing   heavily   in   STEM   disciplines especially for girls and through the Directorate of Science, Technology, and   Innovation, we   are harnessing the power of data and technology to support   governance, business, healthcare, education, and agriculture. We recently launched the   first   drone   corridor   in   West   Africa   and   the first   block-chain-based   national   digital   identity platform   that   will   improve   financial   inclusion among other benefits.

Soon, we   will   convene   a   national   forum   on   the future   of   education.   We   do   so   mindful   of   our national   development   priorities   and   goals   and knowing   that   for   our   children   to   lead   and participate   in   the   Fourth   Industrial   Revolution and the global economy, they must be equipped with a 21st century education.

We enter 2020 in a Sierra Leone where mothers in   labour   and   critically   ill-cases   can   now   be rushed   into   a   nearby   hospital   or   community health centre by an ambulance they can call toll-free   from   the   comfort   of   their   homes.   We   will continue   work   on   lowering   maternal   mortality rates, expanding   primary   healthcare, training and   recruiting   more   healthcare   workers, and refurbishing   or   building   new   health   centres   all over the country.  In 2020, we will   turn   sod   for the   construction   of an   ultramodern   diagnostic health Centre using funds recovered from corrupt officials as seed money. Our public sanitation and waste disposal   investments have   yielded   public health benefits.

We   enter   2020 with   a renewed   commitment   to fighting   climate   change   while   improving   clean

energy access in off-grid rural areas and tackling energy   poverty   through   the   nearly-complete regional grid and other new initiatives.

We   enter   2020   with   extensive   judicial   reforms that   have   led   to   more   access   to   justice.   Our social   protection   programmes   continue   to support   vulnerable   families   and   we   have launched   a   $50   million   urban-mobility   project. We are also rehabilitating key trunk roads from Kailahun to Freetown and building new bridges nationwide.   Big   impact   and   high-value infrastructural projects will commence in 2020.

Our   youth   empowerment   projects   and   our support   for   sports   development, especially   the Sierra   Leone   Premier   League, have   been   very significant.

Fellow   citizens, together   we   have   started   an inspiring   journey.   The   challenges   are   huge   but they are not insurmountable. Your expectations are high but they can be met. Your aspirations are boundless but they can be fulfilled. Nothing is impossible, even the miracles you expect us to perform.

Therefore, I call for your relentless optimism and hard work to develop our nation. If you share my belief   that   we   can   make   Sierra   Leone   a   better place, I urge you to share the responsibility with me for doing so with a firm commitment to make, act and be the change you want to see.

NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. JULIUS MAADA BIO, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE

Fellow citizens, welcome to a new year – a time to bid farewell to 2019 and a time to look forward to 2020.

As we look back into 2019, we were shackled with high domestic and foreign debt repayments, unfavourable mining lease agreements, low domestic productivity, high youth unemployment, high inflation and currency depreciation. Throughout the year, our confidence and optimism as a nation were shaken by mild economic turbulence and unavoidable shocks we inherited.

Typically, Sierra Leoneans have made light of the situation with the usual humorous jibe, “the gron dry”. But in 2019, we also made huge progress.We launched the medium term national development plan; increased domestic revenue mobilisation by streamlining and automating revenue collection and deposit processes; clarified and reduced the tax and duty burden on businesses; made it easier to establish and run a business including providing aftercare at the highest levels and provided more support for small to medium enterprises. We do this with the firm belief that private enterprise is the engine for economic expansion.

As we look forward into 2020, our Country is at peace with falling crime rates, lower prison populations and no security threat. At Bintumani 3, Sierra Leoneans suggested ways to further lower tensions and establish a permanent infrastructure for peace. We have moved to repeal criminal libel laws that successive governments had used to suppress free speech.We continue to open up civic spaces and we encourage our citizens to speak up and make our democracy stronger and better.

In spite of the cynicism about foreign travel, we have, through those travels transformed the reputation and image of Sierra Leone abroad by comprehensively telling our friends and partners who we really are and where we are taking our nation. And they have watched our unrelenting and determined fight against corruption. We passed the MCC’s “Control of Corruption”indicator with very high scores. They have watched us crack down on fraud and waste and reform public institutions and practices. And you know what, the IMF, EU,DFID, World Bank and our international partners have all expressed confidence in what we are doing and they have re-engaged fully. We have actively promoted business in Sierra Leone through various investment conferences and foreign delegations have visited our country to explore investment opportunities.

The fisheries, tourism, and agricultural sectors are set for significant foreign private sector investments in the near future. We are focused on rice-sufficiency, cash crop production and agricultural value-chain addition.

As we go into 2020, more than two million children, especially girls, have access to free quality education, free teaching and learning materials, expanded healthcare services, school buses and free school feeding in some areas. We have intensified our national campaign against early child marriage, introduced robust enforcement and tougher sentencing guidelines for sexual and gender-based violence. Teenage pregnancy, menstrual health and hygiene are no longer taboo topics. Our women are at the centre of our country’s future development and security and we have recruited more women into our armed forces than at anytime in our country’s history.

We are investing heavily in STEM disciplines especially for girls and through the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation, we are harnessing the power of data and technology to support governance, business, healthcare, education, and agriculture. We recently launched the first drone corridor in West Africa and the first block-chain-based national digital identity platform that will improve financial inclusion among other benefits.

Soon, we will convene a national forum on the future of education. We do so mindful of our national development priorities and goals and knowing that for our children to lead and participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the global economy, they must be equipped with a 21st century education.

We enter 2020 in a Sierra Leone where mothers in labour and critically ill-cases can now be rushed into a nearby hospital or community health centre by an ambulance they can call toll-free from the comfort of their homes. We will continue work on lowering maternal mortality rates, expanding primary healthcare, training and recruiting more healthcare workers, and refurbishing or building new health centres all over the country. In 2020, we will turn sod for the construction of an ultramodern diagnostic health Centre using funds recovered from corrupt officials as seed money. Our public sanitation and waste disposal investments have yielded public health benefits.

We enter 2020 with a renewed commitment to fighting climate change while improving clean
energy access in off-grid rural areas and tackling energy poverty through the nearly-complete regional grid and other new initiatives.

We enter 2020 with extensive judicial reforms that have led to more access to justice. Our social protection programmes continue to support vulnerable families and we have launched a $50 million urban-mobility project. We are also rehabilitating key trunk roads from Kailahun to Freetown and building new bridges nationwide. Big impact and high-value infrastructural projects will commence in 2020.

Our youth empowerment projects and our support for sports development, especially the Sierra Leone Premier League, have been very significant.

Fellow citizens, together we have started an inspiring journey. The challenges are huge but they are not insurmountable. Your expectations are high but they can be met. Your aspirations are boundless but they can be fulfiled. Nothing is impossible, even the miracles you expect us to perform.

Therefore, I call for your relentless optimism and hard work to develop our nation. If you share my belief that we can make Sierra Leone a better place, I urge you to share the responsibility with me for doing so with a firm commitment to make, act and be the change you want to see.

My family and I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. I thank you.

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