One of the compelling lessons of Sierra Leone’s development in its last 50 years is how strongly its political trajectory tracks its economic development. Authoritarian rule and economic development are incompatible in Sierra Leone’s context. The country always makes progress, however limited, when its politics are democratic; and regresses, sometimes really badly, when it allows a single party, the military, big men or warlords to dominate politics. Indeed, during the period 1991-2004 growth nose-dived into negative territory when there were major rebel attacks (1992, 1995, and 1999) or a coup (1997) and rose rapidly when civil democratic rule was restored (post-2000). However, Sierra Leone’s history also suggests that democracy alone will not generate the kind of growth that will transform its economy to the benefit of all citizens and prevent it from sliding back to dictatorship and conflict. It needs to build additional sets of institutions, policies and strategies to direct its growth and sustain its democracy and make both growth and democracy work for everyone.
This paper was delivered as a keynote in a policy dialogue on Sierra Leone’s 50 years of independence, organized by the UN Institute for Development and Economic Planning and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It elaborates on the key lesson on the incompatibility of authoritarian rule and development by addressing three key issues that have prevented the country from attaining its full potential. These are how to harness the country’s abundant natural resources for economic growth and transformation that will improve living standards; how to rebuild and expand its highly degraded human capital; and how to rework its politics along lines of inclusiveness at the levels of elite and popular sector engagement, non-violence, and welfare development. The last part of the paper examines new challenges that revolve around issues of climate change and global pressures for a green economy.
Bangura's full article is available below.
The Patriotic Vanguard
published this paper on its on-line edition, 4 November 2011