I will start my statement today with a question to myself:
“Will I live to witness a significant improvement in the living standards of my people?”
Little did I ever imagine that I would one day be the chief statistician of my country who will supervise the collection of data that would show how poor my people are?
As I grew up in the little village of Warima close to Masiaka, my father (of blessed memory), built a school so that I could attend primary school. He paid the teachers to teach his son and other children in Warima and its environs.
I would assist my mum to sell at our provisions store and I would go to the market to assist others. Whenever we saw our father returning from Freetown in his tanker truck, we would run to the house to welcome him home and help him carry bread, fish and meat he had bought for us. I would jump to see the new readers he had bought for me. He would ask one of his apprentices to switch on the huge generator as he dashed to take a shower; the wind would take the noise away from us, but did it bother us? The fans would work, the lights would push the darkness several metres away from our house, smiling to the oncoming light from the mosque where my father had provided power, and the ‘double decker turntable’ would play music to the admiration of many. Friends of my father would come over to chat about the day. I would notice some strange drinks being sipped, which looked always like VIMTO but we would never be allowed to taste. My mother would start her Fiat Car, with registration C9910, to move just a few inches, demonstrating to her husband that she could drive. That was in the 70s.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen.
Having now supervised my first living standards survey in my country in 2018, which took me to many parts of the hinterland, and having seen the poor to extreme poor conditions in which many of my people live, I now appreciate more than ever before, what my dad did for me and many others. It now tells me how wealthy we were. How lucky we were. How blessed we certainly were. I now know where our household would have been placed in the analysis of a living standards survey in the early 70s.
Now I see that being at the helm of generating the credible data that Government needs to plan for all of us, is a blessing in itself, because monitoring the situation of our people, in which we measure their living conditions and well-being, is useful to policy makers and other stakeholders. I feel even more committed today to ensure that we provide timely and reliable information about trends in poverty in this country, but perhaps trends in how our people are getting out of that poverty, because this will help the Government to identify priority areas for policy interventions.
I am blessed today to be part of a process that generates the data which will serve as one of the key tools to monitor progress on strategies to reduce poverty or increase the wealth of our people in Sierra Leone.
This is one of the few statements where I mention no statistics. I will leave this completely to my colleagues who will present to you the details of what we found out in this year-long survey. They will present regional and urban/rural levels of poverty, and associated indicators. They will also show how poverty changes between different groupings.
I will not start thanking people and institutions because we have someone who will do this today.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry for being so nostalgic about the 70s in my village. I will end by praying for Government’s success in improving the living standards of the majority of our people, especially those who live in the rural areas.