| Q.1. How has been
your co-operation with the National Privatization
Commission? What are the advices that you are giving
them in order to prepare the various companies under
your Ministry for investors?
A.1: The Act of Parliament that established
the National Privatization Commission made them
solely responsible to shape the policies to carry
out the privatization process. It was stated there
explicitly that nobody else should be interfering
in that process so to that extent I can not even
give advice to the commission on how to proceed.
Initially in most of the parastatals we, the Ministry
used to have its representative on the board of
directors, but we had to withdraw them. It is
one form of collaboration with the commission
by not sending the wrong kind of signals to the
parastatals themselves. We havek now settled our
overall policies, which is, whatever policy we
will have in the future, must be first shared
and to some extent approved by the NPA to ensure
conformity and to make sure that we are not doing
anything against ultimate goal, which is privatization.
We are working in tandem with them but the driving
seat belongs to them.
Q.2. There are also many developments in the
communication sector, one of them is the establishment
of an Independent Regulatory Body that is designed
to really encourage investors to come into Sierra
Leone, what are your expectations to that respect?
A.2. First of all, like I have outlined
in my speech in the National Symposium the other
day, the telecomunication sector is in a transition
stage transforming from public to private and
also transforming from being a monopoly dominated
sector to become a scene for major competition.
The driving force behind the policy of establishing
a service on a high quality and at an affordable
price together with an enabling environment to
attract investors is to establish an Independent
Regulatory Body. It is designed to regulate the
sector without political interference and also
free from financial influence. The President in
his wisdom, has announced first that the industry
should be liberalized and he gave a lot of importance
to really open up the market. Previously we have
tried to create the base of a free and fair environment
but I think that the creation of that independent
Regulator will be the most important one. As a
result, the market is now open, and we are encouraging
all investors to come in, at the same time it
is regarded as a basic utility and so we should
provide for it for the people of this nation.
Q.3. Do you really believe that this step
alone would stimulate the investors to come and
invest in the fixed line telephony or Sierratel?
A.3. First of all we have to look at what
Sierratel is today. Whatever investor would come
here the only thing it would be interested at
is how to make money and how fast will he get
the return on his investment. Then, he will also
look at the amount of money that he is willing
to invest to make it kick start. I personally
don't know what is written in the books of Sierratel
or what the results are that they are producing,
so it would be hard for me to speculate on that,
but I know one thing is for sure, it is that with
the right kind of investment and the right kind
of expertise, you can make money. The fixed line
is there and there is no way any other system
can replace, that is a fact. It is also a fact
that the fixed line has to stay here and that
there is a future for it, it just needs the right
kind of person with the expertise and the financial
muscle to invest into it, to modernice it and
to expand it. The operations for the fixed line,
the connection fees, etc. are in general one tenth
of the price of the mobile systems. So the fixed
line has a very important role to play and a very
important space to fill.
Q.4. The airport is already prepared for increased
traffic, how will you try to develop the national
air carrier to be able to transport more passengers,
as it is projected by the Government?
A.4. The major guidelines behind the development
of the air traffic are mostly based on the bilateral
relationships between the air carriers themselves.
We are in close contact with them and we are supporting
every effort they have to increase the air traffic.
Speaking more specifically about Sierra National
Airline (SNA), which is also slated for privatization,
we are encouraging the building of partnerships
between foreign airline companies and SNA. Another
aspect of cooperation that we are encouraging
for SNA is to make Sierra Leone a hub for the
foreign airlines, both international and regional,
where they could have crew changes, carry out
major maintenance, etc services. These are the
type of plans that we are supporting right now
and it would bring benefits to both the airport,
the national air carrier and the nation as a whole.
Q.5. The Port of Sierra Leone is one of the
deepest natural harbours in the world and plus
it has a very good geographycal location, what
are the plans of the Ministry to capitalize in
A.5. As you know, the Port of Sierra Leone
is also a candidate for privatization, but if
you take the concern of security, we have to admit,
that ports are a potential target for terrorist
actions. So with the privatization, we have to
make sure that security comes on board too. What
we would prefer to do is to privatize certain
activities in the port that are not the core functions
of the port. With the help from the World bank,
we have been able to do a major capital infusion
and to bring in a lot of equipment to accelerate
the loading and offloading of ships and vessels.
Even with that, sometimes we have queues of ships
waiting to enter the port and to be served. We
want to be efficient to the maximum and the security
also, so that will enourage people to establish
their businesses in the country. At the same time
we are also trying to establish ourselves as a
transshipment base, that would also boost the
revenues of the port and positively contribute
to the general business climate in the country.
On the political side, we are also developing
bilateral relations with many countries, like
the UK, Holland, Belgium, and many othre African
countries. At the cornerstone of the airline business
is that we have liberalized the business, with
that we have also created competition among the
carriers. Talking about the transportation sector,
most of our business is connected to Guinea, so
we have established sound relations with them
and therefore we also encourage the development
of road transportation between our countries.
The development of the maritime transportation
sector is crucial for our poverty alleviation
policy, so it is of key importance for us. We
are not only developing the port and its services
but also the jettys, landing sites in the coastal
and river areas, that also includes a lot of work
to identify the populated areas, since most of
the population has been relocated due to the war.
Q6. What are the advantages that Sierra Leone
can offer to the foreign investors?
A.6. For example, in the transportation
sector, we have not got any organized and relaible
form of transportation which people could use.
I want to emphasize the fact that for the time
being it is a fully liberalized area, the people
are on the move, they need these kind of services,
so I am very much looking forward to somebody
to invest, whether in the road transport or river