By Amin Kef Sesay
It was disclosed in Freetown on June 17, 2020 that the World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors has approved a $100 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) to support the Government of Sierra Leone in promoting sustainable and inclusive growth and building economic resilience.
This Development Policy Financing (DPF) supports ongoing reforms to enhance macroeconomic stability, increase productivity in agriculture and fisheries, promote transparency in public procurement, and build an effective asset disclosure system to fight corruption and improve public sector accountability.
“This financing will help address fiscal challenges and improve overall governance to build resilience and enhance the delivery of services to the people amidst this global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone’s opportunities to eradicate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity rest on sustained macroeconomic stability, robust growth and a solid enabling environment for the exploitation of its abundant natural resources.”
The program focuses on two primary objectives: creating the conditions for increased productivity in selected economic sectors and improving transparency in selected Government decision making processes.
“The World Bank continues to support the Government’s commitment to tackle difficult and needed reforms to promote inclusive growth,” said Youssouf Kiendrebeogo, World Bank Senior Economist and Task Team Leader.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Sierra Leone’s economy grew by 5.1 percent in 2019 driven mainly by robust activities in agriculture and services. With the spread of the virus in Sierra Leone and the effects of the global pandemic, the economy is expected to contract by between 2.3 and 3.1 percent in 2020 and growth could be 1.4 to 2.0 percentage points lower than forecast for the medium term.
The downside risks to this outlook are also heightened, depending on the duration of the global pandemic and the implications for the opening of borders and markets for Sierra Leone exports as well as essential imports, including food. An extended crisis could lead to major disruptions in the service sector (trade, tourism and transportation in particular) with substantial job losses and increased poverty. A key challenge for the Government is to diversify the economy to raise real per capita growth above the population growth of 2.1 percent in order to ensure that the gains in reducing poverty and inequality are sustained.
This is the last operation in a programmatic series of three operations to support the implementation of the Government’s priorities articulated in its Medium-Term National Development Plan (2019 – 2023).