By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Economic Association of Sierra Leone (EASL) held its 2nd Annual Conference on Thursday 25th November 2022 on the theme “Economic Uncertainties, COVID-19 and Geopolitical Tensions: The Way Forward for Sierra Leone and Africa” at the Freetown City Council Auditorium, 4th Floor, Lamina Sankoh Street, Freetown.
Giving an overview of the event, the EASL President, Dr. B.I. B. Kargbo, noted that they are gathered not just as individuals from diverse professions and ethnicities, but what he described as homo economicus.
He maintained that majority of the participants are in attendance to gain insights into how the economy actually functions continuing that whether they are paying for residential accommodation that is quoted in foreign currency, searching for a job, being paid not a competitive wage, amongst many others, according to him the elephant in the room is the economy.
“It is the economy we all share in common regardless of your political beliefs and region of birth; it is the economy that sets the terms of our prosperity as a people,” Dr. Kargbo stated.
He intimated that as a national society of economists they are not-for-profit and apolitical stating how they believe in contributing to nation building through research initiatives.
According to him, the Annual National Conference provides the forum that brings together all registered economists, both domestic and international, to deliberate on current topical issues affecting economic lives.
He noted that they selected this year’s theme to match the current realities facing the nation and as citizens of the globe. And according to him, they selected four topics bordering around the theme and how they appointed well-experienced speakers to deliberate on the topics.
These four sub topics are; revitalizing Sierra Leone’s productive sector in a global economic turmoil, using fiscal policy to respond and recover from regional and geopolitical shocks, optimizing the private sector as a vehicle for economic diversification, job creation and sustainable growth in the context of the current crises, and lastly monetary policy in response to shocks: Lessons for Central Banks.
The keynote speaker, Minister of Development and Economic Planning, Dr. Francis Kaikai, commended the founders of the Association and all those who have been promoting it to ensure that it holds regular discussions on topical issues that constantly preoccupy the Government of Sierra Leone.
He maintained that the aforementioned organization have played significant roles in shaping global development policy thinking.
“Some development experts have perceived results-oriented planning as a discourse entailing analysis, analysis, and analysis: respectively covering conceptualization of development problems; and implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects derived there from, in the planning cycle,” the Minister stated.
He disclosed that, it is against that critical reflection at some point in the last four years that they decided to prioritize development research in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, through the Department of Planning, Policy and Research, that was formerly named Central Planning Monitoring and Evaluation.
“No one could have been happier for the establishment of the Economic Association of Sierra Leone (EASL) than the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, charged with the responsibility of providing strategic direction to the State through promoting critical thinking, translated into national development plan formulation and implementation management processes,” Dr. Francis Kaikai said.
One of the presenters, Dr. Patrick M. Kormawa, CEO of Belverde Sierra Leone Ltd, spoke on Revitalizing Sierra Leone’s productive sector in a global economic turmoil stating how economists should play pivotal roles in the growing of the economy in the country.
According to him, Sierra Leone is suffering from long term economic challenges with COVID-19 and the Ukraine-Russia War exacerbating the economic problem furthering that, the effects of these shocks show there is the need to build a resilient economy.
Dr. Kormawa explained that the inflation in the prices of commodities is one of the tangible effects of the country’s economic problem stating that if jobs were created 20 years ago, many youths would have been busy working in factories, instead of perpetuating violence.
Dr. Abdu Muwonge, another presenter, spoke on optimizing the private sector as a vehicle for economic diversification, job creation and sustainable growth in the context of the current crises.
He stated that, to develop the economy in the country, the Government should move labor from low-productivity to high productivity sectors, providing more incentives for investment in manufacturing, encourage transformation of primary commodities, and to increase access to finance.
He revealed that high collateralization of loans driven by perceived risk of SME segment 150-350+ percent further revealing that the passing of the Land Act, reduced rural infrastructural gap (road, energy and ICT connectivity) will create an enabling environment for investors to invest in the country.
The event was climaxed with a question and answer session, together with interactions among the different participants.