By Foday Moriba Conteh
In order to maintain macro-economic and financial stability and to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 shock on businesses and households the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Finance and Partners has on Monday 18th May, 2020 launched one hundred and fifty six millions United State dollars $156M for the Quick Action Economic Response Programme. The launch took place at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Finance at George Street in Freetown.
Present at the ceremony were the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, Bank Governor Prof. Kelfala Kallon, Minister of Trade Dr. Edward Hinga Sandy, National Revenue Authority (NRA) Commissioner General, Dr. Samuel Gibao, Deputy Minister II of Agriculture, Dr. Abdulai Karim, NaCSA Commissioner, Abubakarr Kokofele, Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed R. Swarray and several others.
Speaking during the launch, Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said economic Management is on a positive trajectory and that Sierra Leone is on course, noting that had Sierra Leone not been on course the economy would have collapsed, adding that the most recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) review came out very positive, as Sierra Leone passed all of the indicators. He further maintained that the country is going to access substantial grant resources; though it cannot be substantial to take care of everybody and that Sierra Leone will surpass the IMF projected growth rate, noting that the government has done quite a lot to boost the Agricultural sector in order not to miss the planting season.
He maintained that the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP) is a ‘bread and butter’ component, adding that the NaCSA safety nets which has been giving emergency to persons living with disability nationwide is a part. He assured all that the Government is trying to scale up that. He further disclosed that all the five components of the QAERP are ‘bread and butter’ related.
In his presentation, Chief Economist in the Ministry of Finance, Alimamy Bangura, disclosed that the overall goal of the programme is to maintain macro-economic and financial stability and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 shock on businesses and households, which he said will be complemented by the dedicated COVID-19 Prevention and Response Health Plan. He noted that since the cumulative impact of the COVID-19 will adversely affect the effective implementation of the country’s Medium Term National Development Plan and the 2020 Budget, the Government of Sierra Leone thought it fit to develop the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP).
He further disclosed that the main aims of the QAERP includes building and maintaining an adequate stock level of essential commodities at stable prices; providing support to hardest-hit businesses to enable them to continue operations, avert lay-offs of employees and reduce non-performing loans; providing safety nets to vulnerable groups; supporting labor-based public works and providing assistance for the local production and processing of staple food items, adding that the Ministry of Finance with support from the IMF has re-evaluated the country’s macro-economic indicators, as the GDP growth has been revised downwards from a predicated 4.2% to -3.1% and that domestic revenue is expected to fall by 15% and expenditures expected to increase by additional Le1 trillion, stressing that a worsening of the country’s balance of payments position is also expected.
Chief Economist further added that the government has already started rolling out the programme to cushion the impact of the pandemic on people and businesses in the country and that the stipulated amount for QAERP will be largely funded by government, with support from its development partners including IMF, World Bank, ADB among others.
Highlighting the objectives of the programme, he said that the programme comprises of five objectives which are (i) building and maintaining an adequate stock level of essential commodities at stable prices, (ii) providing support to hardest-hit businesses to enable them to continue operations and avert lay-offs of employees, (iii) expand safety nets to vulnerable groups, (iv) Supporting labor-based public works and (v) providing assistance for the local production and processing of stable food items.
Central Bank Governor, Prof. Kelfala Kallon, also spoke about the Central Bank’s intervention in achieving the QAERP, stressing that their intervention in the programme is very pivotal and as a Bank, they are committed to support the private sector to gain access to resources and forex, which they need to operate and import essential commodities.
Other dignitaries present like the Minister of Trade, Dr. Hinga Sandi, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) Commissioner General, Dr. Samuel Gbao, the Deputy Minister ll of Agriculture, Dr Abdulai Karim, NaCSA Commissioner, Abubakarr Kokofele, used the opportunity to discuss the strides made so far towards stabilizing the economy in the country, and assured all of their tireless efforts in ensuring that the Quick Action Economic Response Programme becomes a success.