By Foday Moriba Conteh
The Minister of Finance, Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa, is excelling in that Ministry after major world organizations like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the African Development Bank, have laid their trusts in him and are working with him even during this period of COVID-19 when other world economies are collapsing. Even under the strain of the COVID-19, all three organizations are disbursing funds in accordance with earlier agreements signed with the able Finance Minister who is very skilled at international negotiations.
Since Mr. Saffa was appointed into that office by HE Dr. Julius Maada Bio, he has stoutly proved himself as the best Finance Minister this country has ever had. Many people have in the past described the Finance Ministry as a poisoned chalice as most former Ministers never survived there for long but Mr. Saffa has survived two years.
The evident reason for this is because since he took up the office he has been able to put this country’s economy on the right path to create growth and reduce unemployment both of which have been a challenge for this country.
Below are some of the few impressive achievements that the Minister of Finance has made with a very short period of time:
SL TO BENEFIT FROM AfDB 10 MILLION DOLLAR COVID-19 RESPONSE
The African Development Bank, President Dr. Akinwumi Adesine and his able lieutenant, Madam Kenyeh Barlay who is the Executive Director of the ADB, recently paid a visit to this country to further negotiations and discussions with the Finance Minister on macroeconomic reforms, sector programme interventions and support to private sector initiatives. Mr Saffa has pushed the ADB to pledge a whooping amount to help Sierra Leone defeat the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AfDB recently approved a $10 billion COVID-19 response facility aimed at assisting the continent to confront the pandemic, from in addition to ongoing AfDB support, Sierra Leone is expected to benefit.
Hon Saffa has pushed the ADB to pledge funds to help Sierra Leone in its health sector and macro policy response to COVID-19 pandemic.
The AfDB joins other multilateral from the International Monetary Fund to the World Bank in providing emergency funding to developing and low-income countries across the world which have been battered by the pandemic.
IMF SETS TO DISBURSE 21.13 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET SUPPORT TO SIERRA LEONE
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a press statement on Friday 3rd April 2020 approved the disbursement of another 21.13 million dollar budget support to the Government of Sierra Leone under the current Extended Credit Facility programme.
The approval came after the completion of the Fund second review of the country’s performance under the 172.1 million dollar programme that was signed in November 2018. This will enable the IMF to immediately disburse 21.13 million dollars, bringing total
disbursements under the arrangement to about US$63.39 million dollars.
This programme aims to create fiscal space for development needs by strengthening revenue mobilization, containing current spending and improving the efficiency of public investment.
In his statement, the Acting Chairman and First Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Geoffrey Okamoto, said Sierra Leone has been making steady progress under the Fund Fund-supported program and that the authorities have demonstrated a firm commitment to their reform agenda. He furthered that while the program’s medium medium-term goals remain appropriate to enable future growth and development, the onset of the global COVID19 pandemic poses significant short term risks. He suggested that combating the economic fallout of the crisis and protecting the health and wellbeing of Sierra Leoneans should be the immediate priority.
He commended the Government for the progress made so far in mobilizing domestic revenue and prudent execution of budgeted expenditures. This, he said, has stabilized domestic borrowing needs and allowed inflation pressures to ease.
He called on the authorities in Sierra Leone to prioritize additional spending to help cushion the impact of COVID19 especially in the critical and uncertain period ahead. He reaffirmed the Fund’s commitment to work closely with the Government to help address the priority health and economic needs to combat the fallout of the COVID19 pandemic.
Responding to this development, Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa expressed his delight and pride that the reforms of the Government of President Julius Maada Bio under the New Direction are receiving international commendation. “It is in the interest of Sierra Leone to have an economic programme with the IMF and also to be on track meeting economic benchmarks and reforms of the programme,” he said.
The Minister further stated that this disbursement will give Government the space to spend on key priorities of Government more so the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world. He said this is also a clear indication of the trust and confidence development partners and the international community has for the leadership of HE President Julius Maada Bio and the SLPP led Government.
It could be recalled that prior to the 2018 elections, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other development partners suspended their programmes (Funds) to the Government of Sierra Leone because the then APC Government failed to keep to the then Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Programme which led to the suspension of the Fund’s programme in Sierra Leone. But with the astute leadership of the Hon. Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa, Sierra Leone was able to get a new programme with the IMF which was the catalyst for other development partner’s interventions.
According to the IMF, since coming to office in early 2018, the Government implemented key reforms and launched a new National Development Plan with a strong emphasis on investing in education, infrastructure and improving governance. Growth stabilized at 3.5
percent in 2018 before picking up to an estimated 5.1percent in 2019, on the back of a broad broad-based recovery of economic activity. At the same time, inflation moderated to under 14percent by end-2019.