By KABS KANU
The Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation, Hon. Momodu Kargbo, said in New York last week that the government was putting together sustainable programs to ensure that the people enjoy the benefits of the economic recovery in Sierra Leone.
The Minister gave the assurance during a marathon interview with Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu of the Sierra Leone International Media Network of New York and the Cocorioko Newspaper at the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in New York last Tuesday July 18.
The Minister, who said that economy buoyancy was knocking at the door in Sierra Leone after the economic slump of two years ago, caused by the Ebola outbreak and the drop in commodity prices on the international market , stated triumphantly that the government had worked hard to turn the economy around through prudent financial management , intensified efforts at generating revenue and control and management of expenditure.
The Minister said that though Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) was the best way to measure a country’ s economy, other measures like the prices of commodities were equally important but he confessed that it is a universal principle that when prices go up they do not come down easily. ‘They are always sticky downwards and this is universal”, he added but he stated that government was working hard to create the conditions for economic recovery to trickle down to the people.
One of the measures being undertaken by the government is the diversification of the economy. “We believe that we have the huge potentials to develop agriculture “, the minister emphasized. He disclosed that out of about 75% of arable land available in Sierra Leone, only 20% is Being cultivated presently. “We can do a lot locally to meet basic needs and become self -sufficient in food production”, he added.
Minister Kargbo intimated that when Sierra Leone grows her own food and becomes self-sufficient, prices of basic commodities would go down. The Minister explained that people will prefer locally produced food to imported products .The government, he further disclosed, has therefore been working on programs not only to make farming more lucrative but to ensure that it provides more than 65% of her labour force. He strongly stressed that the country could no longer afford to depend solely on the mining industry to gain macroeconomics breakthrough.
The Minister said that the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) government has engaged in wide-scale transport infrastructural development to facilitate the movement of goods and services by farmers and business people , all to boost agriculture.
The program to diversify the economy also involves improvement of the tourism sector which has a huge potential to generate foreign exchange, foreign investment and jobs. The government, Mr. Kargbo said, has engaged in robust marketing of the country’s tourist potentials as well as improving the tourist architecture at home to make the tourism sector profitable.
Minister Kargbo indicated that another measure the government had employed to diversify the economy and ensure that the people enjoy the fruits of economic recovery is the development of the Small and Medium Enterprise ( SME ), which has the capacity to help the economy grow substantially in the areas of GDP and the generation of more employment opportunities in the country. It is estimated by the UN that SMEs provide 60- 70% of the Labour force of developing countries.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is another program the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has engaged in to diversify the economy, remove the heavy reliance on the mining industry and create the enabling environment for any economic recovery to be enjoyed by the people. Minister Kargbo said that it is one of the engines that the government had employed to drive the economy .
The investment climate is improving in Sierra Leone after the Ebola outbreak, enunciated the Finance Minister .This is being propelled by the presence of the country’s abundant mineral industries, tax waivers, the ease of setting up business and the non-restriction in the repatriation of profits .
See PART 3 OVER THE WEEKEND.