By Chernor Ojuku Sesay
Brussels — Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah, has told key development partners within the European Union that Sierra Leone has lost close to US$100 million (one hundred million United States dollars) in revenue since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in May last year.
Businesses, he said, are dwindling, inflation hiking, mining companies scaling down operations, and that the projected GDP growth has dropped from 13% to 6%.
Addressing officials of the European Union Directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, EU Department for Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), European Investment Bank (EIB) and the outgoing Secretary General of the ACP Group of States on February 5th and 6th, Dr. Marah – accompanied by Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union, Hon. Ibrahim Sorie – further outlined his determination to diversify the Sierra Leone economy with more emphasis on other sectors like fisheries and tourism to boost revenue collections, rather than depending heavily on the mining sector.
The country’s National Authorizing Officer commended the role the various partners, especially the EU, through DEVCO and the ACP Group of States, have played in the fight against Ebola that has now seen a significant drop in the rate of infection in the three most affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
He acknowledged and commended DEVCO, which is serving as the main link between Sierra Leone and the ACP, in the fulfillment of the European Union’s financial commitments to the Development Cooperation Partnership Agreement. He further acknowledged the allocation of 373 million euros (three hundred and seventy-three million euros) to Sierra Leone under the European Development Fund (EDF) for 2014 – 2020.
The new DEVCO Commissioner, Madam Carla Montesi, commended the efforts of President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government in the fight to end the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone, assuring that DEVCO is ready to help the country to overcome the challenges of the post-Ebola recovery programmes.
Madam Montesi heaped praises on the proactive role Ambassador Sorie has been playing since his assumption of duties in Brussels in drumming up support for his country, and for the organization of the planned Ebola Summit in Brussels on 3rd March.
She further agreed with Minister Marah’s assertion about the SMEs being the main engine to boost the country’s economy, adding that DEVCO is ready to partner with Sierra Leone in that direction as well as render support for the growth of the Maritime industry.
Head of Division for West Africa, Sahel and the Caribbean at the European Investment Bank, Robert Schofield, also pledged the support of the Bank and promised to work collaboratively with the government of Sierra Leone in its post-Ebola recovery programmes. He said he has been ordered by the Vice President of the Bank to put together a special plan for the countries affected by the Ebola.
Director of the EU Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Stefaan Depypere, urged the Sierra Leone government’s Fisheries Ministry to expedite the completion of the IUU Questionnaire, which has been delayed for so long, so as to avoid the country from being issued with a red flag that will eventually prevent her maritime products from entering the European market.
Mr. Depypere reiterated his department’s commitment to work with the Sierra Leone government in accessing the European market for its fisheries products.
Outgoing Secretary General of the ACP Group of States, Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, said the leadership role demonstrated by President Koroma in the fight to end Ebola in Sierra Leone did not come to him as a surprise, “as the country is always endowed with quality leadership”.
The ACP, he said, will continue to support the three most affected countries to not only win the Ebola fight, but to also recover from its effects.