By KABS KANU :
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon. Momodu Kargbo, has propounded in New York that the Sierra Leone government has worked hard on the tattered post – Ebola economy and the signs of a rebound are evident and manifest in the tremendous goodwill the government is enjoying from international stakeholders and donor agencies.
The eloquent minister said that economic indicators point to a reinvigoration and revitalization of the economy after the dramatic crash of 2016 caused by the Ebola outbreak and the slump in commodity prices in the world market, which wiped out the gains of the previous years.
The Minister, who is here in New York attending the UN Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) , made the assessment during a marathon interview with UN Minister Plenipotentiary Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu of the Sierra Leone International Media Network and Cocorioko, held at the Permanent Mission to Sierra Leone to the UN , on Tuesday July 19, 2017.
FINANCE MINISTER MOMODU KARGBO ( SECOND FROM RIGHT ) ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM KABS KANU (SECOND FROM LEFT ) . THE INTERVIEW WAS GRACED BY THE PRESENCE OF THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UN, AMBASSADOR ADIKALI FODAY SUMAH ( FIRST FROM LEFT ), THE HEAD OF CHANCERY, MR. ALHUSINE SESAY AND DR.SHEKA BANGURA, THE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL PLANNING UNIT AND THE NATIONAL FOCAL POINT FOR SDGs
In what turned out to be a comprehensive presentation replete with hard facts and statistical data, the internationally-renowned economist demonstrated Sierra Leone’s long road to recovery from what opponents of the government had described as a disastrous economic crash , followed by negative prognostications that the government would not be able to pay salaries of public servants or support public services.
The Minister confessed that it had not been a bed of roses .”It has been a lot of hard work, discipline and acceptance of expert advice from development partners , but now we can say that the economy is coming back and buoyancy is knocking at the door, ” he emphasized and demonstrated with compelling statistics.
Minister Kargbo was responding to Kabs-Kanu’s first question about what has happened to the economy since the government -imposed Expenditure Rationalization measures of October 2016 due to the economic crash. The minister said he would reply by drawing the journalist’s attention to the government’s relationship with the IMF , the World Bank and DFID. “We are not rated by other organizations . Our own rating agency is the IMF. Having a program with the IMF is one of the realistic yardsticks for knowing that we are doing well and they are happy with our economic performance, ” Mr. Kargbo , who has also served as Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, stated.
AFTER A BREAK PERIOD, THE INTERVIEW WAS JOINED BY THE HON. ROSALINE SMITH ( FAR RIGHT ) , MADAM JARTU JALLOW OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY AND HON. KALLON SHOWN IN THE PHOTO BELOW THIS ONE
Explaining in details the progress the economy is making, the Finance Minister enunciated : ” I want to take you back to 2013 -2015 when our economy was growing at 20.2%. It was the third fastest growing economy in the world . Then Ebola came in 2014 and it dropped to 4.6-4.7 % .In 2015, it went tragically down to minus 20.6 %. But we worked hard and in 2016, the economy started recovering and it has gone up to 6.2 % which indicates growth by 20.6 %. We expect to improve on these figures this year. ” Minister Kargbo stressed the extreme importance of these statistics. ” These are not ordinary figures. They are very significant statistics. They are a mark of the effort we are making to manage the economy well. The figures depict our story since Ebola and why we are saying what we are saying.”
The Finance Minister demonstrated the benefits that Sierra Leone has accrued from this robust economic performance. Minister Kargbo said that Sierra Leone has just started another 3-year ECF (Extended Credit Facility) with the IMF which will last from 2017- 2020 after the expiration of the previous one . The IMF will give budget support in the sum of U.S. $30 Million this year and the same amount next year.
“The IMF does not usually give budget support. They give Balance of Payment Support which goes to the Bank of Sierra Leone . But this year, they are giving us budget support and next year too. That is a clear indication that they are happy with us for the way we have managed the economy and it also shows that our economy is returning to its pre-ebola buoyant state.”
Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister asserted : We have been able to maintain an impressive level of resilience and success in three areas : Public financial management, intensified efforts to generate revenue and control and management of expenditures.”
The minister said that the government’s success in turning around the economy aggregates to political stability.
IN PART 2 OF THE COVERAGE OF THE INTERVIEW, MINISTER KARGBO EXPLAINS WHY IT IS DIFFICULT TO MEASURE PROGRESS THE WAY OPPONENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT DICTATE. He was replying to the question : ” Critics outline flaws in trusting GDP and economic growth statistics to measure success in economic performance. What is your answer ?”