Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – During the launch of the Sierra Leone Economic Update by the World Bank, a panel discussion was held at the Sierra Palms Hotel on Friday, October 27, 2023. The panel addressed the country’s economic developments and food insecurity challenges.
When questioned about how the Central Bank plans to mitigate the current inflationary trend, Acting Bank Governor, Ibrahim Stevens, emphasized the Bank’s commitment to its responsibility. He stated that they anticipate tougher times ahead but are committed to providing clear guidance to the public. He stressed that their primary objective is to maintain price stability and that they are actively addressing the factors contributing to excess money growth, especially regarding its impact on fiscal matters.
Ibrahim Stevens underlined the importance of collaboration between the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to understand and address fiscal challenges. While he couldn’t provide a specific target for inflation reduction within the next 18 months, he highlighted the need to initiate a downward trend, which would allow them to work towards maintaining it.
Stevens also mentioned the government’s plans to take stakes in mining assets as a means to generate much-needed foreign exchange from the country’s resources. He acknowledged that the immediate impact is significant but expressed confidence that the actions being taken now will yield positive results in the not too distant future.
Wayne Mitchell, the Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), identified the lack of collaboration, cooperation, and coordination among ministries and across ministries. He emphasized the need for efficiency within the government to support the Big Five Agenda and the importance of generating adequate revenue, especially through proper tax administration.
Mitchell pointed out that Sierra Leone’s revenue-to-GDP ratio stands at around 14%, which is below the sub-Saharan Africa average. He highlighted that the increasing GDP is tied to loans, indicating that the country is not generating enough revenue, either due to tax evasion or inadequate tax administration.
He emphasized that without a focus on credibility and a track record of implementation, it would be challenging to attract private sector and development partner support.
Minister of Agriculture, Musa Kpaka, discussed the government’s approach to the Feed Salone Program, focusing on concentrating production in specific areas and value chains. He highlighted that the government’s investments will focus on these areas, including infrastructure development.
Ahmed Nanoh, Executive Secretary of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD), stressed the need to support the private sector in driving investment into the agricultural sector. He emphasized the private sector’s critical role in economic growth and the necessity of diversifying to expand the tax base.
Noella Barber encouraged innovation within the agriculture sector, particularly the use of technology to capture data from planting to harvest and monitor progress. She also emphasized the need to formalize informal market centers and enhance infrastructure to reduce post-harvest losses.
Rashid Conteh, CEO of Sierra Agrobased Industries and Services, expressed concern about the focus on increasing taxes and its potential counterproductive impact on the private sector. He urged a balanced approach to taxation, with a focus on both the private sector’s capacity building and tax exemptions.
Idrissa Kanu, Director Tax Policy at the Ministry of Finance, emphasized the need for government revenues to support service delivery and infrastructure. He acknowledged the importance of finding a balance to support the private sector while ensuring government revenue generation.
The panel discussion concluded with a second launch of the report, as requested by the World Bank Country Manager, Abdu Muwonge, who asked Shamsa-Khadija Bangura, the only child present during the discussions, to relaunch the report. Shamsa-Khadija Bangura conducted the second launch of the SLEU 2023 report following the initial launch by the country’s Chief Economist, Alimamy Bangura. ZIJ/30/10/2023