Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:50 am
Under the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kaikai, here is how, pre-coronavirus, the economy of Sierra Leone sailed on an even keel
During the pre COVID -19 period, President Bio’s Government has demonstrated unbroken commitments towards economic stabilization and recovery. The economy recovered strongly with a growth rate of 5.4% in 2019 from the sub-dued growth of 3.8 percent in 2017 and 3.5 percent in 2018.The Government launched the Medium-term National Development Plan(MNDP) 2019-2023 to promote sustainable economic growth and transformation and chart the way to become a Middle Income Country by 2035. The Government’s economic development policies were chronicled and encapsulated in the Medium-term National Development Plan (MNDP). The MNDP emphasizes human capital development, in particular, education, including investment in technical and vocational skills and the building of a diversified economy. MTNDP is the country’s development blue print for transforming the economy rapidly, through innovation and technology by utilizing the National Digital and Innovation Strategy (NDIS), launched by President Bio on 1 November 2019. The Plan received local and world-wide commendations, principally for the people-focus strategy, laced with sincerity of purpose, which are the hallmarks of good governance.
The Ministry of Finance embarked on the implementation of bold economic policies and public financial management reforms to stabilize the macroeconomic fundamentals and tackle structural bottlenecks. In particular, the Ministry of Finance pursued fiscal consolidation as the anchor of economic management to restore fiscal and debt sustainability. This resulted in increased domestic revenue mobilization to 14.4 percent in 2019 after stagnating at 12.2 percent in 2016 and 2017. At the same time Government introduced business-friendly policies including easing tax burden on businesses by reducing the highest marginal personal income tax rate to 30 percent from 35 percent; and corporate income tax to 25 percent from 30 percent. At the same time, sector Ministries are implementing sectoral policies to improve productivity and boost economic growth.
These commitments were vigorously implemented, anchored on time-framed trajectory, with an ultimate objective of re-positioning an inherited decrepit economy. , The prime objective, during this period, was to stabilize the economy and lay the foundation to recovery, then to economic development.
These economic recovery strides by the Bio- led administration quickly restored the confidence of development partners including the IMF that had earlier suspended financial support to the country..
The country was, on an irreversible path of transformation before the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic struck. In the education sector, the construction of Technical and Vocational Institutes in Falaba, Karene, Port Loko, Mattru Jong and Makeni, as empowerments especially the heavy and explosive youthful population was in progress.
The pre pandemic era also witnessed the support to the Ministries of Youth Affairs, Defense, Local Councils and Correctional Services in the establishment of institutional farms throughout the country to ensure food security for the people.
In the health sector, pre pandemic period witnessed the approval of $19.8 million for the National Diagnostic Centre and Radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer and other related diseases, with sophisticated modern equipment and facilities.
In the telecommunications sector the implementation of the fiber project, leading to strong and massive internet connectivity, connecting government offices, schools, hospitals, councils and allied centers, thereby digitalizing the country was on-going.
The pre-pandemic period in the last two years saw significant progress and achievements in implementing the “New Direction” Manifesto, by focusing on Human Capital Development, including Free Quality Education, by allocating 21 percent of the 2020 budget to educating two million children, irrespective of gender, ethnic or regional sentiments.
The “New Direction”, during the pre-pandemic period, also focuses on massive anti-corruption crusade, unprecedented in the country’s history. This era saw a steady rise in the recovery of ill-gotten wealth by corrupt officials. The findings of the Commission of Inquiry, whose white paper will be out later this year, investigated 110 persons, with 84 indicted.
As a result, Transparency International ramped up the country 10 places, 119 out of 180 countries in the Corruption Percentage Index. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent US foreign Assistance Agency, also ramped up the country in its annual corruption scorecard. The 2019 World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) improved Sierra Leone’s score on Transparency and Corruption under the Governance Cluster to 3.5 from 3.0 in previous years-another remarkable achievement. The country was on speedy economic recovery path supported by a strong political will, when COVID-19 struck in December 2019. Nevertheless, the track record of implementing reforms combined with the commitment to fight corruption assured the international financial agencies particularly the IMF to give a green light to bilateral and multilateral financial development partners to continue to provide support to the country. The IMF is an institution that only supports serious reform-minded governments all over the world especially in management of public financial resources. Sierra Leone has succeeded, under President Bio’s leadership, to secure these supports from the IMF, the World Bank and other bilateral and multilateral institutions.
The economy was on a take off stage, during the pre-pandemic period, along the right trajectory to sustainable development. It was a result of these bold policy and structural reforms by the Bio-led administration that paved way for continued economic sustainability in spite of covid-19.