Governor of Bank of Sierra Leone sacked as economy worsens

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 August 2018:

Just over a year ago, 18th July 2017, parliament of Sierra Leone, unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh by president Koroma, as the new Bank Governor of Sierra Leone, following the resignation of his predecessor, Dr. Kaifala Marah.

Today, Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh has been sacked. President Julius Maada Bio has not said why he has sacked the Bank Governor.

But it is clear from his recent sacking of senior public officials appointed by the former president – Ernest Bai Koroma, that president Bio is trying to ensure that senior public policy makers in the country are fully and loyally committed to delivering his manifesto pledges.

News of Dr Patrick Conteh’s  sacking came after the release of a public statement by State House, informing that Dr. Kelfala Kallon – an economics professor living in the US has been appointed as the new Central Bank Governor.

When Dr Conteh was approved by parliament over a year ago, expectations were high as the economy was heading for bankruptcy.

The former Speaker of Parliament – SBB Dumbuya, called on “Dr. Conteh to do his best in stabilizing the monetary aspect of the economy, as he has been extolled in superlative terms by Members of Parliament”.

Members of Parliament on both sides of the political spectrum, praised President Koroma for appointing Dr. Conteh to the office of Bank Governor. But critics said that his appointment was tribalistic nepotism.

Conteh was described by parliamentarians as more than qualified for the job, and they called on him to tighten the screws on financial leakages, and stabilise the Leone in line with the US Dollar.

Other members of parliament referred to Conteh “as a man of integrity and sobriety”, calling on him to be innovative in executing his duties, and to revamp the economy by providing access to loans for Sierra Leoneans.

Both the Acting Minority and Majority Leaders of parliament – Jusufu B. Mansaray and Hassan Sheriff, respectively called on Conteh whom they referred to as an “home-grown” Bank Governor (a euphemism for Sierra Leonean appointees that were not trained overseas), to work closely with the Deputy Bank Governor to improve the management of money supply in the economy.

They also spoke about the need for improved access to loans to farmers, the effective management of the fisheries sector, and the stabilization of currency exchange rates.

It seems Dr Conteh has failed to deliver. But should he be blamed for the economic mess Sierra Leone is in today?

What went wrong in just over twelve months?

Sierra Leone’s economy was badly managed by the former government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma.

Public spending especially on non-essentials, was running ahead of revenue.

Sierra Leone’s single-track economy, its reliance on mining exports – especially iron ore, had started to falter long before Dr Conteh was appointed Bank Governor by a president who seemed totally incapable of diversifying the economy and broadening the country’s taxation base.

As exports fell, so too did the value of the Leone.  As government borrowing rose, so too did interest rates, thus making it harder for businesses to grow, expand and create jobs for the millions unemployed in the country.

Many would say that the job of Central Bank Governor is a poisoned chalice irrespective of the occupant. But when the Bank Governor is not in control of the government’s monetary policy, public spending and government borrowing, questions must be asked about the role of the Central Bank in managing the economy.

So who is Dr Kelfala Kallon?

Dr Kelfala Kallon is an Associate Professor at the University of Northern Colorado, where he has lectured since 1993. He was Assistant Professor at Gettysburg College, USA in 1987 – 1993; and Assistant Professor, University of West Florida in 1983 – 1987.

He obtained his PhD in Economics at the University of Virginia in 1983, a BA degree in Economics at the Methodist College in 1976.

Kelfala is a prolific writer on issues affecting the development of Sierra Leone, especially governance and the economy.

Will Kelfala Kallon make a difference to the running of Sierra Leone’s economy, where others before him have failed?

Inflation is now running at over 30% as prices of basic goods continue to rise. The value of the Leone against the Dollar and Sterling has fallen by an average of 20% in the last six months, a decline that started well before the March 2018 general and presidential elections.

Sierra Leone’s export revenue has fallen by more than 25% in the last nine months, especially with the closure of the Tonkolili iron ore mines by the Chinese. Iron ore was a major contributor to the country’s export revenue.

The International Monetary Fund is yet to resume its $284 million funding agreement with the Bio government, after it had suspended its relationship with the Koroma led government last year, because of economic mismanagement.

President Bio is now running his government on cash budget, as revenue sources – especially international funding support, dwindle.

Dr Kelfala must hit the ground running and be given a free hand by president Bio to manage the government’s monetary policy, if he is to make a difference. Will he succeed? Only time will tell.

11 Comments

  1. why shouldn’t we appoint Dr.samura kamara to salvage the situation,or look up for a practical banker professor to handle our problem…

  2. In Sierra Leone it is not about the question of running a bank, but first and foremost, creating a solid functioning institution in our banking system. We urgently need to address the deficiencies in this sector. Let’s give him a try, we’ll surely benefit a lot from him.

  3. Exactly my thoughts, being an economic professor is very much different from being a banker. Classroom experience is different from real life experiences. It is on record that academicians have never been good administrators.

  4. One of the problems we are facing as a Country is the politicization of key roles that are vital for developing the country. These acts that empower the President to appoint for positions like the Bank Governor who is supposed to be independent in pursuing monetary policies needs to change.

    These are not positions for party loyalists, but rather, qualified people should be appointed by the president after going through a rigorous selection process. Holders of these positions in the past have seen themselves as part and parcel of the government rather than acting independently.

  5. How does anyone expect any National Bank Governor to perform for the betterment of any nation whose government and political elites are generously littered with national treasuries and sub-treasuries looters, misappropriaters, and fraudsters. The current unethical Sierra Leone ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION is a typical example.

  6. That’s a brilliant comment Papanii. I can’t resist to commend you.

    I think this government is obsessed with PhD holders and professors. But, at the end of the day, it’s a ‘can do’ basis.

    In the UK parliament, one can hardly find these type of scholars.

    I wonder why they leave their well-paid lecturership jobs to take appointments in Sierra Leone.

    Patriotism, tribalism … what?

  7. A bold step by His excellency which some will describe as tribal appointment but the neutrals might see this as necessary because of the depreciating value of the Leone and the economic downturn of the country. I personally applaud the president for his swift and tenacious action.

  8. These guys are classroom PhD holders and not actual bankers Life the likes of mark Carney of Great Britain. Appoint Bankers to run the banks not Lecturers. Banking staff can run that bank better than textbook economist or come out here and hire one, remove politics from the institution and you will see dividend.

    • Papanii and Alimamy Turay,

      What banking experience did Samura Kamara have when he was twice appointed Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone by Ernest Koroma? What about Momodu Kargbo and Kelfala Marah?
      Are you also aware of the fact that “Dr”. Patrick Conteh was fired at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank before becoming Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone? Moreover, you should be informed that Patrick Conteh received his “doctorate degree” from an online university called Walden. Folks that pursue a “doctorate” degree from useless places like Walden are those that cannot gain admission into brick and mortar traditional universities with accredited programs.

      It also pleases me to inform you that Professor Kelfala Kallon received his Ph.D in Economics from the prestigious University of Virginia. And apart from pursuing a successful academic career, he has published extensively in his field, done consultancy work with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and held many seminars and workshops in banking and other areas of Economics at several institutions in the United States. So, the Bank of Sierra Leone is not getting a one dimensional professional as you may want to believe. Kelfala Kallon is the real deal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.