New IMF chief of mission to Sierra Leone strengthens partnership with president Bio

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 November 2019:

The newly appointed Chief of Mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Sierra Leone, Ms. Karen Ongley, and her Resident Representative, Dr Monique Newiak, yesterday met president Bio at State House in Freetown, where they discussed a new partnership aimed at addressing the economic challenges facing the country.

The new IMF chief of mission to Sierra Leone (Photo – right of president Bio), told president Bio that she is delighted to be in the country, adding that the measures and progress made so far by the government have been very good, and welcome the government’s strategy to transform the country through innovation and digitalisation.

IMF Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr Newiak (Photo – left of president Bio), said it’s an honour to meet the president, especially after hearing about all the good things that the government is delivering, including key reforms that are underway.

She added that the IMF is in Sierra Leone to support the government in its reforms, through partnership and collaboration.

President Bio told the IMF Chief that Sierra Leone is genuinely committed to making progress economically and socially. He said his government is making progress in tackling the economic challenges facing the government and people of Sierra Leone, for which he says the country needs genuine partners.

Five months ago, the IMF completed the first review of Sierra Leone’s economic performance, under its Extended Credit Facility (ECF) agreement with the government.

As a result of that review, it agreed to disburse the sum of $21.62 million to the government of Sierra Leone, bringing the total disbursements under the current ECF arrangement to about $43.25 million.

Expressing confidence in the Bio-led government in June 2019, the IMF said that “the government’s reform agenda will secure fiscal sustainability, create space for priority spending, and lay the foundation for inclusive growth and poverty reduction”.

“Implementation of the program, supported by the IMF, has been satisfactory in the face of a challenging economic environment,” the June 2019 IMF report said.

This program includes the removal of subsidy on various consumer items – such fuel, the withdrawal of massive tax waivers granted by the APC government, prudent government spending, and tough fiscal policy.

But it is not certain whether the new IMF Chief of Mission to Sierra Leone (Photo: Top left), yesterday discussed the possibility of relaxing some of the IMF conditionalities imposed on the government, which many in the country are blaming for the difficult economic situation in the country, with very high taxes, high import duties and exorbitant costs of clearing goods at the seaport, adding to rising inflation and very high costs of living.

Sierra Leone’s 43‑month ECF arrangement for SDR124.44 million (about US$172.1 million or 60 percent of the country’s quota at the time of approval of the arrangement) was approved on November 30, 2018 (see Press Release No. 18/446).

At the end of the performance review in June 2019, the IMF said that the government’s reform agenda which is supported by the ECF, “aims to create fiscal space for priority spending, by strengthening revenue mobilization, containing current spending and improving the efficiency of public investment.”

In a nutshell, the government was told in June 2019, to reduce spending and raise more revenue as a matter of priority. But this is proving quite difficult to achieve, and may well require further negotiations with the IMF at the next review meeting in Freetown, including possible request for waiver of non-observance of performance criteria.

The new IMF Mission Chief to Sierra Leone, joined the IMF in 1998, bringing a wealth of experience to her role. She was previously Mission Chief for West Bank and Gaza and has worked in a range of low and middle-income countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Yemen.

8 Comments

  1. BRAHIM, the KING – You always make me smile with your genuine words of candour. I thank you and Cleric Abubakarr sincerely for your kind word’s. I am deeply humbled brother. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  2. Brother Alusine Fallay thank you so much. May the mighty divine God add more on to your knowledge. You do really reminded us about the past. Thank you for your eloquent message.

  3. Whoever wrote those words,is a MUFTI; he is someone that has superior intelligence. He is a man that can make something difficult to understand look quite easy – those are the words of a friend of mine Abubakarr who is an Islamic cleric, after reading Saidu Conteh’s comment ABOVE. GREATSAYEDNA, we thank you for helping us to SEE THINGS THROUGH YOUR EYES, and for making us understand the TRICKY ways of the IMF. WE ARE GRATEFUL.

  4. I can still remember the first time I heard about the IMF was in the early 80’s when late President Siaka Stevens ( Pass Ah Die ) started losing his mental balance after borrowing millions of dollars from the IMF and World Bank to host the Organization Of Africa Unity ( OAU ) Conference against the advice of the late Bank Governor Sam Bangura who was later found dead at his home . Late President Stevens jokingly said that “ The IMF can also devalue our souls “ after signing the conditions which include the devaluation of the Leone which was once pegged to the British Pound Sterling.

    Late President Joseph Momoh later Signed another IMF condition by Floating our Leone which finally brought our nation on it knees – and we started lining up to buy a cup of rice early in the morning , I still remember citizens angrily calling then Retired President Stevens “ Big Nose “ whenever he is spotted driving around in his open top Mercedes Benz and his reply was “ Toe Line “.

    By 2006 under the leadership of late President Tejan Kabba our loans were forgiven after achieving most of the conditions, but the SLPP lost the 2007 election to the APC party. President Ernest Koroma who is the lifetime leader and chairman of the APC introduced Austerity measures in 2016 after an economic boom in 2012, but lost the 2018 Presidential election to the SLPP. By 2018 President Maada Bio inherited a bankrupt economy because of massive corruption by the past APC government and since government is continuity, the IMF will make sure that they have their money with interest that the lifetime leadership of the APC signed but decided to build houses, party office, buying Jeeps for election campaign, bribing voters and chiefs and looting the banks after loosing the presidential election.

    Let’s hope and pray that our country will finally come out of the IMF Austerity measures before the 2023 election.

    • We are like a hungry lion searching for its prey to devour. Remember the former corrupt government who mortgaged the economy of this country to foreign investors. The reason for our suffering today should not be based on the present government, but the former APC goverment. Who thought that Sierra Leone is their farm. President Bio you have to be careful with this sugar-coated lender.

  5. Children of the Most High God – Wisdom is the Principal thing! Imagine for minute if you can,having a dilapidated house,desperately in need of repair,and you cannot afford to fix it,because you are strapped for cash. And then someone comes along,a wolf to be precise,offering to give you the money to fix it as a loan – not in good faith,but for self-centered motives.

    A complicated loan with intricate strings attached to it….”You can have this money,and use it to fix your rickety house,” says the lender,”but you must remember the new roof must be very low,the windows must be made of laminated glass,and the gates of iron – bricks last longer,so use them wisely; again,the house must be surrounded with prickly barbed wire exactly10 feet tall,to keep thieves away,and you will need a vicious guard to ensure that the occupants in your house stay safe;and also paint it,but nicely with green.

    Lastly,the interest on the money,I am giving you,will be half of the original amount – and it must be paid without fail when the cock crows at dawn,for the first time every New Year.(lol) And failure to meet those deadlines,will cause the amount being owed to become inflated,like a giant oxygen balloon. This is kindness,I am offering!” (lol) So many complexities involved – this is what it looks like,borrowing money from Western lenders like the IMF,and the World Bank….they use a devious strategy that rarely ever fails to accomplish their wicked aims – It resembles a trap,designed for the blind mouse,hungering for some delicious cheese. And sadly,once the mouse gets caught in the inescapable trap,it can’t break free ever again,because it is blind; the more it struggles to escape,the more it gets entangled,and become permanently stuck….Words to wise! Rising Sun In will Rise Again.

  6. Economic conditions may be challenging for Sierra Leoneans right now but the government of President Bio, who has been in office barely two years, appears to be fighting hard to turn things around for the better. Just recently our country received high praise for meeting and exceeding the Millennium Challenge Cooperation MCC FY20 Scorecard. And for once our country is receiving very good news regarding the way our government is conducting the people’s business.

    Sierra Leoneans should commend President Bio and his team for getting on the right footing. It is anyone’s guess what the future holds for our country if this is to continue. As for the APC party, I will advise them to stop the political grandstanding and give the SLPP government a chance to undo the damage done to our country’s image and the collapse of our economy, under the erstwhile dictatorial rule of Ernest Bai Koroma and his band of state looters.

  7. Please, be cautious with the IMF. It is not a democratic institution. It is dominated by the USA. There are a lot of examples like Greece, Chile, Argentina, etc. where the target of privatization makes the poor poorer and the rich richer, and leads to social reduction.

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