Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 October 2021:
President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he is expected to drum up calls for foreign investments and trade for Sierra Leone at the EXPO 2020.
The president has joined his wife – Fatima Bio who arrived in Dubai last week for the opening of EXPO 2020, along with what has been described as “a bloated entourage of public officials as well as private individuals” costing hundreds of thousands of dollars which the cash-strapped government can ill-afford, amid growing concern the government may have to slash spending on much needed public services such as health next year.
In Dubai, president Bio will meet with the leaders of the UAE and other stakeholders in the private sector.
According to government report, he is also expected to preside over a Country Business Briefing, an event organised to showcase and market Sierra Leone’s investment opportunities.
President Bio will also be meeting with Sierra Leoneans living in the UAE, at a town hall event organised by the country’s embassy.
Arriving in Dubai two days ago, president Bio was received by Dr. Thani Ahmed AL Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade in the UAE and Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the UAE, Rashid Sesay (Photo above).
Sierra Leone’s economic growth has dropped by over 30% since the start of the pandemic, as the country’s exports and productivity take a hit, causing the government to resort to increased public sector borrowing and foreign aid.
The much talked about plan by the government to phase-out the country’s currency – the Leone and introduce a “New Leone” as a replacement, has been shelved due to lack of money to make the change which the IMF and World Bank themselves are believed to have frowned upon.
The Leone has seen a 40% decline since 2017, sparking a huge rise in prices of consumer goods, fuel, and transportation costs. Getting rid of the Leone will not solve Sierra Leone’s economic crisis – only export, higher productivity and increased private sector job creation can do that.
Critics of the government say that they are yet to see any tangible foreign investments arriving in Sierra Leone since president Bio took office over three years ago, despite he, his wife and ministers spending millions of dollars on overseas travel.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed by sources close to the president, that the president is planning another cabinet reshuffle by the end of this year, ahead of his final attempt to improve the economy before elections in 2023.
But president Bio is running out of options in terms of experienced people in his SLPP party to appoint to ministerial level.
He may well have to bring in new faces from outside his narrow “Poapo faction” or even his SLPP party, if he is to boost his electoral chances, ahead of the 2023 elections.