Tough macroeconomic policies needed to stabilize Sierra Leone’s economy and address growing poverty – says World Bank

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 October 2023:

Sierra Leone’s economy is projected to grow at 3.7 percent on average during 2023–25, below its long-term trend, says a new World Bank Report, published in Freetown last Friday.

According to the report, this lower than previously expected growth is “predicated on sound domestic policies, including a tight monetary stance to combat inflation, and an equally conservative fiscal policy to decrease debt pressures and rebuild fiscal space.”

Headline inflation, the report also says “could moderate gradually to 14 percent and the fiscal deficit decline to 3.9 percent of GDP by 2025.”

The report notes that risks to debt sustainability will remain elevated until fiscal balances improve further and the reliance on expensive and short-term domestic borrowings is addressed through the lengthening of maturities and greater access to concessional borrowing.

Abdu Muwonge, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone, said last Friday that; Sierra Leone is faced with a challenging macroeconomic environment and the rapid rise in the cost of living, combined with weak growth and deterioration of macroeconomic fundamentals threaten to increase the level of poverty among the population.

“Therefore, the Government’s policy priorities should focus on restoring macro stability while protecting vulnerable households and maintaining focus on long-term reforms that are geared toward fiscal and debt sustainability.”

According to the report, Sierra Leone’s economy experienced overlapping setbacks during 2022 as external shocks aggravated domestic macroeconomic vulnerabilities, resulting in a rapid debt build-up, rising inflation, and food insecurity.

GDP growth, the report says, slowed from 4.1 percent in 2021 to 3.5 percent in 2022, while inflation rose from 12 percent in 2021 to 27 percent in 2022, and further to over 40 percent by May 2023, threatening the welfare of households and worsening food insecurity and poverty.

The fiscal deficit increased from 7.6 percent of GDP in 2021 to 9.6 percent in 2022, driven by a combination of macroeconomic headwinds and policy slippages. Public debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 84.7 percent at the end of 2021 to 96.3 percent at the end of 2022.

The report notes that, though the outlook for the economy will be shaped by external developments, domestic policy remains key and should focus on restoring macroeconomic stability.

“Enforcing fiscal discipline and renewing the commitment to consolidation will be crucial in ensuring fiscal and debt sustainability. Active debt management can also support debt sustainability and reduce vulnerabilities,” said Smriti Seth, World Bank Senior Economist and one of the lead authors of the report.

The 2023 Economic Update devoted a special section on food security, examining recent trends, challenges and opportunities in three major agricultural value chains – rice, cocoa, and horticulture. It identifies the importance of supporting and empowering the private sector to undertake the required investments in the country’s agricultural sector.

This report comes at a time the government has launched its ‘FEED SALONE’ flagship program with the aim to increase agricultural productivity and achieve food security and sovereignty.

But questions are being asked by many policy analysts about the government’s ability to go beyond rhetoric, in mobilizing the hundreds of millions of dollars of private sector investments needed to achieve its Feed Salone ambition.

The report notes that some 4.5 million people (55 percent of the population) have insufficient food consumption, 3.9 million (48 percent of the population) have crisis or above crisis-level food-based coping strategies, and 3.22 million (38 percent of the population) face challenges accessing markets.

The World Bank says that while the rate of chronic undernourishment is relatively stable (with a slight upward trend), rapid population growth means that the size of the problem is steadily increasing in absolute terms.

As policy priorities over the short to medium-term, the report identifies structural weaknesses of the food system as well as global shocks as having negatively impacted the livelihoods and incomes of farmers and exacerbated food security risks.

To mitigate these challenges, the World Bank says that the government’s focus should be placed on prioritizing safety net measures to enhance short-term food availability and access for the most food-insecure and vulnerable households, as well as addressing structural challenges to improve agriculture productivity and competitiveness and enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

You can read the full report here:

Sierra Leone 2023 Economic Update



  1. Without any hint of shadenfreude whatsoever, i would say we are definitely on course to meet our target as the poorest country in the world (tote buckit) as measured by GDP per capita. We are presently 3rd and the IMF is projecting us to be 2nd by year’s end. I will just stop at that.

    Santigie Sorie please do not open any more the diary of the wimpy and gaffe-prone kid-in-the-block whose ferocious bark, harmless bite and exhaling hot air should now be part of Sierra Leone’s folklore. The gaffe-prone gentleman politician is a paragon of under statements. He kept on banging on about rigged elections and in the same breath asking former Kondor Manager Konneh to publish the fully-aggregated election results.

    For God’s sake, those election results were stolen and in mitigation, i would say a gun was pointed at fine and religious gentleman Konneh to announce sexed-up, embellished and phantom election results with all traces of the original results whether on paper or in a hard drive destroyed or wiped-off clean. The fact that Konneh is waiting till he is on his death throes before he sings will have his critics and detractors say he is showing a complete lack of moral and testicular fortitude.

    As far as i am concerned, the APC finds itself in an inflexion point more or less akin to the party’s formative years. It is a do or die battle. No gun was pointed at Samura to sign that ill-fated communique. His apologists who are now trying to shift the blame to the other members of the APC Executive should realise that the buck stops with the leader of any organization. The APC founder Siaka Stevens was under immense pressure in the 1960s in London’s Lancaster House to sign that Sierra Leone Independence declaration but broke ranks. The rest is history.

    The APC as a party has survived coups, the RUF and previous genuine and deserved elections defeats before and rose up like a phoenix from those ashes. This time around though i think their blatant refusal to retrieve the stolen votes of the people, to free the hijacked franchise and agency of the people may sound their death knell and herald an era of terminal decline.

    This scenario will be accelerated and catalyzed by President Bio whose words and actions as to overmatching the APC’s previous misdeeds in power are as glaring as they come. We have seen it in weaponizing the Sierra Leone Judiciary to expel about 10 APC MPs and enforcing the ruling by sending thugs to frog-march them Bo School-style from the wells of Parliament because the APC did it to one or two of the SLPP MPs albeit without force.

    There is a litany of other 10 eyes for an eye with the latest being stealing elections outrightly and blatantly because the APC allegedly rig the two previous results. A keen student of sequences and numerical analysis could now easily point to the latest new direction of travel for our country based on historical precedents. Bio’s APC-phobia and raison d’etre is to copy and overmatch every APC’s previous bad moves and even contemplating obliterating the party from the face of the earth. I

    n the coming months and years, therefore, i expect Ngor Bio to do an Ernest Koroma and replace Juldeh Jalloh with either a flip-flopping Kandeh Yumkella or the minning enineer cum master spin doctor Alhaji Abuja Alpha Khan in earnest preparation for photocopying Siaka Probyn  Stevens’ machination and declare a one-party state in the bogus guise of national unity and cohesion.

    This projection will not come to pass if, and only if, a Jerry Rawlings-like courageous figure come around to break the vicious cycle, clean the stables and perhaps send packing two of the oldest parties in Africa into the relics and fossils of history.

  2. The overall economic picture is covered in doom and gloom. We cannot finance our national debt, we are not growing economically, we are vulnerable to external global economic/political shocks, we have no financial discipline. Totaling all these factors, it means the Sierra Leone economy is in a tailspin and most likely have to cope with spacial disorientation; the Bio government has lost total control – if it was ever in control.

    A president who spends more than half the year in the air to have fun in different corners of the world, sometimes inviting himself to””to events, like Bio does, cannot be serious about effectively managing the economy. Jets are very expensive to rent. State House, as far as it is known, does not have a fleet of presidential jets. Did Bio do third form Economics and learn about the concept of Opportunity Cost? If he did, he never understood it, otherwise he would have applied it to curtail his aimless travelling to use the funds so saved to help desperate people by ordering rice by the tons, while strengthening the agricultural sector. The economists near him are just as hopeless, or is it a case of Bio not listening to them because he craves the abundant per diem which lands in his bank account? We can all remember the toady, J J Saffa, as finance minister, in his first budget speech, proposed to give his boss (Bio) a blank cheque whenever he travelled for his per diem. He sparked an uproar even within SLPP circles. Yes the so-called development economist did make that proposal.

    With the economy being in tatters The World Bank should know better than to view it at a macro level, the Bio government cannot understand it , it’s too much for them; they may understand things at a micro level. Amazingly the World Bank report failed to address the fact that with the Bio government not being in its good books at the moment, because of the 24th of June 2023 fraudulent elections, it would be difficult for it (The World Bank) to aid the country significantly. We need a saviour. Not the Almighty,because He gave us all our senses free of charge . Not the wimp Samura Kamara either. But someone close to the military leader, Andrew Joxon-Smith ,who did not suffer fools easily. That’s my reading of him in the history books. Civil servants feared him more than death.

  3. A glance at the World Bank‘S past and recent reports and recommendations call for a serious motif examination. What’s the World Bank? Is Sierra Leone being set up to fail? There is a need for a brave genuine dialogue for us to see where we are going.

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