Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 December 2022:
The World Bank announced last week that is has approved the Second Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Development Policy Financing (DPF), with a $100 million grant which it says will support the Government of Sierra Leone to improve natural resource governance, enhance inclusiveness, and strengthen accountability and transparency in public finance.
But with elections round the corner, critics of the government say that this funding is nothing but a gravy train for the government and its ruling SLPP to launch their general and presidential elections using donor funds and state resources.
Many analysts have warned against bankrolling the government of President Bio whom the opposition are blaming for the deplorable and declining state of the country’s economy, due to his incompetence and poor leadership.
Handing President Bio $100 million cheque to pay for “strengthening accountability and transparency in public finance”, just does not make sense. Its like appointing a mouse to look after the cheese.
The systems are already there for improving transparency and accountability. The policies are already in place. The governance institutions and processes are all there. The people – human resources are there. So whats the problem? Why throw away $100 million at a government that cannot account for over $50 million.
What President Bio and his government need is the will to implement with honesty and integrity. Except of course the 100 million is to pay for something else through the back door, which the people of Sierra Leone have not been told. For example, to strengthen the rapidly falling value of the Leone; or worse, to help the government pay for its electioneering campaign.
But writing in its press release last week, Abdu Muwonge – World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone, said: “Sierra Leone’s capabilities to eradicate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity rest on sustained macroeconomic stability, robust growth, and a solid enabling environment for leveraging its abundant natural resources. This financing will help address immediate fiscal challenges, while improving overall governance to build resilience and enhance the delivery of services to the people of Sierra Leone.”
Sustainable and inclusive growth has been constrained by the country’s exposure to multi-dimensional exogenous shocks (economic, epidemic, climactic), pervasive governance weaknesses, and limited fiscal space and fiscal risks, which inhibit the ability to promote pro-poor growth through public investment, the Bank said.
It went on to say also that; Sierra Leone’s economy has been affected by back-to-back crises, which have aggravated inflationary and fiscal pressures, and increased the risks to debt sustainability. The reforms supported by this funding will help address several critical developmental challenges while also helping to meet increased financing needs of the Government.
“Ongoing structural reforms, including those supported by this operation in input markets such as land, labor, and natural resource management will support sustainability and resilience in the economy. The World Bank will continue to support the Government’s commitment to tackle crucial structural reforms to promote inclusive growth,” said Smriti Seth, World Bank Senior Economist and Task Team Leader.
The World Bank says that the funding framework is aligned with the Government’s Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP 2019-2023); and that mining reforms supported by the funding, will help improve revenue collection, while reforms in auditing and state-owned enterprises’ governance will help control expenditures, easing fiscal pressures and creating space for growth-promoting investment.
But with allegations of massive corruption at State House and the First Lady’s Office getting rife, there is little confidence and trust in the government’s ability to utilise donor funds for the purpose they are granted to the people of Sierra Leone.