Sierra Leone: The Finance Helmsmen

Sierra Leone: The Finance Helmsmen

Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:42 am

Minister of Finance, JJ Saffa.

Financial Secretary, Sahr Lahai Jusu

Thumbs up for the Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa and Financial Secretary, Sahr Lahai Jusu for the manner in which they have managed the financial resources of the People and Government  of  Sierra Leone

It has been two years since Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa and Financial Secretary, Sahr Lahai Jusu were appointed as Minister of Finance and Financial Secretary, respectively. Since their appointments, along with team-spirited professionals in the Ministry of Finance, fiscal prudence has been evident. The Minister of Finance, a Development Economist, has been roving around Development and Economic Management Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government as well as International Organizations as Development Planning Officer; Social Action and Poverty Alleviation Expert under the African Development Bank funded Social Action and Poverty Alleviation project; Human Development specialist at the World Bank and as a private Development Consultant, as well as a politician with a dynamic and multisector-minded perception of issues of national interests. He commands enormous respect at international financial fora, which has snowballed into rapid turnaround of the economy.
The Financial Secretary, a Harvard trained Public Policy Expert has over 20 years of experience in public debt management and now serves as both the professional and administrative head of the Ministry of Finance.
Within two months of their appointments, the Government issued Executive Orders 1 and 2 targeting domestic revenue mobilization and expenditure rationalization. In collaboration with the National Revenue Authority, domestic revenue has been on an upward trajectory and total expenditure did not exceed the estimates approved by Parliament in 2018 and 2019.
What has been really impressive has been how the Ministry of Finance achieved so many successes with our donor partners. It is never an easy job to negotiate programmes with development partners especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the European Union and, the African Development Bank.
On assumption of office in April 2018, the country’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement with the International Monetary Fund was off-track. Sierra Leone’s programme with the IMF was suspended on concerns of weak commitment to implement credible economic policies. The Minister and his team were able to get the programme on track within eight months. In November, 2018, the IMF Executive Board approved a three-year programme under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Sierra Leone. Total disbursements under the programme will amount toUS$172.1 million. Since then, two reviews have been successfully completed:the first review completed in June 2019 triggering the disbursement of US$ 21.62 million to support the Government’s reform agenda to secure fiscal sustainability, create space for priority spending, and lay the foundation for inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The second review was completed in April 2020 with another US$ 21.13 million disbursed to help the country tackle any potential economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and to support the Government’s continued reform efforts to help build the foundation necessary to support future development and tackle the exceptionally difficult external environment. Recently, the IMF disbursed US$ 143 million under the Rapid Credit Facility to support the Government to meet the urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs stemming from the COVID 19 pandemic.
Another notable success story has been the disbursement of US$ 100 million grant from the World Bank. The story behind this shows how hard work and commitment can yield positive results. The Minister was able to convert this facility from a credit into a grant! It takes ingenuity and all round brilliance to achieve this result.  It meant the Government was to implement critical reforms in key sectors necessary to improve productivity within a given a period of time for this to come to fruition. it was the personal agenda of the Minister to see this through – Ministries, Departments and Agencies were provided with financial support required to ensure timely implementation of reforms.
Similarly, budget support disbursements from other budget support partners have been timely. The European Union (EU) recently disbursed €10 million, the fixed trance of their 2020 budget support.Discussions are ongoing to ensure that the remaining €15 million variable tranche is disbursed before the end of 2020. The African Development Bank will disburse US$24.50 million as COVID crisis budget support to help the Government of Sierra Leone cope with the economic and social challenges posed by COVID-19.
Being a Minister of Finance is never an easy job and the occupant often becomes a hated figure given the difficulty of satisfying immense and diverse needs from all sectors in the midst of limited resources; agriculture, education, health, roads, energy, water, sanitation, environment and many more are all areas that require attention.
However, it is his responsibility to give the correct economic advice to the President, keeping in mind that over 7 million people expect their social and economic conditions to improve. The donors who provided the funds are also watching with bated breath. The citizens are expecting things to improve. In such an atmosphere, the Minister, the Financial Secretary and their staff deserve commendation, working under tight schedules to achieve best results, in an inherited decrepit economy.

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