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Sierra Leone News: World Bank Country manager discusses natural resources and record breaking aid

world BankIn the months since World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone Parminder Brar arrived in the country in October 2015, the World Bank has provided $130 million dollars in aid for Sierra Leone. This breaks down to $55 million for agriculture, $20 million for budget support, $45 million for health and $10 million for social safety nets.
Combined with an additional $138 million for a new electrical energy project Brar announced at a press conference on Monday, the World Bank has never before provided so much aid for Sierra Leone. The World Bank’s total programs for Sierra Leone add up to $600 million.
The World Bank’s aid programs are mostly focused on providing support for productive industries, Brar said, rather than toward the social safety net.
This is why around one third to one half of the World Bank’s program is dedicated to improving electrical infrastructure, he said, and why the $138 million for a single energy project exceeds the $130 million provided for so many other aid sectors.
“In a country where 50 percent of the population is living at or below the poverty line, there’s only so much safety nets can do. Everybody needs help on the safety net side,” he said. “The scale of the problem is such that even if the World Bank funded only safety nets in Sierra Leone we could only make a small dent in the problem. Even the limited resources we have, we have to focus on the productive side.”
This includes agriculture, agribusiness, the mining sector, fisheries, and importantly in Brar’s view, electricity.
“Without electricity you can’t have any manufacturing, education suffers, you don’t have light  you have a major problem. So for us, electricity is a fundamental for economic growth.”
The World Bank has about 1, 550 projects around the world. The new proposed power generation project for the Western Area is one of less than ten that are a collaboration between the World Bank, and its two other branches, the private sector arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
At the press conference on Monday, Brar touched on the need for greater economic development of Sierra Leone’s rich resources, saying there is great potential and cause for optimism.
“I think you shouldn’t be overly depressed about what is happening in Sierra Leone right now,” Brar said. He acknowledged that the mining industry has crashed globally. But, he said, “the mining, the resources you have in this country are incredible.” There are enough resources to continue mining in one area alone, for the next 60 years. In addition, Sierra Leone has productive agricultural land.
“Sierra Leone used to export rice, and you need to get back to that situation,” he said.
“You have some of the best fishing grounds in the world off the coast of Sierra Leone, and you should manage them a lot better than you’re doing right now. I keep saying it  so far as resources are concerned, this is an extremely rich country. And the question is, you need to better manage those resources.”
By Chetanya Robinson
Thursday July 21, 2016

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