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Sierra Leone News: Different interpretations from IMF and GoSL

On Thursday 31 January 2018, the BBC’s Focus on Africa Program broke the news about an article published in Africa Confidential about the suspension of International Monetary Fund (IMF) support to Sierra Leone.
According to the article, the government is spending IMF money trying to win elections, not on agreed measures for economic recovery. It furthered that a confidential dispatch by United State diplomats in Freetown has laid bare the cause of strained relations between President Koroma’s government and the IMF.
Adding that the withheld funds are part of a four year, $224.4 million USD package, negotiated in June 2017, to assist Sierra Leone to offset the balance of payment, shortfalls, control inflation and build foreign reserves.
The Minister of Finance, Momodu Kargbo, told the BBC, “We signed the contact in June 2017 and it’s a $224 million USD project over four years. $53 million USD has been provided,” Kargbo said.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by John Wakeman-Linn visited Freetown during September 15–29, 2017 to conduct the first review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Wakeman-Linn issued the following statement:
“Sierra Leone’s economy is estimated to slow down to 5.6% in 2017, from 6.3% in 2016, mainly on account of reduced activities in the non-mining sector. Inflation rose to 18% in August. The government budget for 2017 will need to address lower than budgeted revenue, and a shortfall in donor receipts. The current account deficit is expected to widen to 21.5% of GDP.”
In a press release from the IMF Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Iyabo Masha, “the government of Sierra Leone Extended Credit Facility Programme with IMF is ongoing, and government continues to meet its debt service obligation on both current and outstanding loans to the IMF.”
The release also stated that the completion of the review, which would have enabled the disbursement of the second tranche of the programme financing, had been delayed. The IMF said, “Due to a weak budget revenue outlook, where measures that were to be taken under the programme to increase revenue outlook did not yield.”
The Presidential Spokesperson, Abdulai Bayraytay, said, “The report by Africa Confidential was aired on the BBC, which they say is a leaked document, is not truth.”
He furthered that the relationship with IMF and the government of Sierra Leone is very cordial. He tagged the journalist that broke the story as an unprofessional, without having the side of the Ministry of Finance before breaking such information.
MJB/1/2/18
By Mohamed J. Bah
Friday February 02, 2018.

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