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Sierra Leone News: Salone Gov’t bags $40M pledge for budgetary support from China 

The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, said, while in China at the FOCAC Summit, Sierra Leone was able to secure a pledge of approximately $40 million USD in budgetary support, which the Chinese regard as “free assistance”.

Following the FOCAC meeting, the Chinese President Xi Jinping made a pledge of $60 billion USD to Africa. The Minister of Finance said the money is not allocated for specific countries but that it depends on projects presented by each country.

The Finance Minister said they are looking for private capital that does not pose contingent liabilities on government with low interest rates or concessional loans. Private capital, he said, has a long term payment period and this has got a design model comparable with our strategy which is imposing less burden on the government “You don’t want to go for a loan that does not generate resources like a loan to construct a school that will not generate income for you in return,” he said.

The Minister insisted this government is looking at ways of using a financing model to finance development plans using private capital. He said, “One of the markets where you can get private capital is from China. Although you can have it elsewhere but China is a very good source for private capital.”

He disclosed that there is nothing wrong with private capital, the only challenge is the content of the negotiation and financing model. As a country, he went on, they are focusing their support on infrastructure that can generate revenue.

“That is why you are hearing about the PowerChina and the Lungi Bridge, which will expand the city and reduce the congestion of Freetown. The Mamamah airport project and the port expansion has been put on hold because they were not economically viable,” he said.

Speaking about the significance of the visit to China, Minister Saffa maintained, “The visit created the platform to give them (the Chinese) confidence that it is not business as usual but an opportunity for them to come and invest.

It gives confidence to the Chinese people and also signifies a renewed relationship with China. It exposes Serra Leone to opportunities in private capital and further creates a platform for Chinese investors to interact with the government with a lot of Ministers present.

The Minister of Agriculture said they held meetings with agricultural sector investors. He identified Chinese rice farming companies who want 35,000 hectares to grow rice. Another company has plans to investment on 10,000 hectares of a rubber plantation.

Minister Ndanema furthered that there is also a plan for China to do training in the agriculture sector, which will involve transfer of technology and mechanization in agriculture.

The Minister of Trade, Peter Bayuku Konteh, disclosed that in less than three days he met with 122 investors who showed interest to come to Sierra Leone to do business. Within the next three weeks some of these Chinese investors will come to Sierra Leone for an assessment visit.

The Minister of Information and Communication Mohamed Rado Swarray said on behalf the government he was able to sign an MOU with StarTimes for digitalized systems of communication and also with Huawei technology.

BM/11/9/18

By Betty Milton

Wednesday September 12, 2018.

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