September 26, 2018
By Joseph S. Margai in Beijing
Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Mrs. Nabeela F. Tunis, has told Concord Times that development in agriculture, tourism, fisheries, mining, among others, could significantly boost Sierra Leone’s economy.
Mrs. Tunis, who was speaking to this medium in an exclusive mobile phone interview Saturday, 22nd September, also noted that promoting private sector growth by proposing incentives for well-meaning and result-oriented indigenous businesses could as well boost the country’s economy.
“The Ministry of Finance has instituted certain fiscal reforms which have started yielding slow but steady progress in terms of promoting fiscal prudence. Our ministry seeks to support these reforms through the development of a national plan,” she said.
The Planning and Economic Development minister assured that they would ensure that reforms instituted by the Ministry of Finance attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
However, she continued, “We will still guarantee national ownership, which is also a critical driver of economic transformation. Our ministry is nurturing a locally led business entrepreneurship drive which covers several sectors.”
Quizzed on which sectors should the country now depend on after the closure of some major iron ore mining companies which were generating huge revenue, Minister Tunis opined that due to the volatility in market prices of minerals especially iron ore, it’s better to focus on sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, among others, for economic development.
“If we do value addition for our agricultural products, set up manufacturing factories and start processing and manufacturing some of our raw materials in Sierra Leone, we will ultimately boost export and reduce import of certain goods,” she noted.
She said Sierra Leone has scores of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which are responsible for significant amount of cash flows, adding that if they are properly managed through reforms, there would be maximum positive impact of cash flows on the economy.
Mrs. Nabeela Tunis, who was part of President Bio’s delegation during the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing summit earlier this month, said that she was completely blown away by China’s massive infrastructure, discipline and order, which isn’t reported so much in the news.
“There is a lot we can learn from the Chinese in terms of planning and forecasting,” the planning and economic development minister said.
The Chinese government is currently implementing three poverty alleviation strategies in rural China: turning lands into assets for the benefit of land owners, turning landowners into shareholders in any company that operates in their community and capital equity.
Asked how the “New Direction” administration plans to alleviate poverty for the little over seven million people in Sierra Leone, Minister Tunis said China may be ahead of Sierra Leone by a very large margin, but alleviating poverty in the country is possible through President Bio’s aspiration to boost job creation in agriculture, fisheries, tourism, among other sectors.
“These sectors have the potential to employ an appreciable percentage of the population of the country, as well as impact positively on domestic revenue generation within three years,” she noted.
She said the provision of and access to basic social services, decent housing, and the declaration of special economic zones (SEZs), which implementations are underway, was also key in alleviating poverty in the country.
The minister for economic planning assured all Sierra Leoneans that the “New Direction” administration, under the astute leadership of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, would not deviate from the path of positively transforming the lives of all Sierra Leoneans.
However, she continued, it’s the responsibility of every Sierra Leonean to support the “New Direction” administration by not only paying lip service but actually demonstrating the reforms put forward.