DECEMBER 19, 2014 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) and Jubilee Debt Campaign UK are calling for the immediate cancelation of debts owed by Sierra Leone externally, especially those owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The IMF is demanding that Sierra Leone repay the sum of US$2.7 million this week, a further US$1.8 million on Christmas Eve and US$1 million on 29 December this year.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone owe a whopping US$464 million to the IMF, out of a total debt of US$3.6 billion.
In 2015, the debt payments of the three countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak are expected to be US$130 million, including US$21 million to the IMF.
According to the National Coordinator of BAN, Abu Bakarr Kamara, the country needs over US$400 million in the coming years to provide adequate health services, and that the debt payments could be used to provide these services.
“Many more mothers and babies could be saved in our country if they have access to quality health services. Somewhere in Sierra Leone more than five women die every day from causes related to pregnancy and child birth. The situation has more than tripled due to the Ebola crisis. Between now and 31 December 2014, we have to pay US$6.2 million to just the IMF and World Bank,” Kamara said and added that the amount would be used to provide more protective equipment for health workers, invest in social mobilization, build more isolation and treatment centers, train more doctors and nurses, and subsequently help in winning the battle against the current deadly outbreak which has ravaged the economy.
He urged the IMF and World Bank to immediately cancel the country’s debts to save more babies and women and accord Sierra Leone a better future.
Mr. Kamara revealed that some 6,000 people, including Sierra Leoneans, have already signed a petition on a website opened by Jubilee Debt Campaign UK demanding that the IMF and World Bank cancel the aforementioned debts.
Tim Jones from Jubilee Debt Campaign also said: “It is a scandal that money is leaving Sierra Leone to the already swollen coffers of the IMF. The IMF has made a US$9 billion surplus over just the last three years, which is sitting unspent in its reserves. It could cancel all the debts of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone now, and not even notice.”
Sierra Leone’s external debts currently stand at US$1,258 million, of which US$168 million is owed to the IMF and US$235 million to the World Bank.