March 20, 2020
By Jariatu S. Bangura
The Bank Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Professor Kelfala M. Kallon, has disclosed to Members of Parliament that the Central Bank will be providing Le500billion to Commercial banks for the production, procurement and distribution of essential goods due to the ravaging Corona pandemic across the world.
Whilst briefing Members of Parliament on the preparedness of the Central Bank to address the issue around the pandemic across the country, he said based on several consultative meetings with the Monetary Policy Committee, they decided to reduce the bank interest rate for people to have access to credit facility.
He said the committee decided to create special credit facility to finance production, procurement and distribution of essential goods in the sum of Le500 billion.
He said the facility will be administered through the commercial banks for business people/individuals.
He said they will prioritise and provide foreign exchange resources to ensure the importation of essential items and that the list of items would be published once they meet with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
He said the country’s trade route/relationships are going to be disrupted whether the country records the virus or not, and that the economy is going to be interrupted and once that happens, the central bank comes in to make sure that it ease the problem by providing financial assistant, so that there will not be a collapse on the banking system simply because customers fail to deposit monies into their bank accounts.
“We need not be so worried about our reserves because the house is on fire and we want to take care of that. The most important thing that the Central Bank does is to provide liquidity in this kind of situation. The facility is on a concessional interest rate and the bank will give them based on criteria slated on borrowing regulations,” he said.
He said only 1% will be charged as interest rate because they wanted to promote the private sector in order to import essential products (rice, onions and cooking oil) since the products are imported from China and other countries that are now affected by the pandemic.
Leader of the National Grand Coalition, Hon. Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella,had moved a motion for key stakeholders to be summoned in a special session with Parliamentarians on the preparedness of the country in case there is a reported case of Coronavirus in the country.
According to the Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Amara Jambai, they were working together with other stakeholders based on meeting held with the President for the immediate response to the pandemic, and that they were able to present plans that the nation should do to help prevent the virus into the country.
He said many of the preventive measures that are implemented by other countries were measures used when Ebola struck the country.
He said the country should be proud of itself because there has been no complaint in regards to human rights, when quarantine measures were re-introduced across the country because the country had had a knowledge in the past years.
Dr. Jambai stated that the issue of prevention should be emphasised to avoid the entering of the virus into the country, stating that there are already three labs across the country.
He added that 370 test kits are not enough and that more kits are expected within 24hrs from one business tycoon in China.
He said they have and will be receiving one billion Leones on a weekly basis from the Ministry of Finance to help prevent the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Hon. Dr. Abdulai Sesay of the All people’s Congress (APC) said quarantine measures were crucial and that the current facilities that are available were limited, stating that most the centres built to fight the Ebola outbreak were destroyed after the scourge.
‘‘Sustainability is key, but it is unfortunate that those centres were destroyed after the Ebola. There is need to have permanent structures. Billions were spent but all the centres were dismantled as soon the disease was declared over. It will be good to have structures in all the districts and they should be sustained,” he added.
He stated that there are a lot of people that have numerous sicknesses and that once the virus shows up, it will be hard to combat.
He noted that it would important that a unified message be broadcast for the public to be sensitized, emphasizing the need for MPs to be empowered for them to sensitize their constituents.
Hon. Alusine Osaio Kamara of the All People’s Congress admonished that it is high time the ports and Susan’s Bay, Murray Town Wharf, be considered in the preparation as they are prone in getting the virus faster.
“The Navy should focus their attention on all vessels as most of the sailors are from foreign countries.’’