SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 By Alusine Sesay & Matthew Jabby
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah, yesterday told newsmen at the weekly press briefing hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communications that the government of Sierra Leone has lost Le75 billion in revenue since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak.
The outbreak had its index case in late May and has to date killed more than four hundred persons, as close to 1,500 positive cases have been reported.
Dr. Marah projected that the revenue loss could increase from Le285 billion to Le300 billion at the end of the financial year.
Sierra Leone was ranked as the fastest growing economy with a projection of about 11.3% to 13% in 2014. But the outbreak of the Ebola disease, which has held the country’s economic activities to ransom, according to Dr. Marah, means the projected growth has contracted and would drop from 7% to 8% at the end of the year.
He said government has spent more than Le60 billion on the Ebola outbreak alone, while there is still a US$70 million funding gap in the budget.
He said the country is now living in an “economic blockade” with businesses balling out, while economic and development activities stall amidst high inflation.
“All airline activities stopped. The Bumbuna project II has been stalled. Construction has suffered with the Kenema-Kailahun road, Matotoka road, Hill Side bypass road, among others, stalled. Export of cocoa and coffee continues to go down. Rice production also continues to go down. Mining too adversely affected with anticipated 4.8% drop in rutile export and 10% drop in diamond export,” he lamented.
Prior to the Ebola outbreak, he said, all sectors of the economy, including health, agriculture, ICT, were all doing well, but noted that everything was being undermined by the epidemic, adding that the inflation rate which government had stabilized from 12% to 6% has been undermined with an anticipated 6% to 7% inflation at the end of the year.
He noted that manufacturing industries, especially the Brewery, have been adversely affected with an anticipated 24,000 job loss and more than 600 sorghum farmers going out of business, while more than 300 households will suffer economic hardship.
He said the government is working with development partners, including the World Bank and African Development Bank, to put together a technical team to arrest the situation and find a way to support the 2015 budget.