By Alfred Koroma
As crisis threatens to bleak global economy, weaker and import based economies are destined to feel the hardest pinch of it. The job of a Finance Minister for a government locked in battered economy like Sierra Leone is quite challenging.
Last week, President Bio appointed Deputy Finance Minister, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura to replace Denis Vandy who has been regarded as the most sacked public official in the current government.
In the four and half years of his government, the President has appointed three Finance Ministers, yet the country’s economy remains as broken, unsteady as his inheritance.
From a battered post Ebola economy to COVID-19 disruption and the Russia-Ukrain conflict, it has been a rough journey for the President who in the last election campaigns projected himself the quick fixer of Sierra Leone’s decades’ old economic quagmire. He severally lashed at his predecessor for failing to handle the high cost of living. But his regime has seen a more rising inflation and more diminishing purchasing power of citizens.
WFP’s Quarterly Market Bulletin on Sierra Leone’s GDP growth rates, consumer price index trends, currency exchange rates put out in October warned that between 2021 and the third quarter of 2022, the Leones experienced 40 percent value depreciation.
This was a report coming out four months after Bank of Sierra Leone had stripped off the last three zeros of the currency with a bogus hope that things could turn around. But inflation keeps rising and the value of the redenominated currency has drained excessively against the US dollar. Local markets are reeling due to soaring prices of food and other basic commodities, triggering unprecedented cost of living.
These are political issues we know the President is desperate to tackle as elections draw near. And he needs a correct team to fix them.
But as Deputy Finance Minister, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura has been a key member of the team handling Sierra Leone’s economy while the value of the country’s currency speedily drains. So one may be tempted to ask: has the new Finance Minister got any fresh ideas that could save us from our current economic quagmire? Why had he not suggested the said ideas to his Boss to have prevented the current status of our economy?
Whatever the answer, we are in a long broken state that cannot be fixed in the few months left for the President even if the world’s best expert is appointed. Be that as it may, Hon. Kandeh Yumkella offered something that could maybe work in the next term: control government spending. Stop all unnecessary travels.
“The crisis is serious. The people are suffering. We as government must control what we spend when we don’t have enough money,” the MP said while debating 2023 Financial Year Budget in December.