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‘Social Safety net is fiscally not sustainable’

…says World Bank Director

August 17, 2015 By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff

The new World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone has said in Freetown that the “social safety net is fiscally not sustainable, especially in a country where 50% are poor.”

Henry Kerali was speaking at an interactive session with civil society actors and media practitioners last Wednesday during a visit to Sierra Leone.

He acknowledged though that the scheme has been successful in countries with very low poverty index, and that those with high poverty rate, like Sierra Leone, should be forward-looking and regard the safety net as an interim measure to get indigent members of society at par with those with the financial or technical means to earn a livelihood.

“The most sustainable solution is to provide beneficiaries with mechanisms to improve income generating means,” Mr. Kerali said, adding that the formation of cooperatives and out-grower schemes could consolidate land utilisation and production capacity of the poorest of the poor.

On 25 March, 2014 the World Bank announced that its Board of Executive Directors had approved a grant of US$7 million to assist 12,000 poor and vulnerable households in Kono, Bombali, Moyamba and Western Rural districts, as part of Sierra Leone’s social safety net. The Bank said cash transfers would be made to beneficiaries to enable them to buy food, send children to school, and protect assets such as livestock.

Francis Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone, said at the time that “While economic growth has been strong in Sierra Leone, poverty and food insecurity have remained very high and human development indicators such as maternal health and survival are weak. This is where a social safety net system comes in very useful, because it can reach the poorest families and help those who have been left behind.”

Although Mr. Kerali did not depart from the Bank’s rationale for supporting the government of Sierra Leone, through the National Commission for Social Action (NACSA), he urged that “We have to find other [sustainable] mechanisms” to improve income generation and livelihoods for 14% of the poorest of the poor (115,000) in Sierra Leone.

He disclosed the Bank would support a new project for farmers to maximise input, foster extension and ensure that produce find their way to markets, adding “We are creating a system, not solving the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Bank announced on 12 August that it would provide an additional US$10 to cater for an extra 7,000 beneficiaries in five new districts.

According Mr. Kerali, the socio-economic impact of the Ebola outbreak presented the opportunity for the addition.

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