Addressing officers of the Development Cooperation (DEVCO) of the European Union, Mr. Momodu Lamin Kargbo acknowledged the support of the European Union to Sierra Leone, emphasizing that his main purpose for the visit is to show appreciation for the support and the unwavering commitment of the Sierra Leone government to work in tandem with the EU.
Mr. Kargbo further explained the devastating effects the twin shocks of the Ebola epidemic and the fall in the prices of Iron Ore had on the economy of Sierra Leone, adding that with the resilience of the people of Sierra Leone and the financial prudency put in place by the government, coupled with the support from Development Partners like the EU, the economy is gradually picking up, though there are still challenges.
Mr. Kargbo disclosed that because of the stringent financial discipline put in place, the government has just signed another programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which, according to him, “is an indication that the government is on the right track”.
The Finance Minister reiterated that key elements in the Annual Work Programme of the government for this year include the forthcoming general elections slated for March next year and the Civil Registration process, emphasizing that these elections will be the first to be conducted wholly and solely by the Sierra Leone government without the help of the United Nations and that the government is determined to ensure they are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner acceptable both locally and internationally. He therefore called on the support of the EU in that direction.
Mr. Kargbo also touched on the effects the eleven year war and Ebola had on the educational system of the country which has caused tremendous congestion in urban schools leading to a double-shift system in most schools as a result of the rural to urban migration. He requested for a second education project to arrest the deteriorating situation. The Minister and team further appeal for budget support and the Bumbuna second phase project.
In a rather sombre mood, the Minister and team which also include Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union, Hon. Ambassador Ibrahim Sorie and his Diplomatic staff; the Director of the National Authorising Office (NAO), Mr. Ibrahim Soriba Kanu; the Director of Economic Policy and Research Unit at the Finance Ministry, Mr. Alimamy Bangura; the Head of Governance Section at the NAO, Mr. Arthur Carew, expressed disappointment and frustration over the non-performance of the contract the EU awarded to a Portuguese company for the construction of both the Magbele and Moyamba bridges. They called for the support of the EU as the government is determined to terminate the contract and award it to a new client.
DEVCO’s Deputy Director General, Klaus Rudischauser, in reacting to Minister Kargbo’s statement and pleas, stated that the EU is willing to help in the election process as the election in Sierra Leone is already part of their Action Plan for this year.
Mr. Rudischauser praised the efforts of the government in terms of local revenue mobilisation and promised for more support.
The team held further discussions with the Managing Director for Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mr. Koen Vervaeke who reiterated the EU’s commitment to support the elections and thanked the government of Sierra Leone for extending an invitation to the EU to observe the elections. He furthered that a team from the EU will be in Sierra Leone in October for two weeks to engage with major stakeholders including the National Elections Commission, Political parties, Civil Society organisations and other key players.
The Minister and team also paid a courtesy call on the Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Dr. Patrick I. Gomes who informed the team that Sierra Leone is already included in the intra-health programme of the ACP for next year and will be one of the beneficiaries for the Slum Upgrading Programme.