Sierra Leone Government has navigated the difficulties well in the year since taking office – IMF team

The head of the IMF staff review mission to Sierra Leone, Ms. Karen Ongley said the country’s economic landscape remains challenging but that the authorities have navigated the difficulties well in the year since taking office, helping to stabilize the economy.

Sierra Leone Vice President
Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Karen Ongley, met with Vice President of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, and other government stakeholders during their visit in Freetown in April 23-May 7, 2019 to conduct the first review of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF)arrangement approved by the Executive Board on November 30, 2018.

The IMF’s Executive Board is expected to consider first ECF review by end-June 2019. Completion of the review would make available US$ 21.5 million, bringing total disbursements under the program to about US$ 43 million.

Ms. Ongley said Real GDP looks set to pick up this year to 5.1 percent, thanks in part to the resumption of iron ore mining, adding that, after peaking above 19 percent last September, inflation moderated to 17.5 percent in March and is projected to continue tracking down over 2019.

“Faced with serious constraints on budget financing, the authorities kept the budget in check through stronger‑than‑programmed revenue performance and spending well below the budget. As a result, the overall deficit narrowed from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 5.8 percent in 2018. However, delays in donor receipts and uneven liquidity in the banking system, posed challenges for deficit financing and monetary policy, and impacted program performance.

“While program performance is broadly on track, slower than expected progress on structural reforms reflects the magnitude of policy challenges. Nine of the ten quantitative targets were met for end‑December 2018 and end‑March 2019,” she said.

She also said that the country’s authorities and the mission reached understandings on economic policies aimed at enhancing accountability in managing public resources, diversifying the economy and promoting more resilient and inclusive growth.

Real GDP looks set to pick up this year to 5.1 percent, thanks in part to the resumption of iron ore mining

“The authorities’ commitment to mobilizing domestic revenue and improving expenditure management to achieve a gradual reduction in the deficit will help ensure that public debt returns to a sustainable path,” she noted.

President Bio working on repealing the Seditious Libel Law

President Julius Maada Bio has told journalists in Freetown that the Government is at an advanced stage in the repeal of Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act that criminalises libel.

Press Secretary Yusuf keketoma Sandi at the inaugural media cocktail

He was addressing the inaugural Media Cocktail at Radisson Blu, organised by the Office of the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman. The occasion brought together over 120 foreign and local journalists, editors and media owners.

“You could all recall that in Paragraph 147 of my maiden address at the State Opening of the First Session of the Fifth Parliament, I pledged my Government’s commitment to among other things ‘repeal the seditious libel law’ and ‘enhance the capacity of the IMC to enforce the IMC Act’,” he said.

The President added that that was in fulfilment of his manifesto commitment, noting that everyone was aware that: “Part V of the Public Order Act criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious and has been used as a regime to unduly target and imprison media pr  actitioners and silence dissident views.”

“Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet paper with full concurrence from the Attorney General is now before Cabinet for consideration. It is my honest and genuine view that Part Five of the Public Act of 1965 should be repealed and will be repealed in the shortest possible time,” he said.

He, however, cautioned that: “The repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act does not envisage a void in the accountability matrix relating to freedom of the press and expression, nor would it imply softening the legal regime or grant a carte blanche to journalists to defame people”.

President Bio noted that even where the justification for its retention may abound, criminalising libel was no longer fanciful, adding that the good news was that the government would soon bring an end to the breach of about half a dozen international conventions to which Sierra Leone was a signatory.

“When we repeal the Public Order Act of 1965, we hope to open up Sierra Leone’s media sector to new investment and growth,foster creativity and innovation, and support the development of high-quality journalism which will, in turn, support good governance and democratic accountability,” he said.

He also promised that his government would give the media regulatory body, Independent Media Commission, the leverage required to work independently, announced that the government subvention due the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists had been budgeted for and was available to access as and when they were ready without any preconditions.