Sierra Leone’s President, Ernest Bai Koroma, said in a statement that the country will be cutting its cost of running the government by 30 percent to try to tackle an economic crisis triggered by falls in commodity prices and compounded by the, now past, Ebola epidemic.
The Ebola epidemic, which began in late 2013, was the world’s worst recorded Ebola epidemic and Sierra Leone was severely hit. The epidemic killed some 11,300 people in Sierra Leone and its neighbors Guinea and Liberia, shattering the country’s economy.
In Sierra Leone, significant sources of revenue for the country’s economy include diamonds and agriculture. Iron ore also presents another source of revenue. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Sierra Leone’s economy will recover by 4.3 percent in 2016, but public finances are still reeling from a 21.5 percent economic contraction in 2015.
The measures of cutting government cost that President Koroma announced are to come into effect immediately and continue for the rest of the year. The budget for the first half of 2017 will also face similar cuts.
Sierra Leone’s spending in the 2016 budget was tacked at 4.65 trillion leones ($831 million). Out of that amount 3.1 billion leones was marked as the cost of running the government and the rest was to be channeled into capital investment.
President Koroma said in the statement which came after an emergency cabinet meeting;
“If we are able to fight Ebola, we should be able to put up a fight that will turn around the economic fortunes of the country.”
The measures that President Koroma announced include tasking all government departments with a 50 percent cut to fuel allocations, travel budgets and vehicle maintenance; restrictions on overseas travel, and an outright ban on buying office equipment.
Also, at least 70 percent of all contracts with suppliers would have to be paid in leones, instead of the preferred currency of dollars, and all businesses owing back taxes had 30 days to clear them or face a penalty.
This would put Sierra Leone’s government up there with the government Tanzania on the rather lonesome list of African governments willing to cut government costs in the face of struggling economies.