Salone News

Sierra Leone, U.S.A Sign $58M Debt Relief Pact

8 June 2007 at 23:00 | 422 views

By Sorie Sudan Sesay, Freetown

The Government of Sierra Leone could be breathing a
sigh of relief following the signing of a $58million
debt relief pact with the United States Government.

United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone Thomas N.
Hull and Sierra Leonean Minister of Finance John
Oponjo Benjamin signed the bilateral debt relief
agreement to cancel $58.3 million of debt which
amounts to 100 percent of Sierra Leone’s eligible debt
to the United States Government, according to a
release from the Embassy of the United States.

The release states that the agreement implements the
multilateral accord signed with Paris Club creditor
nations on January 24, 2007 and reflects Sierra
Leone’s successful completion of economic reforms
under the Enhanced Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries
(HIPC) Initiative.

“Through the HIPC Initiative, the United States and
its partners in the International Community seek to
help the most heavily indebted poor countries relieve
their unsustainable debt burdens. Under its program of
economic reform overseen by the International Monetary
Fund, Sierra Leone has made excellent progress in
reducing poverty and enhancing macroeconomic
sustainability. This final phase of debt relief frees
additional resources that will enable the Government
of Sierra Leone to make further progress on these
objectives,” states the release.

It went on to say that, as the country recovers from
the civil war that ended only in 2002, the United
states proudly support Sierra Leone’s effort in
consolidating peace, restoring and reforming
government, and stimulating economic growth. Sierra
Leone is expected to apply the savings from this debt
relief to its Poverty Reduction Strategy Program
(PRSP). Ambassador Hull observes that “this agreement
creates a significant opportunity for the Government
of Sierra Leone to make economic, social, and
political progress.”

Meanwhile, the signing came at a time the Sierra Leone
economy was facing very difficult times, forcing
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to appoint a Task Force
to look into the country’s finances.

Also early this week, the Minister of Finance, John
Benjamin(photo) confirmed before the House of Parliament that
his government was facing some problems in meeting
with its financial appropriation for the year’s budget
because they were having shortfalls.

He said that the National Revenue Authority (NRA) fell
short of its budgeted target for 2006 and also this
year they have fallen short by Le11 billion, which is
adversely affecting the budget.

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