Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara has said, his country did not go against the advice given by its traditional development partners, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, regarding the construction of the Mamamah airport on the mainland in the Port Loko District but had rather been working with them closely.
Minister Kamara made this clarification during an interview at the event of his three day official visit to China, on the invitation of his Chinese counterpart, Minister Wang Yi.
According to the top Diplomat, Government sees the project as being very important and one with great potentials for the country’s future growth and that “President Koroma has not hidden the fact that the project holds the future of Sierra Leone.”
When constructed, he said, the new airport will help trigger a lot of development within the country’s economy including in recreating tourism potential and investment . “It is our responsibility to make sure that the project now starts but for the project to start, we have to agree on financing with China.”
He said, “the initial loan provided by the Chinese was not concessional, that is, it did not meet the 31% grant elements.” He said they had to impress on the Chinese side that “based on Sierra Leone’s debt sustainability analysis, we have to negotiate to make the loan concessional at the minimum level and we achieved that objective.”
The other issue then was the Net Present Value, which defines the ability to repay. “We have negotiated for the loan to be as concessional as possible, so as not to undermine our ability to repay after the grace period.”
Sierra Leone and its development partners like the IMF and World Bank, Dr. Kamara said, have been working as a team as they both have a duty to “help us borrow prudently as a country.”
As institutions, the top Diplomat said, they have a responsibility to help countries develop “but to develop in a way that protects their fiscal exposure and their capacity to be able to harmonize any borrowing.”
Both IMF and World Bank, he said, are not against the new airport project, as all they want is to protect the country’s future capacity of debts payment.
“They agreed that the new airport project is a national project” and Sierra Leone should be clear about its economic viability as well as its stability within the context of the country’s debt sustainability analysis.
Asked when the construction is expected to commence, Minister Samura Kamara said, President Ernest Bai Koroma wants the project to commence before end of 2016 and should be in advanced stages before end of his presidential term.
The Foreign Affairs Chief on 15th June, 2016, met with, and discussed issues of mutual interest both at the bilateral and multilateral levels with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
He also had a high level meeting with the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao in the afternoon hours of the same day and prior to that, met with the Vice President of China EXIM Bank.
Both meetings took place within the period marking 45 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries and were geared towards fostering relations between the two Republics both at the diplomatic and people-to-people levels.
The Chinese, on their side, made clear their commitment to supporting Sierra Leone’s development drive on a range of sectors including human resource development, infrastructure, health and agriculture, amongst others, whilst commending efforts made so far by the country in her development trajectory.
At the geopolitics level, Sierra Leone, through the Foreign Affairs Minister has stated its position on the South China Sea, calling for parties to the conflict to be allowed to resolve the matter as brothers at bilateral and sub regional levels through the Association of South East Asian Nations -ASEAN, a position that is in support of what China is proposing.
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to China and Deputy, HE Alimamy P. Koroma and Madam Alice Kumba Momoh respectively, amongst others, attended the meetings with the Foreign Affairs Chief, who is accompanied by Saidu Nallo, Director, multilateral and Legal Affairs Department in the ministry.