After growing at an average annual rate of 7.8% over the period 2003-2014, Sierra Leone’s economic growth slowed to 4.3% in 2017 from 6.3% in 2016, due largely to weak recovery in mineral production. Inflationary pressures eased owing to relative stability of the exchange rate and the tight monetary policy stance of the Bank of Sierra Leone. Fiscal outturn deteriorated in 2017 due to a shortfall in revenue mobilization and spending overruns in all the major expenditure categories. Domestic financing remains high, exceeding the 2.0% limit on which the government’s fiscal program is anchored. The current account of the balance of payments remained under pressure as the trade deficit widened, reflecting weak export growth and increased imports of food items, machinery and petroleum products.
Iron ore production grew by only 5.6% to 6.5 million metric tons compared to an anticipated 9.0 million metric tons. The main iron ore company, Shandong Iron and Steel Group, stopped production in November 2017 due to high operating costs and cash constraints as it reported record loses since it took over the mines from African Minerals Limited in 2016. The non-iron ore economy grew by 3.6%, slower than the 4.3% in 2016 due largely to a fall in construction activities following the slowdown in public investment in infrastructure.
The fiscal position deteriorated in 2017, due largely to a shortfall in revenue mobilization and spending overruns in all the major expenditure categories. Total domestic revenue was 3.0% short of its 2017 target of Le3.4 trillion, increasing only slightly to 12.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) from 11.9% of GDP in 2016. The National Revenue Authority (NRA) collected Le273.3 billion in January 2018 compared Le261.5 billion in January 2017 due to collection of tax arrears. Total expenditure increased to Le6.4 trillion in 2017 from Le5.4 trillion in the previous year. Total public debt increased to 54.5% in 2017 from 53.8% in 2016.
Sierra Leone held general elections on March 7, 2018 to elect a new President, Members of Parliament and Local Councils in the fourth cycle of elections since the civil war in 2002. Some 3.17 million Sierra Leoneans registered to cast their ballots across the country’s 16 Administration Districts. Sixteen candidates, including two women, vied to replace President Ernest Bai Koroma, who has served two terms of 10 years. This was the first time Sierra Leonean authorities were taking full charge of the electoral process following the departure of the UN Mission after the 2012 general elections.
Results of the first round of voting indicated the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) candidate, Dr. Samura M.W. Kamara garnered 1,082,748 votes, representing 42.7% of the valid votes cast, while the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)’s Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio pulled 1,097,482 votes, representing 43.2%. After much legal wrangling, run-off election was held on March 31 with opposition candidate Bio emerging as winner. He pulled 51.81 percent of the votes cast to Kamara’s 48.19%.
The losing APC won majority in Parliament with 68 seats to the SLPP’s 49, the Coalition for Change (C4C) 8, and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) 4. Three independent candidates were elected. This is the first time a winning party has failed to have majority in Parliament. However, the APC candidate has filed a petition at the Supreme Court against the results.
Until the outbreak of Ebola in May 2014, Sierra Leone was seeking to attain middle-income status by 2035, but the country still carries its post-conflict attributes of high youth unemployment, corruption and weak governance. The country continues to face the daunting challenge of enhancing transparency in managing its natural resources and creating fiscal space for development. Problems of poor infrastructure and widespread rural and urban impoverishment still persist in spite of remarkable strides and reforms.
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2018