Videoconferencing, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Thursday 15 July 2021– Sierra Leone’s Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai, has said that due to Sierra Leone’s experience with natural disasters including flooding, mudslide and Ebola before the detection of the COVID-19, the President Bio-led Government wasted no time to take proactive steps in responding to the current global pandemic.
He made this statement during the 2021 African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)-United Nations Development Program (UNDP) High-Level Side Event, via a Zoom webinar, with the theme: Forging resilient public institutions in Africa in the time of COVID-19 on SDGs 3 and 16. The event was aimed at stocktaking on the progress towards SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) in Africa in the COVID-19 times.
It was also to address the UNDP and APRM strategic support priorities to support resilient and stronger public institutions in Africa, especially governance-development/peace and security.
The Minister said, the government took swift and strategic actions before the country could record the 1st case on the 30th March 2020, drawing from the experience in the fight against Ebola.
“We leveraged on existing structures, partnerships and experience in the fight against COVID-19, President Bio immediately called on all partners to support the preparation and implementation of the integrated COVID-19 prevention and response plan for the country”, said Dr. Kai-Kai.
He said they developed and implemented the National COVID-19 Health Preparedness Response Plan 2020 and the Quick Action Economic Recovery Program 2020, which according to him were the twin national strategies.
Minister Kai-Kai said despite the quick response to the pandemic, the COVID-19 caused serious challenge to the economy of the country, projecting a growth at 4.2 percent in 2020 from 5.4 percent in 2019, and at an average of 4.5 percent during 2021 to 2023 before COVID-19.
He said with the onset of the pandemic, the real GDP contracted by 2.2 percent in 2020, with a 7.6 percentage points lower than the 5.4 percent growth posted in 2019; informing participants that the growth had been reviewed.
“This led to serious revenue shortfalls, thereby affecting planned and other socio-economic spending especially on the MTNDP 2019-2023. The unexpected phenomenal shift of resources towards the health sector to fight the pandemic, crowded out planned spending on other development areas”, he ended.
Dr. Kai-Kai also noted that their experience with COVID-19 increased Sierra Leone’s resolve to further prioritize SDG 16 on promoting justice and strong institutions; focusing on promoting legal assistance for the poor, as well access to information, anti-corruption, and strengthening public sector capacity for service delivery.
He said as reported in Sierra Leone’s 2021 Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report, a total of more than four hundred thousand persons, mostly below the income threshold, have benefitted from government legal assistance since 2015; noting that the efforts saved considerable amount of money for the poor, which could otherwise have been spent on hiring legal professionals.
Minister Kai-Kai said in terms of access to public information, the Millennium Challenge Corporation currently scored the country 85 percent on Freedom of Information; while reported corruption cases increased to seven hundred and seventy-five (775) in 2020, from 603 cases in 2019, accompanied by appreciable number of convictions and financial recoveries.
He said that Sierra Leone would continue to leverage its existing partnership frameworks and mechanism for engaging partner institutions at regional and global levels.
Minister Kai-Kai noted that they will continue to cooperate with the UNDP on the 2030 Agenda; while them for providing both technical and financial support to the VNR processes in Sierra Leone. He ended by calling on the APRM to strengthen their Sierra Leone Secretariat, which would be critical to ensuring maximum impact of APRM-continental on the lives of the people.
The event also included other speakers from who also gave experiences from their own countries.
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