Minister of Finance Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, together with the Acting Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Ibrahim Stevens and Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Edward Hinga Sandy, has assured members of the Business Community of the effort the government is making to address the currency exchange and economic challenges affecting the smooth running of their businesses.
They made this assurance in a consultative meeting held at the Ministry of Finance main conference hall on Thursday, 16th March 2023, with stakeholders from importers, exporters, manufacturers, Oil Marketers and other players in the private sector.
Speaking on behalf of the importers, their Secretary General, Rashid Conteh, highlighted several issues he categorised as challenges affecting their businesses, from exchange rate depreciation and instability, interest rate, shipping cost and bureaucracies at the port and others.
Other speakers also flagged similar issues as the reason for the rise in prices of commodities and the exchange rate challenges.
In his statement, Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Edward Hinga Sandy thanked them for their attendance and encouraged them to have more dialogue and engagement with the government.
He highlighted several policies and programmes his ministry is implementing to support the development of SMEs through capacity building and access to finance.
Ag. Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone Ibrahim Stevens alluded to the challenges highlighted, especially the one relating to the exchange rate and assured them of a short-term solution of removing all the obstacles and bottlenecks around accessing forex.
He spoke about the interventions of the Bank of Sierra Leone in supporting the importation of essential commodities during and after the Covid pandemic.
Minister of Finance Sheku A.F Bangura stated that the government is considering easing the restrictions on trading forex.
He further stated that at this critical moment, the government want to stabilise the exchange rate to allow business people to predict and plan their businesses and forecast.
The Minister also appeals to all present to collaborate to improve the situation. He reiterates the commitment of the government to turning around the current situation.
Also, Minister of Finance Sheku Bangura hosted the President and cross-section of the West Africa Banker’s Association (WABA) in a courtesy meeting.
According to the President of WABA, Dr Guy Laurent Fonjo, Managing Director and CEO of Afriland First Bank in Guinea, they are here to share their vision and strategic plan with the Minister of finance and other senior government officials.
He noted that the executive is trying to revitalise the Association to make it more visible in member countries and also critical to be part of the formulation and implementation of key policies in the region.
Minister Bangura thanked them for the meeting and assured them of his support.