Chairman of the meeting, Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh acknowledged H.E. President (Rtd) Brigadier Julius Maada Bio vision to promote sustainable growth and development of the country through the New Direction Policy Agenda, noting that the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) has recently embarked on restructuring policy processes and operations in line with emerging developments in the global and regional economic and financial environments. He said the Bank has also expanded policy processes with the objectives of promoting financial inclusion and development of financial markets.
“These reforms complement the initiatives of the Government through the Ministry of Finance to integrate financial sector sustainability considerations into the New Direction Policy Agenda,” Dr. Conteh pointed out.
Minister Saffa said the meeting which took place on Thursday, 31st May 2018 in the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Finance, was a way of closing ranks with players in the country’s financial sector so as to find a way of complementing Government’s agenda in ensuring policy reforms put in place by the Bank of Sierra Leone for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
He noted the growth the banking sector experienced in recent years but observed that the financial sector is still, unfortunately characterized by “a significant gap” in the long-term funding landscape, which, he pointed out, “undermines” Government’s efforts to promote private sector development for sustained economic growth. He went on to commit Government’s support to the efforts of the BSL in collaboration with development partners to resuscitate the Sierra Leone Stock Exchange by conducting a diagnostic study to understand the critical factors that continue to undermine public trust and confidence in its operations in order to “speedily address” those issues to improve on the integrity of the market.
Minister Saffa expatiated on the issues of strengthening regulation and supervision of financial institutions through the regulatory and supervisory mechanisms of the BSL and expressed support for the establishment and strengthening of operations of microfinance institutions; he also expressed deep interest in the promotion and development of digital financial services ecosystem to expand access to financial products and services, encourage public-private partnership to enhance private investment in ICT infrastructure, establish a through automation, an electronic governance system and in collaboration with BSL and development partners to implement key Government policies such as the Government-to-People (G2P) initiative to digitize payment of subsidies to key sectors and social welfare payments to beneficiaries and ensure fiscal consolidation.
The Minister of Finance received accolades from across the Executives present, starting with no less a person than the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone., who described the encounter in clear terms as “first of its kind”.
This was followed during the interactive session by an avalanche of appreciations and congratulations. The Chairman of the Commercial Banks Association, said the appointment of Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa as Minister of Finance, has injected an appreciable amount of sanity in the banking and financial sector, adding that Mr. Saffa’s taking the stage as Minister added impetus to the implementation of Government’s financial policies. He assured of the “absolute willingness” of commercial banks to work in line with these new finance policy directives. He encouraged Government to harness “the necessary technology” that can reach out to the people in order to make the Sierra Leone’s economy “spectacular” in the region.
Mr. Sampha Koroma, the Chief Executive Officer of the Union Trust Bank-Sierra Leone Limited, in similar manner lauded the Minister’s initiative, asserting that the move has injected warmed blood into the lackluster relationship that existed between the Ministry of Finance and the private sector and expressed hope that the dialogue continues and pledged their support in term of advice on finance policy implementation at all times.
The meeting ended with a cautionary note from the Minister that inasmuch as Government needs to link its infrastructure with investment to bring returns and promote financial development and inclusion, commercial banks however should not indulge in business as usual, but to adapt to Government’s New Direction Policy Agenda regarding financial development and inclusion to promote socio-economic growth.