Speaking about the discussions, on 24 September 2019, Ms. Ongley said: “We have concluded a week of useful technical discussions in Freetown. Our discussions with stakeholders included an update on economic developments and engagement on the structural reform agenda ahead of the next visit to discuss the second review under the Enhanced Credit Facility (ECF) slated for later this year.”
Expressing confidence in the government’s handling of the economy, she said: “Economic performance in the first half of 2019 has been broadly in line with projections at the time of the first review under the ECF, according to preliminary data.
“Budget developments and credit to the government appear to have been within target, thanks to robust revenue collection and continued, although easing, under‑spending.
“Gross international reserves increased to almost US $517 million at end of June (about 3½ months of imports).
“Discussions centered on the government’s progress in developing a strategy to clear a stock of domestic arrears. The government is finalizing the reconciliation of domestic payment arrears and discussed with IMF staff possible options to clear arrears consistent with debt sustainability and supported by reforms to strengthen public financial management.
“A joint two-day workshop facilitated technical exchange. During this workshop with staff from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Bank of Sierra Leone, National Revenue Authority, Statistics Sierra Leone, and the IMF discussed empirical modeling techniques for ongoing economic research projects.
“The team also held productive discussions with senior government officials, including from the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Sierra Leone, Audit Service Sierra Leone, as well as banking sector representatives and development partners. The team thanks all counterparts for the productive discussions, excellent cooperation, and warm hospitality.”
The last time IMF officials met with the Bio-led government was in June 2019, when the IMF completed its first review of the new government’s economic performance. As a result of that review, the IMF agreed to disburse $21.62 million to the government.
Expressing confidence in the Bio-led government, the IMF said: “the government’s reform agenda will secure fiscal sustainability, create space for priority spending, and lay the foundation for inclusive growth and poverty reduction”.
At the end of that first review in Freetown in June 2019, the Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the IMF Executive Board – Mr. Tao Zhang, said: “Performance under the ECF supported program has been satisfactory in the face of a challenging economic environment. Although progress on structural measures has been slower than anticipated, the government remains firmly committed to their reform agenda.