Sierra Leone parliament ratifies $59 million loan to improve electricity

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Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 July 2018:

Parliament of Sierra Leone last Tuesday 10th July 2018, ratified a $59 Million finance loan agreement, which had previously been signed by the former Koroma led APC government and the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), to improve access to electricity supply at a reasonable cost, through an integrated regional power-grid  – the West African Power Pool Project.

The loan agreement will provide additional financing for the West African Power Pool, which is aimed at increasing power supply and improve access to electricity for millions of people across Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Less than 20% of people in Sierra Leone have access to electricity. Corruption, poor management and lack of leadership have hampered efforts in improving the country’s electricity sector, despite hundreds of millions of dollars having been invested by successive governments, since 2001.

Presenting the agreement for ratification by MPs, the Minister of Finance – Jacob Jusu Saffa, said that the West African Power Pool Project will reduce the cost of electricity supply for Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He said that the project will also see the construction and improvement of electricity infrastructure in the country, including high voltage transmission, as well as a resettlement action plan for affected communities.

He added that the $59 Million loan will be repaid over a period, with minimum interest rate. He also said that the initial agreement was signed in 2012, with additional financing signed in January 2018.

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According to the parliamentary public relations unit report, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Francis Amara Kai-Samba of SLPP, described the Agreement as “laudable and non-controversial”.

He said that in spite of the huge investment already made by successive governments, electricity still remains a challenge in Freetown and other parts of the country. He also referred to the Agreement as a “fine one” which aims to improve access to electricity supply at a reasonable cost in the country.

Shiaka Musa Sama – an Independent MP, said that the $59 Million loan is aimed at providing electricity at a cheaper rate. But he said that electricity supply should be extended to rural communities.

He spoke about the problems associates with weak project implementation and the resettlement of affected communities. Poor families he said, cannot afford the services of lawyers to challenge the government.

Hassan Sesay MP for the opposition APC, also described the $59 Million loan agreement as “non-controversial”. He said the agreement should be embraced in its entirety.

Speaking about the benefits of achieving regional economic integration, he said that improving energy and water supply is essential for Sierra Leone.

Bashiru Silikie MP for the ruling SLPP, welcomed the agreement, which he said is aiming to reduce electricity tariff and increase access to energy in Freetown and the rural areas, with additional megawatts.

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Aaron Aruna Koroma MP for the opposition APC, commended the SLPP government for continuing the project, which he said had been originally signed by the past APC government.

Deputy speaker of parliament – Segepoh Solomon Thomas, also welcomed the $59 million loan agreement, which he says is receiving “unanimity and general consensus” by the House.

He said there will be no development without electricity, and that sustainable energy supply will encourage investors who are currently spending a lot on running private generators.

Ishmail Sama Sandy of the SLPP, said that the importance of the agreement cannot be over-emphasized, especially as the project is aiming to take electricity to the rural communities. He said that an industry has collapsed in Pujehun District, due to lack of electricity.

Speaking about the realization of the benefits of the loan agreement, he said that food security will not be achieved without the improvement of access to sustainable energy in the country.

Concluding the debate, the leader of the opposition APC and the leader of Government Business – Chernor Bah and Mohamed Tunis, respectively concurred to the agreement, which they said is aimed at benefiting both the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone by improving access to electricity supply.

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Both leaders spoke about the need to promote consensus building, dialogue, negotiation, and constructive opposition in parliament.

In another development, the parliament of Sierra Leone last Tuesday 10th July 2018, also debated and passed into law, with some amendments the Bill entitled “The Extractive Industries Revenue Act 2018”. The Extractive Industries Revenue Act 2018 Act aims to improve the coordination and consolidation of all revenues generated by the country’s mining industry.

The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries. Overseen by 173 shareholder nations, IDA aims to reduce poverty by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.

IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa, and is the single largest source of donor funds for basic social services in these countries. It lends money on concessional terms.

This means that IDA credits have a zero or very low interest charge and repayments are stretched over 25 to 40 years, including a 5- to 10-year grace period. IDA also provides grants to countries at risk of debt distress.

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