The case of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio to hire an A-Team Leader – Macroeconomist in the Ministry of Finance to improve the performance of the Sierra Leonean economy.
By John Mannah, Special Contributor, USA
With his latest interview on economic management in Sierra Leone recently resurfacing on YouTube, it is evident that Dr Samura Kamara is gearing up to stand in the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections for the second time as a presidential candidate. under the APC party.
As a keen observer of political events in Sierra Leone, it goes without saying that the Bio administration should keep a close eye on the second coming of Dr Samura Kamara, as he is going to be more strategic this time around in asking the question. “Is the economy stupid? in Sierra Leone because although the Bio government has achieved good results in several key areas of governance, namely the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education under the leadership of Dr David Sengeh, the Ministry of Higher Education led by Dr Alpha Wurie, and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation under the leadership of epidemiologist Dr Austin Demby among others, the sector that is still struggling is the sector financial – economics, an area in which Dr. Samura Kamara has a comparative advantage.
It therefore goes without saying that even though the outstanding leaders of the Ministries of Education and Health have done well to manage their ministries using the scientific process to carry out serious reforms and implement policies to carry out the mandate of the President to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of Sierra Leone, the same cannot be said of the Ministry of Finance in the management of the economy, especially macroeconomic management. The question then becomes, what can the Bio government do to cover up its apparent vulnerability on the economic front to run against a formidable presidential candidate and macroeconomist in the person of Dr. Samura Kamara, the potential APC presidential candidate? in the presidential and legislative elections of 2023?
The answer to the above question depends on what President Bio will do in the Ministry of Finance in the foreseeable future to change his fortunes and deliver to the people of Sierra Leone. Indeed, the potential candidate of the APC political party preparing for a rematch with President Bio in the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023, Dr. Samura Kamara, is a seasoned macroeconomist who has a clear advantage in this field because he is an expert in finance. and economic management.
Additionally, it should be noted that Dr. Samura Kamara lost the 2018 Presidential elections to the current President Bio by a very narrow margin as he was not ready to run for political office after his admirable contributions to the economic management of Sierra Leone, first as a financier. Secretary then, Governor of the Central Bank, Minister of Finance and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Dr. Samura Kamara, according to reliable sources, was planning to retire after his career in public service when he was propelled as the presidential candidate of the then ruling APC political party by former President Ernest Bai Koroma who ran Sierra Leone like a family business. and wanted to pull a “Vladimir Putin” (Russian President Putin chose Medvedev as a placeholder in Russia for Putin’s eventual return) on Sierra Leone by selecting Dr. Samura Kamara from over 20 other presidential candidates as a placeholder for him in the presidency so that he can return after Dr. Kamara’s first term as president since he, former president Ernest Bai Koroma is the lifetime leader of the APC political party.
However, the scheme did not materialize as Dr. Samura Kamara lost the 2018 presidential elections to current President Bio. I will also argue that Dr. Samura Kamara lost the election because firstly his candidacy came as a shock to himself as he did not anticipate it nor was he ready to take on the leadership of one of the oldest Sierra Leone’s political parties, run and win. Nevertheless, even though he wasn’t as prepared as he could have been, had he aspired to the position of his own free will, the election was still close.
This brings us to the next presidential and general elections coming up in June 2023, which Dr. Samura Kamara could now be preparing to run as the APC’s flag bearer, and could potentially become the presidential candidate, this time, of his own free will. . He is going to be a more formidable candidate for several reasons, among which the state of the economy. As an economist by training, he has a better chance of defending the management of the economy than the work that President Bio is doing, and the people will be ready to listen to him and hear him on this issue. This is where President Bio should move quickly to effect the reform and change needed for a better outcome at the Ministry of Finance.
I will argue that President Bio should do for the Ministry of Finance what he did for the Ministries of Education and Health. The president should look for an A-team leader to lead this ministry like Dr. David Mioninah Sengeh is doing for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, what Professor Alpha Wurie is doing for the Ministry of Higher Education and this what does Dr. Austin Demby do. do for the Ministry of Health. Indeed, like the scientists that they are, they have introduced international systems and best practices to achieve the positive results they are achieving. Similarly, President Bio must find a leader for the Ministry of Finance as he did for the three successful ministries. The president should hire a seasoned macroeconomist who understands the link between finance and economic growth, finance and economic development, and the structural and stochastic models used to manage the macroeconomy.
Models such as Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) are used to manage financial and economic shocks that frequently affect the Sierra Leonean economy, specifically to manage the business cycle. DSGE models are new Keynesian models which are an outgrowth or elaboration of the IS-LM or Mundell-Fleming model developed by the IMF. Hiring someone in the Ministry of Finance who has expertise in using these models will go a long way in addressing the challenges that the Sierra Leonean economy is currently facing and is expected to face in the future.
Let me say unequivocally that I have nothing against the current finance minister as he is an excellent civil servant and uses his administrative skills and know-how to run the day-to-day affairs of the department. However, when it comes to how to combine revenue allocations and taxes to grow the economy, especially when it comes to the government’s flagship programme, Free Quality Education – Towards Endogenous Growth through to human capital development, predicting and managing risk, we need a Macroeconomist who understands these models and their strengths and weaknesses, as applied to fiscal and financial policy, namely taxes and expenditures.
One seasoned macroeconomist whom I can recommend off the top of my head is Mr. Steve Swaray, a former senior lecturer and head of the economics department at Fourah Bay College, former fiscal and financial controller of the Mano River Union, former governor of Bank of Sierra Leone, Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for more than a decade. Steve, as we call him, is a seasoned IMF-trained macroeconomist and will therefore do an effective job in the Ministry of Finance if called upon to work for the national interest.
Don’t get me wrong, President Bio has done a tremendous job for the country since taking office, but there is still a lot to do in the Ministry of Finance to make its policies work better for the country as a whole. Among the discernible areas that need improvement is the management of macroeconomic and cyclical shocks that have hit the economy due to the fall in the prices of commodities such as minerals and cash crops such as cocoa and coffee prices. .
Incidentally, the government of Sierra Leone is mainly financed by the export of raw materials, a sector which also employs a lot of people, namely mining, coffee and cocoa plantations. Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models developed by an IMF can be used successfully in Sierra Leone to effectively forecast and manage such shocks as is done for other economies around the world.
For example, Sierra Leone has borrowed heavily taking advantage of low or near-zero interest rates in the United States over the past decade. Speculation is that interest rates will rise in the US to cool the US economy and manage inflation. This is going to be a shock to countries like Sierra Leone. Thus, the need for a trained macroeconomist to head the Ministry of Finance in Freetown to use DSGE and other structural models to forecast and manage this potential problem that could hit the Sierra Leonean economy if interest rates interest were to rise in the US States thus negatively impacting our dollar-denominated debt cannot be underestimated.
Such a development will also lead to further depreciation of the exchange rate in Sierra Leone and worsen our economic situation. However, if the country can foresee these potential developments at the Ministry of Finance, it will be able to design policies to prevent them accordingly. Furthermore, Sierra Leone needs the services of a Macroeconomist in the person of Mr. Steven Swaray to weigh the offsetting effects of these developments and use DSGE models to predict and manage them. He will do a wonderful job as Minister of Finance ahead of the 2023 elections to act as a cover or buffer to effectively manage and improve the economy, thus giving President Bio a good chance of being re-elected for a second presidential term of 2023. and general elections.