In view of the massive economic losses expected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Sierra Leone has set up the Quick Action Economic Response Programme (QAERP) to maintain macro-economic and financial stability and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and households throughout the country.
It has been estimated that under the COVID-19 scenarios projected by the government, Sierra Leone’s economic growth for 2020 will be limited to, at best, half the initial projection of 4.2% GDP growth. In a worst-case scenario, with widespread positive cases, an overwhelmed health system and a lockdown, the severe contraction in economic activity will result in negative growth rates. The balance of payments is expected to deteriorate, and the cumulative impact of COVID-19 will adversely affect the effective implementation of the country’s Medium-Term National Development Plan and the 2020 Budget.
The core objectives of the QAERP are thus to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 by building and maintaining an adequate stock level of essential commodities at stable prices; providing support to the hardest-hit businesses to enable them to continue operations, avert lay-offs of employees and reduce non-performing loans; support labour-based public works; and providing assistance for the local production and processing of staple food items.
Including the costs of the Health Response Programme, the QAERP is expected to cost up to US$379.5 million, with a financing gap of US$309.4 million. The Government of Sierra Leone is therefore seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund as well as debt relief from all development partners. Its objective is to succeed in combating the COVID-19 outbreak on social, economic and health fronts, and return to the growth path laid out in the Medium-Term National Development Plan and President Julius Maada Bio’s Priority Human Capital Development Portfolio.