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Statement of the World Bank President at the joint press briefing with President Koroma

Statement of the World Bank President at the joint press briefing with President Koroma

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma December 3, 2014, Freetown, Sierra Leone

DR. KIM:  Thank you very much for the very, very kind introduction.

First, I’m here mostly to observe and to congratulate the government of Sierra Leone and President Koroma for his leadership and Sierra Leone’s leadership in their response to Ebola.  President Koroma told me today that he has been walking the neighborhoods and going directly to the field to change the way people think about it and behave in the face of this epidemic.

Today in our meeting we talked about the importance of finishing the job on Ebola, on getting to zero cases and, at the same time, not waiting to finish, that you need to work on economic recovery.  The World Bank Group together with partners, especially the United Kingdom, is committed to support Sierra Leone’s authorities in their emergency response but as well, the longer-term economic recovery.  We’re accelerating our support to Sierra Leone, and we plan to deliver a comprehensive economic recovery package in just two years instead of three; in other words, our three-year plan we’re going to frontload and disperse it in two years.

Our support will cover five areas.

First, we’ve already provided $160 million to Sierra Leone for the Ebola crisis, and we will continue to support the objective of getting to zero cases as soon as possible.  This is going to require many more resources, but we are absolutely committed to finding sufficient resources to get to zero.  This is going to involve intensifying efforts in the west and the north of the country, particularly in Freetown and Port Loko, and empowering district level teams and subnational emergency operations centers in order to break the chains of transmission and identify all contacts of those infected.

As I said, we cannot wait to get to zero to work on economic recovery.  So our second area of support will be agriculture.  We’re concerned that agricultural production has dropped significantly as a result of this Ebola epidemic.  We’ll help farmers recover from this crisis by building feeder roads that connect small farmers to markets.  We must make sure that the Ebola epidemic is not followed by a food security crisis.  We’re also working on enhancing safety nets to protect the most vulnerable from the economic consequences of the epidemic.

Third, we’ll help to improve basic infrastructure such as urban services and access to electricity that will help the well-being of citizens.  We need to help Sierra Leoneans create jobs to help people recover from income losses as a result of the epidemic.

Fourth, in response to the shortage of finance for businesses, we’ll continue to work through our private sector arm, the IFC, to provide liquidity to local banks.  This will support especially small- and medium-size enterprises and local entrepreneurs and farmers.

Finally, the foundation of the Ebola response and the economic recovery is strong governance.  So, we’re helping the government to strengthen public financial management.  We’re working closely with the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank and preparing several tranches of direct budget support.

Again, I want to thank President Koroma for his leadership in fighting the Ebola epidemic.  We think that the commitment that we need to make here today is that Sierra Leone must emerge from the Ebola epidemic much stronger than it was before the Ebola epidemic.  We can build infrastructure.  We can train people to be community health workers.  There’s much that we can do in responding to the epidemic that we think can enhance economic growth and recovery afterwards.

Thank you very much.

World Bank

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