Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finance Minister concludes Paris Club bilateral debt cancellation

Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister, Hon. John O.  Benjamin is on a whirlwind tour of the Paris Club creditor member countries to sign agreements marking the final cancellation of Sierra Leone’s external debt amounting to about US$350 million.

 On 17th April, 2007, the Honourable Minister signed an agreement with the French Government for the cancellation of debt totalling US$ 35.45 million.

 Two days later, the delegation arrived in Rome, Italy where the Minister signed an agreement for the cancellation of US$37.22 million debt, and the following day, he was in Vienna, Austria where he signed an agreement for the cancellation of debt amounting to US$0.31 million.

 Today, the Finance Minister, Hon John Benjamin, met with the Norwegian delegation, headed by their Ambassador in London, where they signed an agreement for the cancellation of US$14.2 million of Sierra Leone’s external debt.

 The ceremony took place at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London and was witnessed by Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner, H.E. Melvin Chalobah and his Deputy, Mr. James Allie.

 Hon. Benjamin described the ceremony as simple but very significant. He said he was looking forward to a  strengthened cooperation between Norway and Sierra Leone.

 He called on the Norwegian Government to look at trade and investment possibilities in Sierra Leone.

 The Minister said that he was very grateful to the Norwegian Government for the decision to cancel Sierra Leone’s debt.

 The Norwegian Ambassador in London, His Excellency Mr. Bjarne Lindstrom said that he was very pleased to be signing the agreement for debt cancellation on behalf of his government.

 He said that Norway would continue to support Sierra Leone’s recovery programmes in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone. They also signed a similar agreement with the Government of Switzerland in the High Commission. The Ambassador of Switzerland His Excellency Mr. Alexis Lautenberg signed an agreement with Sierra Leone's Finance Minister, Hon. John Benjamin for a total write-off of Sierra Leone's  US$25.8 million debt.

 The Sierra Leone delegation included the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Mr. Mohamed Fofana, the newly appointed Financial Secretary Mr. Sheku S. Sesay, the head of Public Debt Management Unit in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Sahr. L. Jusu.

 The delegation will arrive in Brussels, Belgium on 24th April, 2007, to sign the cancellation of Belgian debt amounting to US$26.65 million. Other creditor countries including the USA, Japan and Germany are expected to finalise their debt cancellation in Freetown.