Sierra Leone sets "cautious" 2012 spending hike

Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:16am GMT

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone will increase spending by eight percent next year in a budget described by its finance minister on Friday as a conservative reaction to the expected take-off in iron exports next year.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that new iron ore projects in the West African country, still recovering from an 11-year-civil war that ended in 2002, will boost growth to 51.4 percent next year, one of the highest in the world.

Finance Minister Samura Kamara said government spending would rise from 2.6 to 2.8 trillion leones.

"It's a very cautious, careful budget," Kamara told Reuters in an interview given directly after presenting the budget to parliament. "It's very, very modest."

Sierra Leone itself expects 2012 growth of "at least 50 percent" followed by 10 percent in 2013 and 2014. Excluding iron ore production, it sees average growth at six percent a year between 2012 and 2014, up from 5.3 percent this year.

Government figures predict 242.3 billion leones in mining revenues next year, compared to some 185.5 billion in 2011.

Sierra Leone's infrastructure was devastated during its civil war and building projects account for much expenditure.

Chinese-led construction crews are currently digging up major thoroughfares in Freetown, and roads alone account for 24.1 percent of the 2012 budget.   Continued...

Iron ore is loaded into a pile at an iron ore mine in Western Australia state, July 25, 2011.   REUTERS/Morag MacKinnon
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