Sierra Leone cuts fuel subsidy, prices jump 30 pct

Wed May 4, 2011 12:48pm GMT

* Petrol prices rise to 5,000 leones ($1.16) per litre

* Gov't says will help it repay debt under IMF programmes

* Move coincides with switch to metric system

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN, May 4 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone's government has slashed petrol subsidies to help meet its debt obligations, leading to an overnight 30 percent spike at the pumps.

The move in the West African state comes amid rising street tensions across Africa over food and fuel inflation as surging world commodities prices hit. The World Bank fears a flurry of elections may add to tensions.

Sierra Leone Minister of Trade and Industry Richard Konteh said the move would cut the country's annual fuel subsidy bill to $25 million from $50 million and help it repay debt.

"($50 million) is what government has been subsidising for the past three years plus. That is really not sustainable," he said in an interview with Reuters."   Continued...

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