Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 July 2020:
Parliament of Sierra Leone last Friday, 24th July 2020 approved the government’s 2020 Financial Year Supplementary Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies, tabled by the Minister of Finance – Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa.
Presrenting his budget to MPs, the Finance Minister – JJ Saffa, said that the COVID-19 outbreak is threatening to reverse the government’s gains in stabilizing the economy and hard-won economic recovery of the past twenty-four months, noting that, like most countries in the world, the government of Sierra Leone is trying to strike a delicate balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods.
“This Supplementary Budget seeks to achieve this objective; hence the theme: Saving Lives and Livelihoods,” he said.
Saffa said that building on the lessons from the Ebola Health Crisis, Government took pre-emptive measures even before recording the index case on the 31st of March 2020; adding that, consistent with international best practices in fighting such pandemics, the Government adopted several containment measures including suspension of international flights, closure of borders, partial lockdowns, and restrictions on inter-district movements, ban on public gatherings, night curfews, and social distancing.
Minister Saffa told MPs (Photo) that whilst the COVID-19 containment measures were aimed at saving lives, their implementation had adverse consequences on economic activities, particularly in the services sector which is the second largest sector of our economy.
He said that the hardest hit sectors have been petty trading, tourism, and transportation, agriculture, fisheries, and manufacturing; and that the uncertainty created by COVID-19 is also delaying the inflow of foreign direct investments into the economy.
“As expected for most countries, overall, the domestic output is projected to contract in 2020 with adverse consequences for domestic revenue mobilization,” he said.
Outlining the budgeted expenditure for the rest of 2020, the Minister stated that total expenditure and net lending is revised upwards by Le1.2 trillion to Le10.5 trillion in the Supplementary Budget from Le9.35 trillion in the original 2020 budget.
He said that this budget is to reprioritize some of the budgetary allocations in the original 2020 budget to provide the fiscal space to fund critical activities necessary for building health sector resilience and keeping the economy stable.
According to the supplementary budget, an amount of Le308.8 billion is allocated to the health response interventions, including the Government’s contributions to the operations of NaCOVERC of Le200.0 billion, ambulance operations – Le26.6 billion, Mortuary Services for 20 hospitals – Le16.4 billion, and laboratory and X-ray services – Le65.8 billion.
Le298.3 billion is also allocated for the implementation of the Quick Action Economic Response Programme. This include allocations for Support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through a dedicated Credit Facility and Micro Credit Scheme of Le50 billion, Social Safety Nets of Le50 billion comprising Cash Transfers and Food Assistance of Le20 billion, and bailout to State-Owned Enterprises (SoEs) of Le15 billion, support to the tourism sector – Le20 billion, Labour intensive public works – Le102. 7 billion, Agriculture – Le90.7 billion – of which food production activities are allocated an amount of Le70.7 billion.
Other allocations to Local Councils, Grants to Tertiary Educational Institutions, Energy Subsidies, transfers to TSA agencies, and the Road Maintenance Fund, will remain as budgeted in the original 2020 Budget, Saffa said.
The allocations to MDAs – including Defence, Police, Correctional Services will also remain as originally budgeted.
The Minister also announced funding for road, energy, and water sector across the country.
“For the second half of 2020, an amount of Le460.5 billion is allocated for the completion of critical road projects including Le261.6 billion for the implementation of the ongoing MOUs with road contractors for the completion of the Hill-Side Bye Pass Road, Lumley-Tokeh Road and township streets in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Bonthe as well as spot improvement of roads in Kabala,” he said.
He said the energy sector is allocated Le172.0 billion for the electrification of seven district towns (Kabala, Kambia, Kailahun, Moyamba, Pujehun, Bonthe and Mattru) and repairs of Government-owned thermal plants.
He said an amount of Le146.0 billion is allocated for the Freetown Water Supply Improvement Project, Bonthe Water Supply System and the Six Towns (Kambia, Kabala, Magburaka, Kailahun, Moyamba and Pujehun) Water Supply Project.
Members of Parliament that contributed to the Supplementary Budget debate spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 on the economy and how it has affected the implementation of the initial FY 2020 Government Budget.
MPs commended the Minister of Finance and team for speedily putting together the Government Supplementary Budget.
Hon. Francis Amara Kai-Samba of SLPP said the supplementary budget is an addendum to the 2020 Budget principally to address issues that were not catered for such as COVID-19.
Speaking on education, districts electrification, and water, he said the supplementary budget would serve as a relief for MPs regarding issues that are emanating in their constituencies.
Hon. Dr. Mark Mahmoud Kalokoh of APC appealed to the Minister of Finance to fast track the water project in Blama, Kenema District; noting that project would benefit over 8,000 people in that part of the country. He also called on Minister of Finance to do timely disbursement of funds to MDAs to deliver on their planned activities for the development of the country; emphasizing more funds be directed to agriculture than education.
Hon. Festus Mohamed Lansana of SLPP said the budget is responding to the impacts of COVID-19 by addressing sectors that were badly hit such as agriculture, tourism, and trade among others. Commending World Bank and other donors for supporting Government amid COVID-19, he noted the pandemic has huge impact on revenue projections; and that the supplementary budget catered for arrears inherited by Government.
Hon. Sallieu O. Sesay of APC called on the Minister of Finance to prioritise agriculture to enhance the livelihood of the people of Sierra Leone. He also called on the Minister of Finance to increase budgetary allocations to the Ministry of Agriculture to attain food sufficiency. Speaking on judicious use of funds, he called on the Minister to mitigate hike in inflation and create an enabling environment for investors.
Chief Whip of Parliament, Hon. Dickson M. Rogers of SLPP drew the attention of the Minister of Finance to agricultural boom in Pujehun District and commended Government for transfer of cash to impoverished households through NACSA. In light of the development agenda of Government, he assured saying “between now to December, Sierra Leone will be a different place”.
Hon. Paramount Chief Matilda Y. Minah of Pujehun District said there is hike in the price of rice in the country and called on compatriots to invest in farming; adding Pujehun is viable for agriculture and fisheries. She drew the attention of the Minister of Finance to a terrible road network and the suffering of travellers including women in maternity in the riverine areas.
Hon. Dr. Ibrahim Kamara of APC called on Government to provide loans to the private sectors that are involved in agriculture and other areas than short term loans to traders.
Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh of SLPP thanked the Government of President Bio for meeting its obligations amid COVID-19 such as payment of salaries, construction of roads, provision of jobs and other service deliveries. He lauded the Government for the introduction of the Quick Action Economic Recovery Plan (QAERP), aimed at making businesses resilient to the impacts of COVID-19.
Hon. Paul Sam of C4C thanked the Government for providing cash to poor and vulnerable persons amid COVID-19; and for taking development to Kono District citing road construction and education. He called for reassessment of teachers and investigation of COVID-19 funds to Kono District.
Hon. Paramount Chief, Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sanka lll of Tonkolili District noted that COVID-19 has destroyed the economies of the world and thanked the Government for managing the economy of Sierra Leone. He urged compatriots to support the Government to succeed than to fail in its development agenda. Speaking on the importance of education, he appealed to the Minister to support the Teaching Service Commission to strengthen quality education in the country. He also called on the Minister to facilitate major road connectivity to Tonkolili District.
Leader of C4C, Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina described the supplementary budget as non-controversial and commended the Minister and President Bio for their interventions relating to enhanced measures to tackle the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy. He also thanked NRA for implementing strategies that are supporting the economy amid COVID-19 with regards to revenue generation. He also appealed to Government to address mining related issues through NMA for economic boom.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor Bah called on Government to announce the actual number of tractors procured to support agriculture in the country; adding there are discrepancies in the current figures. He thanked the Government for prioritising local content policy by giving contracts to indigenous road construction companies; saying “it is a mark of continuity in governance”.
Recalling, he said when the APC came to power in 2007, allocation to education was 4 percent, and on exiting power, APC left it at 17 percent allocation on education, adding huge infrastructural development undertaken by the immediate past government. He called on the Minister to follow the paths of continuity and do timely disbursement of funds to MDAs to deliver on the development agenda of the country.
Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Nyuma commended the Minister and his Team for putting the documents together and colleague MPs for their brilliant contributions to the debate. He particularly called on the Parliamentary Committees responsible for Finance and Transparency to strengthen oversight with a view to ensuring judicious use of funds meant for the development of the country.
You Can Read the Full Supplementary Budet 2020 Here:
Thanks to the Almighty, only within 30 months in governance the New Direction government is no longer talking about Austerity. Our powerful Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa has defied all his critics by commanding not only the respect of the majority of Sierra Leoneans but also international financial organizations that now have confidence in the New Direction government after fleeing our country 3 years ago due to lack of respect and credibility, as a result of massive corruption from the past APC government. If this budget is fully implemented within 6 months, then the re-election of the New Direction government is guaranteed, because the only option for the APC party will be continuous incitement of our youths to resort to violence, in order to tarnish the image of our country and making it ungovernable.
The diversification of our economy has been the strength of the new direction government and I hope the path of Human Capital Development will continue to be the foundation, which will hopefully transform the minds of our youths within the next decade. The electrification, Water improvements and treatment within the 7 district headquarters will definitely restore our country back to our past glorious days and the transformation of the feeder road will definitely improve food production and transportation in our nation. May the Almighty continue to bless our Finance Minister with wisdom and understanding to not only “Saving Lives and Livelihoods” during this coronavirus crisis period, but continue to transform the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans in the future. Amen and Ameen.
Not everything is doom and gloom in our country. Around the president there are few good men that are fighting hard to steer the ship of state in the right direction. They are doing their jobs diligently and quietly without raising attention around them, least they attract the thuggish elements that have the loudest voices, but the least contribution of ideas to how to develop our country. Minister of Finance Mr Jacob Jusu Saffa has shown to be a man of integrity, and just getting on with his job. We need an adult in the room. Someone who knows what they are doing. With all what’s going in the country, and the real threat COVID19 pandemic present to our fragile economy, it is prudent to say this budget is a temporary stop gap to prevent our country falling to the brink of economic meltdown.
Friendly governments and international financial institutions, like the IMF and the African development Bank have recognised, COVID19 is not only a threat to future economic growth, but also a security threat to small countries like ours. For the first time in the history of their country, South Africa, Africa’s second largest economy, has gone to the IMF asking for assistance. That tells you all you need to know how serious the threat posed by COVID19 is.
With the budgetary allocation earmarked for various projects, and with the opening up of the country slowly, I think they should be implemented quickly, so it will arrest the predicted unemployment rate amongst the youth as we learn to live with this pandemic. The allocation of grants to small and medium sized businesses should be done with transparency. They are the engines of growth in any country. May God bless the republic of Sierra Leone.
Thanks you! It has been said by minister JJ.Saffa. And it has been approved by parliament. Citizens’ expectation is pratical action…