Dr. Doma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 November 2023:
The government of Sierra Leone has run out of cash and the stomachs of every Sierra Leonean is about to feel the pinch, as the country’s economy continues to falter.
The government’s proposed Finance Bill 2024 reads like a recipe for financial turbulence, with huge taxes on rice, petroleum products, cement, and iron rods on the horizon.
The economy it seems is being steered into stormy waters by those who should be guiding it safely towards the ‘New Direction,’ prosperity, and the much-talked-about Feed Salone agenda.
Rice, the staple food of the entire nation is for the first time in the country’s history, now under the taxing gaze of the government to raise much needed revenue for spending on essential public services.
In a country where more than half the population struggle to put food on the table, this move seems as sensible as dancing in a thunderstorm.
Chief Minister Dr. David Sengeh might soon advise us to savour each grain of rice we eat, as he recently suggested on his Facebook page for citizens to use their mobile data wisely.
The Finance Bill 2024 paints a vivid picture of tough choices ahead for an already impoverished citizen, instead of the government cutting back on its extravagant spending on overseas travel, spending on luxurious V8 Toyota Land-cruisers, free fuel allocations for public officials, and unnecessary political appointments that have caused a bloated public sector wage bill.
In this financial storm that will soon hit Sierra Leone, President Bio is at a crossroads: protect the privileges of the political elite or alleviate the tax misery on the poor.
Sadly, President Bio has chosen to tax the stomachs of those who can least afford it. Poverty stricken Sierra Leone is now teetering on an economic cliff edge, as the people pray for salvation from above.
The 2024 Finance Bill unveils a tale of government indifference, where tax hikes rain down indiscriminately on a population that is already grappling with daily economic and social challenges.
As the President looks up to the people to bail the government from the financial mess it created for itself after five years in power, many in Sierra Leone are instead looking to the President to plug the financial loopholes – as promised in 2018, reduce per diem, and combat corruption, instead of squeezing the stomachs of the poor.
Sierra Leoneans, left to weather this fiscal storm, are in dire need of a silver lining.
Perhaps in the humour of hardship, we can find solidarity in collectively navigating these choppy economic waters. God/Allah save us all as we strive to make sense of a Finance Bill that seems to tax our patience as much as our stomachs.
All this, in the context of poor monetary policy, with no credible plan to take the old Leone out of circulation and reverse its depreciation against other currencies, combined with very high interest rates for businesses, which is deepening the economic crisis the government now finds itself.