Sierra Leone parliament concludes government budget debate

Sierra Leone Telegraph : 20 November 2018 :

Yesterday Monday, 19th November 2018, Sierra Leone’s elected representatives concluded their debate of the government’s 2019 budget contained in the proposed 2019 Appropriation Bill, which if approved will become an Act of Parliament that will give powers to the SLPP government to raise finance and spend on the delivery of its New Direction Progamme.

Following the conclusion of yesterday’s debate by MPs, the 2019 Appropriation Bill was then sent to the Parliamentary Committee on Supply for further scrutiny. Six sub-committees will take a closer look at the various budget heads, before the Bill can go back to the entire parliament for approval.

Contributing to the debate, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella (MP) who is the leader of the NGC said that in the past two decades “we have run as a country but ended up at the same point where we started”, explaining why Sierra Leone has not done well in the rankings of the global human development index.

He called on the government to make the 2019 Budget more pro-poor by allocating more funds to the Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs ; maintaining fiscal discipline and increasing revenue mobilization.

Dr Yumkella said that in spite of the rationalization measures introduced by the former APC government, “the APC had spent too much”.

The Bio – led SLPP government, Yumkella said, inherited a bad economy, “yet the proposed  2019 Budget of the SLPP is also poised to spend more”.

He called on the government to improve agriculture, fisheries and tourism to generate more revenue. Higher taxes on the private sector, high inflation, high interest rates, political tension, lack of inclusiveness, can scare investors away, he said.

Saa Emerson Lamina MP (Photo) and leader of the C4C party described the proposed 2019 Budget as “brave, brilliant, balanced, dependable, reliable, and smart”.

He praised the government for what he referred to as prudent financial management and robust revenue mobilization, utilising the Treasury Single Account.

He said there are challenges to the implementation of the 2019 Budget, such as; large mining companies paying pittance in taxes to government, the huge debt inherited by the government, the current toxic and divisive politics of ethnic and regional divide, and delays in paying grants.

Saa Emerson Lamina welcomed the proposed salary harmonization policy, but said that “it will be difficult for commissions set up by government because they are self-regulated”.

The Acting Leader of the main opposition APC – Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP (Photo), said that “the APC is of the view that governance is continuity that should be characterized by honesty”.

He commended the government for the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, and observed that the proposed Budget does not take into account the country’s balance of trade, and the failure to utilize the stock exchange as an innovative way of paying for government debts.

The APC he said will contribute Le 1.4 Billion towards the government’s free quality education, but failed to explain how.

He assured the SLPP government of continued cooperation and called for correction of past mistakes. He spoke about the need for national reconciliation, peace and development of the country. He also said that “high taxation will drive investors away to Guinea and Liberia”.

The Acting Leader of Government Business – Sahr Mathew Nyuma MP, called on MPs to approve the 2019 Budget so as to enable government to deliver its programmes and policies geared towards the development of the country.

He said that “revenue must be in conformity with expenditure”. The IMF he said withheld budgetary support in 2007 and 2017 respectively to the previous government of the SLPP and the APC, for failing to listen to prudent advice about high government expenditure.

The Bio-led SLPP he said inherited an abysmal economy and that is why it is currently suffering from shortage of funds to run the country, and accounting for widespread poverty.

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