Sierra Leone’s finance minister Saffa prepares for major policy shift in 2021 budget

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 October 2020:

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance –  Jacob Jusu Saffa says that the government intends to make major policy shifts in agriculture, teenage pregnancy, health system, and recurrent spending.

He was speaking last Thursday at the formal opening of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Conference which took place  at the Ministry of Finance in Freetown.

According to Mr. Saffa, in the area of agriculture, the government will encourage and support the private sector to take the lead, so that the government can remove spending on fertilizers and seeds from its 2021 Budget.

He said the Bank of Sierra Leone has consented to provide USD$ 50 million credit facility for businesses that want to import and supply fertilizer and other agricultural inputs. “We want to do it in a way that in every district there should be a supplier of fertilizer,” he said.

Minister Saffa told the conference that the management of supply and distribution of tractors is going to be in the hands of the private sector, noting that with these steps taken, there will be a turnaround in agriculture in the next two years as that is the determination of President Julius Maada Bio.

He also spoke of a major policy shift by the government in response to teenage pregnancy, noting that teenage pregnancy is an important factor in maternal mortality.

According to Saffa, statistics show that over 40 percent of maternal deaths are teenagers which he said must change, adding that by targeting teenage pregnancy the government is aiming to reduce maternal mortality.

Mr. Saffa said the other area of important policy shift will be on recurrent spending. The government he said, will substantially cut down on recurrent spending and focus on capital projects for the next three years.

But it is not clear whether this change of policy includes reducing the government’s bulging public sector wage bill and spending on failing State-owned enterprises.

“The budget has never been balanced. How can we as a nation spend 15 percent of our budget on recurrent spending and we expect to develop? So I am sorry, that is the way to go; we have to manage our budget as best as we can,” he said.

He said the theme for the FY 2021 Budget is going to be the same as the FY 2020 which is “Fiscal consolidation for human capital development and job creation”, noting that the government is continuing with the same theme and similar priorities because the government was only two months into the implementation when COVID-19 broke out.

Chief Minister David Francis (Photo) whilst delivering his keynote address, commended the Ministers of Finance and technical staff in the Ministry, for the way they have responded to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

He however stated that despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 the improvement in e-governance technology has meant that various government meetings including cabinet meetings, are now held online.

“Through the directorate of service delivery and performance management we have been working very closely with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and all Ministries Departments Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that service delivery information is fully captured within the framework of the 2020 Performance Tracking Table. Going forward to 2021, my office anticipates your maximum cooperation in ensuring that the entire work and performance management and service delivery is driven by the provision and submission of credible data and evidence,” he said.

He calls on representatives of MDAs to present spending plans that are comprehensive, realistic, and consistent with the priorities of the government, and to also embrace the manifesto commitment of the administration.

“The President has made 2020 the year of delivery and 2021 will be the year of accelerated delivery,” he said.

The Deputy Chairman of Parliament Oversight Committee on Finance – Moses Edwin said that Parliament is challenged with the allotted seven working days given to scrutinize the budget, noting that in order to work within the stipulated period it is therefore expected of all MDAs and Local Councils to fully comply with the Sub-Appropriation Budget Committees.

The Financial Secretary Sahr L. Jusu said the Finance and Budget conference serves as an opportunity for MDAs, including Local Councils, Parastatals, and State-Owned Enterprises to discuss and review updates on key sectoral policies contained in the National Development Plan.

He said the conference also provides opportunities for sectors including the business community to discuss and exchange ideas on issues relating to budget formulation and execution over the Medium-Term FY 2021-2023.

Technical information were presented by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Water Resources, and Ministry of Works and Public Assets/Sierra Leone Roads Authority.

6 Comments

  1. Someone please enlighten my ignorance by telling me why on earth does the government wants to spend $50 million on fertilizers, when the fertility of the land itself stands second to no other land that I have ever encounter? No way am I an expert on agriculture but I do know a fertile land that naturally exudes enormous agricultural prowess when I see one. I hope this is not one of their ways of stifling money out the country that the country does not have.

    • Mr Kalokoh, you are spot on. Our soil is fertile. During the rainy season, if you throw a mango seedling or any seedling for that matter on the ground, it will germinate without adding fertilisers to enhance the soil. Majority of farmers grow their rice in swamp fields, instead of dry land. With all whats going on in the country, the government have to be seen to be doing the work they were elected to do. To help lift our people out of poverty, by implementing real and well thought out economic policies. But true to form they ignore those facts by diverting the attention of Sierra-Leoneans, from the real issues.

      Instead they come up with gimmick projects, that are fine on paper, but practically impossible to implement because the willpower to see them through is lacking. Maybe countries that have been encroached by the ever expanding Sahara desert will need fertilisers to grow their crops. Sierra Leone is blessed with high amount of rainfall. Sometimes too blessed, it causes flooding. What our country lacks is good leadership. But it doesn’t stop there. The politicians know how to manipulate the population for their own selfish ends. All the while their fanatical supporters are oblivious of tbis fact. Or if they know, they choose to ignore it all together. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  2. Gentlemen if you ever need a figure of speech that compares two different confounding things, here’s a Simile that you can use like a tool that will undoubtedly serve you very well in Sierra Leone – “As unserious and delusional as the SLPP Criminal Cabal;”(lol)I mean seriously, is this the same JJ “The Hangman “that overspent his ministry’s budget by billions of juicy Leones that is now kicking up dust, complaining that our Country’s budget has never been balanced and as a result of that we can never make any kinds of tangible progress? Is this the same short-sighted individual that spent millions of dollars on needless expensive SUV’s now changing his tune?

    Countless times, on this glorious forum of Truth my advice has been that they choose the path of thriftiness and prudent spending yet they shrugged it off and now after losses upon losses, these hopeless losers are right back to square one again. Goodness gracious! In the United States I’ve seen ordinary plumbers and mechanics with tiny shops boasting of clean balance sheets that allowed them financial flexibility to fund operations and meet financial obligations without shackling themselves with traumatizing, nerve-wrecking debts. What the hell is wrong with these incompetent people?

    They are arrogant stuck-up, and mean-spirited yet they don’t know the simplest things even ordinary street vendors and fishmongers are fully aware of. And here they are talking about balancing a nations budget when they are still flushing our Scanty monetary resources down the drains of brainless mindless productivity by running and maintaining a shockingly bloated government that’s consist of hundreds of the their tribesman seeking anxiously to rob our fragile nation blind.

  3. According to our finance Minister Jusu Saffa, the theme of 2021 budget is going to be Fiscal consolidation and development of our human capital. I think all these recycled proposals, we heard them before. Until and unless the government come up with clear five or ten year economic plan like what the Chinese government does, and the next government of any colour carry on with the same program until it run its course, or we realised its benefits, it is difficult to see how our country can develop. At the moment one government will start a development program and the next government for some political reason scrap it and we start all over again. In doing so, it wastes much needed funds for other sectors that need the attention of government.

    Unless and until government starts identifying the sectors that can bring immediate and tangible results, and invest in them, we are going to continue the same old failed economic policies that works for the few but not for the many. Take agriculture, which if develop will provide immediate relief for struggling farmers and their families. The government should give our farmers all the necessary financial support and the tools to develop. Its good to know the bank of Sierra Leone have agreed to help. But how many illiterate farmers in Falaba or Pujehun District will be made aware of this credit finance?

    And when it comes to these loans, the government or the banks should not create difficult hurdles to acquire this help. As long as you can show you can pay back the loan, and most importantly cut out local MPs as a means of acquiring these loans. Because these corrupt MPs are always on the look out to make fast bucks. And the criteria of filling up the loan forms should be made easy for the farmers. Putting up your land as collateral or family jewel is a no no. Government in working with the private sector, should impose strict penalties on business owners that half the time tend to abuse the system. Any program started by government is prone to abuse. ACCOUNTABILITY IS A MUST. As for teenage pregnancy, we have one of the worst records in the world. The government should be proactive in promoting sex education in our schools, both for young girls and boys. Right now our country is in a critical situation, when it comes to rape and unwanted pregnancies. Apart from school, the community at large should play their part. May God bless Sierra-Leone.

  4. The principle of a policy shift that transfers leadership roles to the private sector for matters done traditionally and in many countries by private businesses is commendable. The state must however remain vigilant that the farmers are not left worse off. We hope this is the first step towards re-examining age-old policies that have not yielded positive returns over decades. In my opinion, top of the list is taxation policy. As argued elsewhere, the current taxation regime is a relic of the colonial era and contributes poorly to our development aspirations.

    On the reduction of recurrent spending, for me an obvious area is subventions to Parastatals. We must revisit the policy that keeps the Government underwriting parastatals despite over 15 years of a Privatization Commission. My view is that the Commission should be given 9 months to complete recommendations on privatizing these parastatals and itself be dissolved thenceforth. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Trade should be given responsibility to implement the recommendations as accepted by Government.

    • Thanks Mr McCleod, for your nice piece. You are right for the government to set a firm end date for the completion of this fifteen year shambolic privatisation commission .Government doesn’t create employment but create the environment and conditions through their tax relief programs for the private sector to excel and create the jobs needed in a country. Don’t forget the rule of law and security is paramount. Its all part and parcel of how a country achieves its development goals. The government needs to realise, there is not enough money to throw around. The new normal, in the aftermath of the covid19 pandemic dictates, government needs to prioritise agriculture, as they rightly did. If we can grow our staple food and stop spending much needed funds on importation of rice all the better.

      There are other sectors crying out for investment. I am not holding my breath on that one. Because, as far as I can make out, any meaningful program that has to do with national development, government of all colours have always managed to out wit us the Sierra Leonean public by kicking the problems that affect our every day lives to the long grass. Talk of dragging your feet is an understatement. The governments have created a culture, like every waking morning for Sierra Leoneans, we have to justify why we are living. Yes taxation policy needs a long overdue overhaul.

      Majority of economies around the world, that have robust taxation regime tend to work well in contributing to national development. Certain sectors are exempted, like religion. But in Sierra Leone it feels like every one is exempted because uncle Sandy is a member of this political party or this tribe. And if you want to know why our country don’t rip the benefits of tax collection, look no further. As for the commission of inquiry, anything to do with political point scoring, or tribalistic agendas, has a speed like a jet engine. On the contrary anything that has to do with national development, its like you are riding a bicycle with a punctured tyre, trying to reach the summit of the WARA WARA MOUNTAINS OF KABALA. May God bless Sierra Leone.

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