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.