The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Wednesday 20th November 2019 started an intensive debate on the Appropriation Act for the 2020 financial year.
The Bill is aimed at authorizing expenditure from the consolidated fund for the services of Sierra Leone for the year 2020 and to provide for other related matters.
It is being piloted by the Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. Patricia Laverley; following it presentation by the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa on Friday 08th November 2019.
Commencing the debate, Hon. Francis Amara Kaisamba of SLPP who chairs the Finance Committee in Parliament heaped enormous praises on all those who in diverse ways contributed to putting the budget document together; describing it as “a people-centered bread and butter budget”. He also informed the House that the Ministry of Finance was constrained with the execution of the 2019 budget due to several factors including drawbacks, huge debt burden and domestic arrears left behind by the immediate past government.
He further assured colleague MPs that the 2020 budget is promising in light of the Government flagship project on human capital development with 22% budgetary allocation and innovative financing through job creation. He used the opportunity to describe President Bio as an ambitious leader who is bent on seeing the full implementation of the free quality education project; adding that the budgetary allocations to health, agriculture, electricity, water supply and mining have the propensity to develop Sierra Leone.
Contributing to the debate, Hon. Sallieu O. Sesay of APC said that he was not going to criticize the budget, but he would do justice to it. He referred to the budget as a “bitter cola” one. He also said 18 months had gone and the Ministry of Finance is challenged with the difficulties of addressing the problems; cognizant of the suffering masses. He attributed the current economic situation in the country to the Government’s acceptance to IMF’s biting conditionality; given so much preference to one economic variable such as human capital development than infrastructure and other areas. “The free quality education cannot be realized now and will serve as constraints to other variables”. He suggested public-private partnership as a better investment tool to job creation; and advised the Government to eliminate some agencies including “the office of the Chief Minister, HIV AIDS Secretariat, and the National Youth Service Commission to reduce expenditure in the country”.
Reacting, Hon. Mustapha Sellu of SLPP said that a long term project implementation could not create immediate impacts; but it would rather serve as inputs by Government which would be realized in the next 4 to 5 years. To this end, he cited the “Tormabom” agricultural project which has the propensity to boost local rice consumption and encourage exportation of rice to enhance foreign exchange transactions in the country. He also said that “the foreign exchange rate is skyrocketing because the current Government did not meet a dime at the Central Bank relative to foreign reserve”; and later described the budget “as a good one”.
Adding his voice to the debate, Hon. Sahr Charles of C4C urged MDAs to give opportunity to local residents as stated in the budget in order to boost the local content policy relating to job creation and project implementation in the country. He also called on the Government to take transparency and accountability into consideration during the process of youth employment and further advised the authorities to encourage investors to augment the economy.
On his part, Hon. Rev. Sama Sandy of SLPP referred to the budget as a “political expression of the Government’s manifestation to develop the country”; underscoring that “the budget is the most beautiful one since independence”. He also commended the Ministry of Finance for a huge budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture in order to attain food-sufficiency.
Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara of APC decried the Ministry of Finance for what he described as “a pittance” allocation to the Ministry of Water Resources; adding that “it is an injustice to the water sector”.
Other MPs including Hon. Sulaiman Marray-Conteh made brilliant contributions to the motion.
The debate continues tomorrow.