P/ment Approves Budget 50 School Buses 10% Salary Increase Fuel from Le6000 – Le8,000 Alcohol Tax Reduced

 

Fears that the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) which comprises the majority in the House of Parliament would not cooperate with the Sierra Leone People’s Party led Bio administration to push the country’s development agenda forward was laid to rest on Friday, 13 July, 2018 when the House unanimously approved the 2018 Government Supplementary Budget Act laid before it by the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa.

Briefing the House on the intent of the government’s financial request for the period July to December 2018 which amounts to Le3.7 trillion, Finance Minister Saffa said it is to provide the policies and programs outlined in the Government’s ‘New Direction’ manifesto, and to provide the services that the people need. The provision Saffa said will redirect and reposition government’s prioritized policies and programs with a view to improving revenue generation, attaining prudent fiscal management, provision of 50 school buses to be managed by the councils on a cost recovery basis in order to mitigate the effects of the fuel price increase on school going children.

The financial request will also cover the cost of subsidizing the cost of application forms into universities for 15, 000 entrants and provision of free primary and secondary education which makes up 21% of the budget. In order to increase revenue, the Finance Minister asked Parliament to reduce the tariff on imported alcohol beverages and wheat as well as increase the royalty on timber exports from US$1, 500 to US$2, 500 per 20 feet container load. The budget also makes provision for strengthening of Parliament’s oversight of MDAs by freeing it from dependence on incentives from the MDAs they are supposed to monitor; for a 10% salary increase for civil servants, teachers, police, military, correctional service and Fire Force officials within Grade 1 – 6. Provision is also made for travelling allowances. 49, 000 government workers who make up 71% of the public sector work force will benefit from this policy which costs government Le24.6 billion for the second half of this year.

In approving the financial requisition made by the Finance Minister, the SLPP Chairman of the Finance Committee in Parliament, Hon. Francis Amara Kai-Samba said it was a step in the right direction in the actualization of the priorities outlined in the Government’s New Direction. Leader of Coalition For Change in Parliament, Hon. Saa Emerson Lamina acclaimed the Act for reducing taxes and excise duties on alcohol and other products, pointing out that it will help curb smuggling from the neighboring countries. He congratulated the government for making provision for funds for the Port Loko City Council and the two north-west districts of Karene and Falaba. He called for the need to synergize and consolidate existing laws for payment of taxes and other forms of mining royalties to councils in order to enhance rural development.

Leader of the National Grand Coalition, Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Yumkella in supporting passing of the Act said it will lead to improved revenue generation. He praised the Act’s harmonization of the countries fiscal policy with that of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff regime and liberalization of the fuel market in line with the agreement that was reached by the former government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the conditions for a four year budgetary support to the country. With reduction of the tax on imported alcohol beverage, Yumkella called for the government to consider compensation for local sorghum farmers who supply the Sierra Leone Brewery (SLB) with raw material. He called for approval and procurement of teaching and learning materials in support of the free education policy and for the government’s speedy repatriation of diplomats in line with the Vienna Convention. Yumkella, a strong advocate of quality education for all applauded the university forms subsidy as well as the strengthening of Parliament’s oversight committees.

The Opposition Leader in Parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah praised the Finance Minister for his exquisite delivery. However, he called for a review of the tariff on tobacco, fruit juices and other imported items. He called for timely disbursement of funds for the free education and start of procurement for the programme. Hon. Bah also appealed to the Finance Minister for government to capacitate retired civil servants who do not own private houses. Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Tunis promised that government will disburse funds in a timely manner. He told the House that the increase in the price of fuel was as a result of discussions held by the previous government and that government being continuity, the SLPP government is bound to honor the agreement reached with IMF.