By Feima Sesay
The hardworking Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa has on Friday 24th July 2020 presented the 2020 Supplementary Appropriation Budget in the well of Parliament.
The Parliament of Sierra Leone unanimously debated and approved the 2020 Supplementary Appropriation Budget.
Making his submissions, the SLPP Member of Parliament, Hon. Dickson Rogers disagrees with the statement made by the Opposition Members of Parliament on their assertions when making their input on the Bill disclosing that the Government of President Julius Maada Bio has made several strides on agriculture, education and the healed sector in the last two years.
Hon Roger went on that most of the things the MPS are talking about were not captured in the report speech of the Minister adding that as an agriculturist he has cultivated over 10 hectares of land for agricultural purposes in Pujehun District.
He however said, the New Direction Government is working round the clock to ensure that agriculture and other sectors, especially the flagship project of the government which is the free education, become a success story.
Hon. Roger also complained about the deplorable road condition from Bandajuma to Pujehun which has posed a serious threat for travelers especially in the rainy season and appealed to the Minister to pay attention to improve such as it has enormous economic benefit to the country.
The Member of Parliament representing Constituency 132, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh said, COVID-19 has affected the 2020 budget very seriously adding that in spite of the COVID-19 the government is still paying salaries and daily subventions.
He furthered that, trade, tourism and transportation are the hardest hit sectors in the country and the government is also ensuring that a dramatic increase of inflation is not realized in the country.
He also pointed out that to enhance livelihood support, the Ministry of Finance has also set aside Le 500 billion support for businesses informing that as a proactive and prudent government loans at the banks are now granted in a single digit interest which shows that the government cares about revitalizing businesses in the country.
Hon. Tawa informed the house that the real effect of COVID-19 in other countries is not comparative to Sierra Leone.
An opposition Member of Parliament from Bombali, Hon. Dr. Mark Mamoud Kalokoh has informed the house of Parliament that, what is in the speech of the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa is not reflecting the reality on the ground.
Hon. Dr. Mark Mamoud Kalokoh made the disclosure when contributing to the debate for the approval of the total of Le 1.7 trillion Supplementary Appropriations Budget Act 2020 in the well of Parliament.
He said, he did not want the Minister of Finance to water down the expectations of the masses by giving bogus figures without the reflections of the ordinary citizens.
Hon. MP stated that in spite of the one billion Leones disbursed weekly to the Health Ministry by the Ministry of Finance to fight against COVID-19, there are still doctors who are striking for their allowance across the country.
Hon. Kalokoh pointed out that several strikes of medical staff have been experienced in recent times due to nonpayment of their allowances and salaries, “where the one billion Leones disbursed weekly is going” he asked.
Hon. MP from Bombali noted that the Ministry should give a clearance of verified audit arrears because from January to July 2020, Le 266 billion was budgeted on verified audit arrears and the supplementary budget shows Le 548.2 billion additional budget has also been factored in the supplementary budget.
He also mentioned that the Ministry of Finance has also budgeted Le 55. 05 billion Contingency Fund in the supplementary, an amount he asked the Minister if just travelling.
The MP also encouraged the Minister to pay attention and tried to reduce the inflation in the country adding that disclosing that the Minister is talking on tackling inflation while the reality is different on the ground.
Hon. Kalokoh intimated that the appreciation of the Leones is not as a result of sound economic policies but because businesses are not doing well in the country.
Hon Kalokoh urged the Minister to map out a clear strategy to restore the economy because the engine of growth cannot be built by grants given to the country by IMF or World Bank.
He intimated that “the only way you justify an improved livelihood of Sierra Leoneans is when you make available investment opportunities, especially the private sector investment, put stringent economic measures in place and then increase agriculture allocation for better livelihood support” he asserted.
The All Peoples Congress Party, Member of Parliament, Hon. Salieu Osman Sesay in his submissions informed the house that, the Minister of Finance, Jacom Jusu Saffa is playing around the English in his Supplementary speech there by diverting the attention of the people on the “bread and butter gimmick”
He pointed out that, the Minister in his speech said the budget is aiming at saving lives and protecting livelihood rather than mentioning the ‘bread and butter’
Hon. Sesay went on that; his attention has also been drawn to the failure by the Government especially the Ministry of Finance for the failure to prioritizing agriculture in the supplementary budget.
Hon MP realised that the funds could only be achieved by prioritizing agriculture but noticed that 3.04 billion supplementary budget has been allocated to the agriculture while Le 33 billion allocated just for Tree Planting.
Hon. Sesay also doubted on the bench marks used by the Ministry of Finance to allocate monies while also referencing the huge chunk of allocation of Le 82 billion to the Ministry of education to end the 2019-2020 academic year.
The opposition MP considers such allocation at this time of Coronavirus as a waste of time because there is no school going on in the country except examinations students.
He disclosed that the 2020 original budget to education is Le 87 billion and the supplementary is Le 82 billion and asked if such allocation is prudent.
The MP stated that, education required requisite resources to improve the free quality education and expressed dismay over the lack of sitting accommodation in schools and salaries of teachers.
In spite of the various concerns of Members of Parliaments, the house he however unanimously approved Le 1. 7 trillion Supplementary Appropriation Budget 2020 in the Well of Parliament.