November 6, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Lawmakers last Friday approved the 2018 Appropriation Act amid heated debate between the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) parliamentarians.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Kargbo, last week laid the Appropriation Bill 2018 in parliament, with the sum of five trillion nine hundred and seventy nine billion, nine hundred and seven million nine hundred and sixty-nine thousand Leones (Le5, 979,907,969,000) quoted as projected expenditure to be withdrawn from the period Consolidated Fund.
At the conclusion of the three-day debate on the 2018 national budget, Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai, stated that a lot of money had been invested in the agricultural sector without the expected result achieved in the past years.
According to him, the APC-led government has allocated Le53,253,935,200 to agriculture on the notion that ‘the sector has been targeted as one for special focus within the diversification strategy because of its inherent potential,” but the opposition MP remarked that, “they are empty words on paper.”
The veteran MP also noted that although the current government has been spending huge sums of monies on agriculture little or no results have been achieved as the country continues to spend hugely on the importation of rice.
He averred that the growth and development of any country should be undertaken seriously by the diversification of the economy.
“The country was 76% food sufficient during the SLPP government under the late President Kabbah but as of now, we are yet to achieve any preferential percentage that will take us forward. Huge monies have been spent on agriculture but no proper report to be submitted to us as a nation. If Prof. Monty Jones cannot make it for us then who will?” he quizzed.
Hon. Sualiho M. Koroma of SLPP prefaced his debate on the absence of funds to respond to emergency and disaster situations. He recommended that government should put some money aside for disaster preparedness response.
On his part, Hon. Francis Kowa of the All Peoples Congress opined that the country’s economy has been boosted in the last nine years since the APC government took over, adding that more focus has been put on diversification as the previous government was unable to generate revenue compared to the present regime.
“Today, if we look back at the 2006 budget, the government revenue was Le4.7billion but as of October this year we have increased revenue generation to Le 40.7billion. This would tell you the level at which our government continue to rely on diversification. As for agriculture, we are now moving to commercialised farming,” he said.
Hon. Solomon Segepor Thomas, another SLPP lawmaker, spoke on the late payment of civil servants’ wages and government’s refusal to make public the amount that was donated for the mudslide and flood victims and what is left in the account.
He challenged the government’s record on investment at various sectors as he urged that proper mechanism be put in place for workers to receive their salaries promptly at the end of each month.
“Our people are dying because of unemployment. Up Till now we are yet to know the amount of funds that was donated by donors and other individuals for the mudslide [and flood] victims. Parliament is yet to know the amount. We as MPs should be aware of those funds in order for us to appreciate them here,” he said.
Hon. Thomas maintained that since 2007 the country has still been preoccupied with talking and debating the same issues with little or no tangible gains achieved, thus noting citizens now yearn for real, meaningful development.
However, Hon. Shekuba Amani Sannoh of the ruling APC debunked the statement of Hon. Thomas, stating that if the APC government could pay salaries during the Ebola crisis it would do same when there is normalcy.