By Victoria Saffa
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Dr. Kaifala Marah
The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) has commended government and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah, for proposing to pilot the Health Insurance Scheme, establish skills development on small and medium enterprises funds and develop the transformation funds in next year’s budget.
BAN coordinator, Abu Bakarr Kamara, said they applaud the government for proposing to broaden the tax base by first reducing duty and GST waivers, combating tax evasion and enhancing transparency and accountability in revenue collection, as well as opening more space for civil society participation in the budget preparation processes.
He noted that Sierra Leone has failed to achieve the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) indicator for primary education expenditure because of lack of adequate investment, adding that one of the goals of ‘Education for All’ is to allocate 50% of money allocated to education to basic education.
Kamara further stated that the allocation to the health sector saw a decrease from 10.5% in 2013 to 9.7% in 2014, which he said was a concern considering challenges facing the free health care and the health sector in general.
He recommended that the government should increase budgetary allocation to the health and education sectors, earmark more funds to local councils to foster decentralization, reduce the debt burden on the country, encourage commercial banks to reduce their lending interest rate, increase its tax revenue, and limit discretionary tax incentive granted to mining companies.
He said that BAN regards the budget as an important tool for development and that there was a need for stakeholders to work together to ensure effective budget implementation.
“We therefore call on the media and other stakeholders to demonstrate active interest and collaborate with BAN to achieve this goal. We are also calling on the government to adequately invest in the human development of all Sierra Leoneans,” he concluded.