February 12, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) has urged the Government of Sierra Leone to significantly improve the derelict health sector.
While making a presentation to lawmakers at Committee Room 1 in Parliament this week, titled “Three Lessons from the Ebola crisis for Sierra Leone’s government and investors”, BAN Coordinator Abubakarr Kamara said the study targeted the Finance, Health, Water, Mines and Minerals Resources Parliamentary Oversight Committees as they are their partners.
He said there was little doubt that the spread of Ebola had been exacerbated by poor health infrastructure in the country and the existing diseases burden. He said government policy on health indicates its intention to improve the sector in the country, not least introducing the free healthcare imitative, which in the first year recorded a triple number of consultations with children under 5 and a 60% drop in the number of fatalities from maternity complications managed in health facilities.
He maintained that government expenditure in the health sector was low even prior to the Ebola outbreak as only half of 15% of the Abuja target was allocated to health, thus in 2012 government allocated Le118bn but only Le64bn was spent, while in the 2015 budget Le152.5bn was allocated, adding that the citizenry spends far more on health than the government.
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Kamara said huge amounts of money was being lost to foreign companies operating in the country by way of tax incentives in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and infrastructure.
He recommended that the government should comprehensively review its policy on tax incentives with a view to radically reducing them, and at the same time significantly increase expenditure on health, to ensure that it meets the 15% Abuja commitment on health spending.
He concluded that government should adequately finance the health budget and not resort to imposing user fees, plus establish a comprehensive data/information system, including monitoring health inequity and social determinants of health to ensure that there is equitable distribution of health resources across the country.
In his submission, Hon. Sualiho M. Koroma of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party said most people across the country do not have access to adequate and safe drinking water even prior to the outbreak of Ebola, noting that the country was in dire need of adequate and accessible safe drinking water.
He emphasized that the government should give more attention to providing water for the citizenry by making money available to the sector.