BudgIT unveils simplified 2024 budget, highlights critical issues

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By Alhaji Haruna Sani

On Friday, May 17, BudgIT Sierra Leone convened with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media at the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) Hall on Fort Street, Freetown, where they launched a simplified version of the 2024 national budget which uncovered critical issues within it.

The event, themed “Unboxing the 2024 National Budget,” aimed to enhance budget access and foster stakeholder commitment to promoting public awareness, participation, and involvement in the campaign for public finance transparency and accountability.

In his opening statement, Brima Sesay, BudgIT Country Lead, noted that the 2024 budget, themed “Restoring Macroeconomic Stability While Protecting the Poor and Vulnerable,” provides a platform for the government to foster economic growth, alleviate citizens’ hardships, and enhance food production in the country.

Sesay informed the gathering that the total budget allocation for the fiscal year 2024 is NLe 23.5 billion, with projected revenue of NLe 20.9 billion, resulting in an NLe 2.6 billion deficits.

He highlighted that total expenditure and net lending are expected to reach NLe 23.5 billion (23.3 percent of GDP), up from NLe 15.1 billion in 2023. However, he pointed out that while the budget priorities appear excellent on paper, they lack specificity and clarity on how the government will achieve them.

Sesay explained that BudgIT Sierra Leone is a civic, non-profit organization that enhances citizens’ understanding of the budget and matters of public spending and accountability using tech tools to simplify the budget and raise the standard of transparency and accountability in government.

 “Our primary goal is to use creative technology to enhance community engagement, public education and awareness, as well as institutional reforms in Sierra Leone. BudgIT started in Nigeria in 2011 and has expanded to Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. In Sierra Leone, BudgIT began operations in 2020,” he informed the gathering.

He stated that BudgIT’s operations encompass Budget Access, national budget simplification and dissemination, natural resource and climate governance, institutional support, tracka, and health accountability to enhance the health system.

He added that the government intends to further implement measures from the Medium-Term Revenue Strategy (MTRS) and introduce new tax policies on goods and services to generate more revenue in 2024.

Other critical issues highlighted included the vague indications of government spending on free education, school feeding, and examination fees. Additionally, agriculture, the government’s flagship program, only received an allocation of NLe 1.1 billion, accounting for just 7% of the expenditure.

Sesay expressed BudgIT’s key concern with development and addressing policy failures. He defined development as the sustained elevation of a society and social systems towards a better life with sustenance, self-esteem, and freedom.

He noted that while there are good policies in Sierra Leone, there is a significant challenge in their implementation. He attributed policy failures to a lack of dedicated individuals, inappropriate strategies, complex systems, and weak organizations.

Daniel Conteh, Research and Program Manager of BudgIT, presented the 2024 revenue breakdown, which ranged from income taxes, goods and services tax, customs and excise duties, royalties on timber, mining licenses, and fisheries, totaling NLe 20.9 billion.

Civil society’s present raised concerns about the unbearable tax increases, noting that the burden rests heavily on the poor and vulnerable citizens.

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