By Jariatu S. Bangura
Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), Hon. Kandeh Kolley Yumkella, has urged his colleagues to critically look at Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDANs) budget allocations and cut down their excessive expenditure spending.
He noted that his colleagues now have the powers to change or cut down proposed allocations by MDAs before the final approval of the 2023 budget, so as to control their huge spending and save enough money for other purposes.
He said should the economy continues to be bad, all MPs would have to pay one way or the other and that the timing of the 2023 budget meant a time of serious reflection.
He said he was fortunate to facilitate programs in the last four months, a global discussion on the food fairer and financial crisis in New York and in Europe and he had listened to the debate about the challenges faced and their implications for low income country like Sierra Leone.
He noted that the debt rate of the country is high and that there was need to cut it down by at least cutting down on overseas traveling for a minimum of six months from all MDAs, looking at the huge cost fixed to it, in order to save and sponsor other sectors.
Hon. Yumkella said most times certain sectors receive only 5% of their budget approved by Parliament for a whole year whilst others received everything and on time.
He said Parliament should be in a position to stop agencies that are doing extra budgetary activities as there are many parastatals that spent more than what was allocated to them
He said the crisis is serious and that they were not sure when it will end, adding that it is likely to continue up to 2025 hence MPs and the government must be very prudent, realistic and deliberate on how the economy should be managed.
He stated that the inflation rate in neighboring countries (Ghana is 40%, Nigeria is 20%, Guinea is 12.4%, Liberia is 8% and Sierra Leone is 29%).
He said inflation is high, but doesn’t affect everyone the same way as the country’s food price inflation is 35% and rising.
He recognized that the situation in the country is tough and that they should take a different approach to look at the budget before Parliament appropriately.
He said the reality of not having enough cash as a nation has been faced, adding that there was need to go back to the drawing board as to why Liberia and Guinea didn’t go down during the Ebola.
He admonished that if certain sectors like agriculture, education, environment, mining, to name but a few, are being prioritized , the issue of importing more will be a thing of the past and the government will benefit greatly.
He said the country needs to produce more and do exporting in order to manage the crisis and help the poorest of the poor.
He said the investment on agriculture for the past years has been declining continuously at (2.7%), noting that after education, the government should be able to invest more on agriculture to lessen the importation of rice.
Also, Hon. Roland F. Kargbo of the All People’s Congress said people have followed carefully what has been said in Parliament by government ministers and his colleagues, and sometimes they opt to confuse them the more.
He said the realities of all the explanations given so far in the budget was trying to justify the status quo of the country, which has no impact on the lives of the people.
He said there was no hope for the people as over the years, government after government, has told the people about diversifying the economy but each time it is done, it has always been on levying huge taxes on the people.
He said sectors that need diversification are agriculture, tourism, mining and fisheries, but over the years budget allocations to those sectors have been unrealistic.