By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of Parliament have yesterday approved an additional amount of three billion, six hundred and eighty-five, five hundred and ninety-four, seven hundred cents (NLe 3,685,594,700),presented by the Minister of Finance to add up to the original 2023 fiscal year budget.
The additional budget is intended to align government spending with its changing priorities as outlined in the ruling party’s manifesto, as well as to appropriate funds for newly established ministries, such as the Ministry of Communication, Technology and Innovation. Recently, President Julius Maada Bio announced the appointment of new executive portfolios, including the Presidential Initiative for Climate Change, Renewable Energy, and Food Security.
The supplementary budget, according to budget analysts, is estimated to be in the range of 5% of the original FY2023 budget, with an estimated increase of at least 10% in resources allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture, to intensify local food production in order to achieve the government’s priority of Feed Salone, and a separate allocation to the Youth Employment Scheme, a presidential initiative that aims to create 500,000 jobs in five years.
According to the Minister of Finance, Sheku Fantamadi Bangura,the macroeconomic assumptions on which the original revenue and expenditure projections were based, no longer hold.
He said the original 2023 budget was based on the macroeconomic framework agreed with the IMF during the fifth review of the country’s performance under the ongoing programme with the IMF Extended Credit Facility in November 2022.
He also said the Supplementary Budget aims to reduce the budget deficit from 9.6 percent of GDP in 2022 to 5.4 percent of GDP in 2023.
“This, in turn will reduce the borrowing requirement of Government especially from the banking system, thereby complementing the efforts of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) in containing inflation, slowing down the depreciation of the Leone and reducing the pace of debt accumulation,” he said.
He informed the House that the macroeconomic framework was revised during the combined sixth and seventh reviews in May 2023 and that the revised macro framework formed the basis of the revenue and expenditure projections in the supplementary budget.
He explained that some activities implemented by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were not sufficiently budgeted for due mainly to the limited fiscal space.
The minister added that at the same time, new expenditure pressures have emerged, driven in some cases by policy pronouncements as well as the continued global rise in prices of goods and services, and the depreciation of the Leone.
He said there is therefore the need to enhance budget allocations to some MDAs to realistic, but affordable levels for the delivery of services.
He stated that to align the budget to the new priorities of government articulated in the government manifesto-the BIG FIVE, which include boosting food security (Feed Salone ), consolidating the gains in human capital development, supporting youth employment initiatives, improving infrastructure, and revamping the public service with the overall objective of boosting resilience and promoting sustainable economic growth.
Hon. Kaisamba said the supplementary budget is an addendum to the initial budget and about 3bn, adding that new ideas have emerged and new ministries created to fit in the work load, among others.