The Minister of Finance Honourable Jacob Jusu Saffa has stated that the government intends to make major policy shifts in the area of agriculture, teenage pregnancy, health system, recurrent spending among others.
The Minister made this disclosure on Thursday 1st October 2020 during the formal commencement of the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget process at the Ministry of Finance Main Conference Hall in Freetown.
According to Mr. Saffa, in the area of agriculture, the government will get the private sector to take the lead, noting that the government will eliminate the provision of fertilizers and seeds in the 2021 Budget.
He said the Bank of Sierra Leone has consented to provide USD$ 50 million credit facilities for those that want to supply fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, adding that business people can find the supply of fertilizers attractive. “We want to do it in a way that in every district there should be a supplier of fertilizers,” he said.
The Minister furthered that the management of tractors is going to be in the hands of the private sector, noting that with these steps taken, there will be a turnaround in agriculture in the next two years as that is the determination of President Julius Maada Bio.
He said another important policy shift is in the area of teenage pregnancy, noting that teenage pregnancy has a lot of impact on maternal mortality. According to him, statistics show that over 40 percent of maternal deaths are teenagers therefore that target group has to change, adding that teenage pregnancy will be used as a strategy to reduce maternal mortality by strengthening the bordering home system.
Mr. Saffa said the other area of important policy shift will be the slashing of recurrent spending substantially in favour of capital projects, noting that government will substantially cut down on recurrent spending and focus on capital projects for the next three years.
“The budget has never been balanced. How can we as a nation spend 15 percent of our budget on recurrent spending and we expect to develop? So I am sorry, that is the way to go we have to manage our budget as best as we can,” he said.
He said the theme for the FY 2021 Budget is going to be the same as the FY 2020 which is “Fiscal consolidation for human capital development and job creation”, noting that the government is continuing with the same theme because the government was only two months into the implementation when COVID-19 broke out.
He said FY 2021 budget will have similar priorities to that of the FY 2020.
The Chief Minister Professor David Francis whiles delivering the keynote address commend the Ministers of Finance and technical staff in the Ministry for defying the impediments of the COVID-19 with regards management of the economy.
He however stated that despite the odds of the COVID-19 there is a silver lining which is the improvement of e-governance as meetings and even cabinet meetings are now held online.
“Through the directorate of service delivery and performance management we have been working very closely with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and all Ministries Departments Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that service delivery information is fully captured within the framework of the 2020 Performance Tracking Table. Going forward to 2021, my office anticipates your maximum cooperation in ensuring that the entire work and performance management and service delivery is driven by the provision and submission of credible data and evidence,” he said.
He calls on representatives of MDAs to present policies that are comprehensive, realistic, and be consistent with the priorities of the government, and to also embrace the manifesto commitment of the administration.
“The President has made 2020 the year of delivery and 2021 will be the year of accelerated delivery,” he said.
The Deputy Chairman of Parliament Oversight Committee on Finance Honourable Moses Edwin said that Parliament is challenged with the allotted seven working days given to scrutinize the budget, noting that in order to work within the stipulated period it is therefore expected of all MDAs and Local Councils to fully comply with the Sub-Appropriation Budget Committees.
The Financial Secretary Sahr L. Jusu whiles moderating the opening session said the event serves as an opportunity for MDAs including Local Councils, Parastatals, and State-Owned Enterprises to discuss and review updates on key sectoral policies contained in the National Development Plan.
He said the forum also provides opportunities for sectors including the business community to discuss and exchange ideas on issues relating to budget formulation and execution over the Medium-Term FY 2021-2023.
Technical sessions and presentations were done by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Water Resources, and Ministry of Works and Public Assets/Sierra Leone Roads Authority.