Parliament convened on Thursday, November 9, 2023, was engaged in a comprehensive debate prior to the approval of the ‘Finance Act 2024’. This pivotal legislation, aimed at bolstering economic growth and development within Sierra Leone, was passed or ratified with some amendments.
The ‘Finance Act 2024′ serves to establish and amend tax provisions, execute the Government’s financial proposals and address other related matters for the Financial Year 2024.
In presenting the bill to Parliament, the Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, emphasized its role in augmenting revenue generation for the State. The Finance Act endeavors to enhance and safeguard local farmers while also providing incentives for local markets.
The Finance Minister outlined the proposed amendments to various Acts, highlighting their contributions to revenue mobilization for the State by optimizing domestic revenue collection through various taxes.
Contributing to the debate, the Parliamentary Chairperson on Finance, Hon. Francis Amara Kai-Samba, stressed that any adjustments to established laws necessitate parliamentary approval. He commended the Minister of Finance for his diligence and for introducing the bill to Parliament. Hon. Kai-Samba referenced past amendments to the Act that facilitated revenue generation for the country.
Deputy Leader 2 of the Opposition, Hon. Aaron Aruna Koroma, underscored the significance of the bill, particularly its impact on the welfare of the citizens. He praised the Minister for his adjustment of the GST threshold and extended demurrage time at the Customs Services Department of the Sierra Leone Port Authority. Hon. Koroma expressed that the nation’s hardships were primarily due to the Government’s actions and referenced neighboring countries offering subsidies on essential food items.
Hon. Alpha Bah from the Western Area Urban voiced concerns that the Finance Act, if enacted, would adversely affect the people. He stressed the need for prudent expenditure management and urged the Minister to maintain zero taxation on rice, advocating for the protection of local industries.
Hon. Mustapha Sallu from Moyamba District contested the assertion that the Government was responsible for the people’s suffering, emphasizing that the bill aimed to bolster revenue mobilization for development.
Hon. Sallieu Osman Sesay from Bombali District acknowledged the importance of tax increments but cautioned against levying them on essential commodities.
In his inaugural speech, Hon. Ibrahim Barrie from Bombali District addressed the country’s current economic challenges and referred to a World Bank report on Sierra Leone’s economy in 2022. He urged the Government to prioritize citizens’ interests and confront the nation’s economic challenges.
Closing the debate, Opposition Leader, Hon. Abdul Kargbo, acknowledged the challenging economic circumstances faced by Sierra Leoneans. He stressed the need for the Government to implement policies to alleviate the difficulties, referencing the “Feed Salone” flagship Project, which he characterized as non-operational. He expressed his opposition to the proposed tax increases on rice and implored the House to pass a people-centered Finance Act.
Concluding the debate, Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma, elucidated the memorandum of objects and reasons behind the bill. He delineated the distinctions between excise duties and import duties within the Finance Act.
Hon. Nyuma emphasized the essential role of tax increases in controlling the economy and highlighted the Government’s commitment to economic improvement. He defended the decision to impose taxes on cement and iron rods.
He underscored the non-political nature of the Audit Report and detailed measures within the Finance Act designed to address audit-related issues.
The Leader of Government Business concluded by asserting that the tax adjustments were necessary to address the nation’s economic challenges based on current circumstances, while also emphasizing the Government’s commitment to national development.