By Foday Moriba Conteh
Parliament, on the 31st July 2023, unanimously approved the FY2023 Supplementary Budget, officially titled the Supplementary Appropriation Act 2023 which authorizes the allocation of funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the services of Sierra Leone.
During the presentation of the budget in Parliament, Finance Minister Sheku Fantamadi Bangura highlighted the factors behind the revision of the original FY2023 budget ranging from changes in macroeconomic assumptions in the initial revenue and expenditure projections to some activities implemented by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) not sufficiently budgeted for due mainly to the limited fiscal space, new expenditure pressures driven by policy pronouncements as well as the continued global rise in prices of goods and services, and the depreciation of the Leone.
Of utmost importance, the Supplementary Budget is strategically aligned with the Government’s Big Five Manifesto Commitments, which prioritizes critical areas such as enhancing food security (FEED SALONE), consolidating human capital development, supporting youth employment initiatives, improving infrastructure, and revamping the public service. The overarching objective is to enhance resilience and foster sustainable economic growth in the nation.
In a bid to strengthen the economy, the Finance Minister expressed the budget’s aim which is to reduce deficit from 9.6% of GDP in 2022 to 5.4% in 2023. The reduction is expected to lessen the Government’s reliance on borrowing, especially from the banking system, thus complementing the efforts of the Bank of Sierra Leone to combat inflation, mitigate the depreciation of the Leone and reduce the pace of debt accumulation.
The parliamentary debate saw Members of Parliament applauding the Finance Minister and his team for their commitment to maintaining the country’s economy amidst challenging circumstances.
Several parliamentarians provided valuable suggestions to enhance revenue generation and ensure prudent expenditure for the betterment of Sierra Leone’s citizens.
The Supplementary Budget introduces a series of revenue generation measures to boost domestic revenue. Implementation of the Finance Act, 2023, and the Medium-term Revenue Strategy (MTRS) are anticipated to yield additional tax revenues estimated at 1.8% of GDP in both 2023 and 2024.
Regarding fuel subsidies, the Government has foregone NLe783 million (approximately US$35 million) in direct and indirect subsidies during the first half of the year. Despite fiscal constraints, the Government remains committed to mitigating the impact of multiple crises on the population by providing support for energy subsidies, agricultural inputs for farmers, expanded social safety nets, and the continuation of free healthcare and quality education.
During the debate, Members of Parliament from various districts voiced their concerns about the specific needs of their constituencies, advocating for budget allocations in critical areas such as education, agriculture, electricity supply, and environmental protection.
In closing, the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew Sahr Nyuma, praised the Finance Minister’s transparency in presenting the supplementary budget. He emphasized the importance of fiscal discipline and efficient economic management to achieve Sierra Leone’s developmental goals.
The approved FY2023 Supplementary Budget is a testament to Sierra Leone’s commitment to aligning its financial priorities with its developmental objectives as outlined in the Big Five Manifesto. By navigating economic challenges with prudent financial planning, the Government aims to foster growth and progress for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.