The Columnist, Foday Moriba Conteh
Sierra Leone faces an unprecedented economic crisis as an overburdened wage bill forces the government to take drastic measures, including the removal of fuel subsidies. The consequences of this decision have been severe, causing widespread suffering among the citizens. In these challenging times, it is imperative for President Bio to embrace radical action to salvage the economy and steer the nation towards sustainable growth and prosperity.
In light of the recent creation of new ministries and departments, the government of Sierra Leone faces mounting pressure to address the strain on the country’s wage bill. The burgeoning wage bill has led to the unfortunate decision of removing subsidies from fuel, causing significant suffering among the citizens.
On Monday 31st July, 2023 while presenting the Supplementary Government Budget in Parliament the Minster of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Bangura, said total expenditure and net lending is revised upwards by NLe3.5 billion to NLe18.6 billion (24.8 percent of GDP) for FY2023 which he said reflects the increase in recurrent expenditures by NLe2.6 billion toNLe13.5 billion and capital expenditures by NLe861.6 million to NLe5.1 billion.
He disclosed that the increase in recurrent expenditure covers additional budgetary allocation to Wages and Salaries of NLe434.2 million; Goods and Services NLe642.8 million; Subsidies and Transfers NLe844.7 million and Interest payments NLe 678.8million.
He however noted that the additional allocation to wages and salaries will cater for the impact of the depreciation of the exchange rate on foreign-denominated salaries and allowances especially for foreign missions and the wage costs of the newly-established sub-vented agencies and that the increase in Goods and Services covers mostly increased allocations to the security sector and start-up costs for the newly established MDAs including the Presidential Initiative on Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Food Security.
However, it is evident that due to the establishment of new MDAs and agencies by the government of Sierra Leone has resulted to a great increase on government expenditure of which this among others things has resulted to the removal of subsidies on fuel.
In order to address the country’s unprecedented economic crisis due to the overburdened wage bill forces the government should take drastic measures which includes dissolving conflicting Ministries, Department and Agencies in the country which will eventually cut down on the country’s wage bill. For example, government should dissolve the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and empower the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Government should also dissolve the National Council for Civic Education and Democracy and empower the Ministry of Information and Civic Education and the National Commission for Democracy owing to the fact that all these institutions have similar mandate.
Government should dissolve the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation and empower the Ministry of Communications and Innovation and Technology.
Government should dissolve the Presidential Initiative for Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Food Security and empower the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Government should dissolve the Ministry of Western Region and give more support to Freetown City Council.
The citizens of Sierra Leone have been grappling with the repercussions of this decision, as the removal of fuel subsidies has resulted in increased living costs and hardships on everyday necessities. The rising fuel prices have affected transportation, food prices, and overall economic stability, adding to the burden already faced by many.
With the government taking immediate action to decongest the wage bill, evaluating the recently-created ministries and departments for possible consolidation or streamlining is essential to curbing excessive spending on salaries. By effectively managing the wage bill, the government can redirect funds to essential services and prioritize targeted measures to support those affected by the subsidy removal.
Addressing the issue of the wage bill will not only alleviate the suffering of citizens but also demonstrate the government’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and prudent financial management. Responsible governance and careful allocation of resources can pave the way for sustainable economic growth and improved livelihoods for Sierra Leoneans.
As the government navigates through these challenging times, a collective effort is required to ensure that the burden of fiscal adjustments is shared equitably. The people of Sierra Leone look to their leaders for decisive actions to ease their hardships and build a more stable and prosperous future.
In conclusion, the government of Sierra Leone must heed the advice to decongest the wage bill and prioritize the well-being of its citizens. Addressing the suffering caused by the removal of fuel subsidies requires strategic and prudent measures that prioritize the needs of the people. By making thoughtful adjustments and implementing targeted support, the government can pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for all Sierra Leoneans.