The approved budget will cover government spending for the period July to December 2018, and will come from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) with immediate effect.
A key highlight of the SLPP government’s approved budget is that fuel prices will rise by an average of approximately Le2,000, as government removes its subsidy in accordance with previous agreement by the former Koroma-led APC government in 2017.
Members of Parliament have on Thursday last week enacted the Supplementary Finance Act 2018, with some amendment to alter and amend imposed taxes and duties levied by the Finance Act of 2017/2018 and other related matters.
Presenting the bill for enactment, Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa said the purpose of the bill was to assist in improving domestic revenue mobilization for financing development projects and reducing cost of importing certain food items as well as addressing pending issues relating to the implementation of the Finance Act 2017, especially provisions relating to excise duty.
Mr. Saffa said the passage of the bill would also help reduce the cost of flour and enhance the welfare of consumers of bread and other related food commodities.
“It will create a balance between reducing the cost of importing fruit juices to encouraging domestic production and will also support local industries and encourage local production,” he said.
The Finance Minister further stated that the Act was geared towards protecting local content and would consider additional tax on alcohol beverages and tobacco products in order to reduce their consumption and negative effects on public health.
Chairman of the Finance Committee in Parliament, Hon Francis Kaisamba, said the bill was not contentious like the 2017 Finance Act, adding, that the country stands to benefit a lot not on the basis of protecting infant industries but to allow competition among them and importers. “Brewery should not only be the one to produce beer but rather allow importers equally for the country to receive more money to support other sectors. There is no way the government can pay or support those sectors if revenues are not collected. I am therefore encouraging you all to enact the bill for the betterment of the country,” he urged.
All People’s Congress (APC) party lawmaker, Hon. Sallieu O. Sesay of Constituency 38 in Bombali district, said taxation was one of the main sources of revenue for government, adding that it is important and crucial for the new government to succeed with such interventions.
“I am still wondering why the deduction in tariff will encourage local production as by all standards. It depends on elasticity demand. The reduction is important but the magnitude as stipulated in the old Act is worrying. $4 to $2 per litre for alcohol content is drastic and it would undermine the local content policy,” he said.
Hon. Sesay said the intention of the old Act was to protect local farmers and that the only beneficiaries of the new Act would be Belani &Sons and Choithram, who are not Sierra Leoneans.
“They will make gains and take it to their countries, leaving local farmers who are tax payers to languish. Local farmers should be protected,” he said.
Another opposition lawmaker, Hon. Abu Bakarr Fofanah of Constituency 107 in the Western Urban, said the country has a lot of opportunities to generate revenue rather than importing alcohol.
“It will do more harm to humanity. The problem of the youth is that they misuse the intake of drugs (Tramadol). I caution you all that if there are other means, let us explore possible means rather than fostering the importation of alcohol into the country,” he urged.
Notwithstanding the opposing viewpoints, the bill was approved by the House.