“The budget will generate significant income from the Goods and Services Tax, GST, on both domestic and port, including excise duty on fuel among others. Like the United Kingdom we are increasing the taxes on imported sugary drinks because we found out that sugar has a lot of health complications”, he said.
In terms of how they intended to expend those resources, the minister outlined areas of priority interventions, among them the security forces and law enforcement agencies.
He said Le 90 billion had been allocated to the army and about Le 88 billion the police, while Le30 billion would be for the correctional services and eight billion for the fire force.
“This is because we care for the forces and we are supporting 75 per cent of tuition fee across tertiary institutions in the country”, he said.
But critics, especially the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party, SLPP, said the proposal was ‘bogus’ and out of touch with the present reality on the ground.
Former presidential candidate for the SLPP, Julius Maada Bio, said that Sierra Leone was amongst the tenth fastest growing economy in the world but that the government engaged in extra budgetary spending and did not manage and diversify the economy, leading to the austerity measure.
“…mostly unchecked corruption and mismanagement of the economy. The government did not ‘make hay while the sun shined’ when the economy was booming as a result of iron ore mining,” Bio added.
Publicity secretary of the party said the budget was unfortunate and was not good for the general wellbeing of the common and average Sierra Leonean.
Meanwhile, the debate in parliament on the 2017 budget had ended with the Appropriation Act, 2017 authorizing expenditure from the consolidated revenue fund for the provision of services in Sierra Leone for 2017 and other related matters.
Member of Parliament for Constituency 82, Gladys Gbappy-Brima, cautioned colleague members not to politicize the budget debate while urging government to cut down on the number of what she called “irrelevant institutions within the governance structure”.
“When you see the ruling party blaming the opposition party for incitement it means that they have failed. You have too many committees and commissions that are not doing anything relevant. Merge them and close some of them and use the resources for the ones that can actually deliver,” she said.
A ruling party MP for Constituency 96, Alhassan Kamara, challenged her claims relating to present external debt, referencing the 27 October 2007 budget presented by the then minister of finance, John Oponjo Benjamin, with an external debt of about $1.72 billion as compared to the present debt of $1.2 billion incurred under President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Other members also made comparisons on fuel increase under the SLPP and the present APC.
SLPP MP for Constituency 10, Francis Amara Kaisamba, from Kenema district, urged government to fast-track the Kenema road construction project.
“For the past nine years my district has benefited little or nothing from all of these roads and infrastructural development the government has been mentioning. We have the worst roads in this country,” he lamented.