By S. U. Thoronka…………
Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr. Keifala Marah was full of praises for the Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) Haja Kala-Kamara and staff for collecting much needed revenue to service the economy at a very crucial moment in the history of the nation. The Minister made the remarks during his presentation of the Appropriation Act 2015, being an Act to authorize expenditure from the Consolidated Fund for service of Sierra Leone for the year 2015.
Dr. Marah noted among other things that the Ebola outbreak has created human crisis in the country, adding that since the outbreak many Sierra Leoneans have died and still continue to die including children. He lamented over the death of doctors and nurses in the course of combating the deadly disease and at the same time maintained that the corresponding effect was the combined destruction of Mining, Agriculture, and Education among others.
Dr. Marah noted that ‘’although the closing of international borders was appropriate, nonetheless it affected trade and the economy while banks and other commercial houses closed down giving cause for revenue generation to drastically drop’’, he affirmed. He furthered that Ebola outbreak has impacted negatively on the social fabric including the Healthcare delivery and water supply system in both the Western Area and the rural communities. This, he said could even trigger the prevalence of water borne diseases in addition to Ebola.
Minister of Finance Dr. Marah opined that available statistics indicated that over 200 children have died as a result of the Ebola outbreak, including the disable especially the blind that depend on the sense of touch. But that notwithstanding, the Minister was, however, hopeful that the budget would bring hope and informed that several missions and agencies have consented to help combat the Ebola.
Dr. Marah said that before the Ebola outbreak the country attained a double digit economy which he attributed to iron ore production, adding that the economy during the first quarter of 2014 was very encouraging, and that during the first half of the current year the economy was on track when the Ebola reared its ugly head.
The Minister informed that post Ebola recovery include but not limited to the revival of the economy, strengthening healthcare system, revitalize education, improve access to finance, scale up social support.
Speaking on the allocation of expenditure for 2015, Dr. Marah announced a 15% increase on wages and salaries for all categories of workers in the civil service effective 1st July 2015. He said that the minimum wage for civil servants will then move from (Le480,000-Le550,000), whilst the salary for teachers police, prison and fire force would be increase from( Le600,000-Le660,000).A total of 97billion was allocated to the Health sector which includes the training of medical personnel providing the necessary infrastructure, equipment, insurance and research. While 60. 1 billion was allocated to Education to support the school feeding programme and learning through radio and television.
Dr. Marah informed that effective next year; Government is going to pay school fees for all girls in Junior Secondary Schools across the country, whilst a total of 131.8 billion was allocated to roads construction and rehabilitation. According to the Minister, the budget experienced a deficit of 1.3 trillion and he made it categorically clear that in the event funds are not realized, ‘’allocation for MDAs would be reviewed but that will not affect the increase of salaries’’ he assured.
By S. U. Thoronka…………