By Sahr Eric George
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In a heated parliamentary session, the 2024 Appropriation Act took centre stage as members from the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and the opposition All People’s Congress Party (APC) engaged in five days of intense debate.
Deputy Minister of Finance, Madam Jeneba Kpaka Bangura, standing in as the Finance Minister, expressed gratitude to the Members of Parliament (MPs) for their active participation in deliberating the 2024 budget. She assured them that all concerns raised during the debates would be given careful consideration by the ministry.
Highlighting the key aspects of the budget, Ms. Bangura emphasized the commitment to scaling up cash transfers to benefit the extremely poor and vulnerable segments of society. She reiterated the budget’s objectives, including support for the labour-intensive work program and various initiatives aimed at uplifting the less fortunate.
Assuring MPs of stringent measures in place to ensure economic growth in 2024 and beyond, Ms. Bangura explained that the combined seven percent increment in rice, cement, and iron rod importation provides hope for the nation to achieve the Maputo threshold of ten percent.
Defending the reintroduction of taxes on rice importation, which was removed in 2009 during a regional food crisis, Ms. Bangura stated, “If Feed Salone is to succeed, we need to reintroduce the tax, which is not a new measure.”
Responding to concerns about the budget’s wage bill, the acting Finance Minister disclosed that six percent of the 2024 budget would cover this aspect. She assured the house that measures were in place to manage and reduce the wage bill to the stipulated six percent.
After the second reading of the Appropriation Act 2024, Hon. Matthew Sahr Nyuma of the SLPP, representing Kenema District and the leader of government business, moved a bipartisan private members’ motion addressing the violent attacks that occurred on Sunday at Wilberforce Barracks, Murray Town Barracks, Correctional Centres, and detention facilities. Condemning the attacks, Nyuma called for a parliamentary investigation into the incident. The motion received bipartisan support, with Hon. Abdul Kargbo, leader of the opposition APC, seconding the motion. SEG/29/11/2023