Finance Minister Kelfala Marah presents 2015 budget

KEIFALA MARAH

DR. KEIFALA MARAH

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Keifala Marah today presented the 2015 Sierra Leone Budget to Parliament.  According to the Minister himself,  “It was delivered in a somber mood, in the midst of the Ebola challenge, but with our collective resolve as Sierra Leoneans,  we will implement this budget. “

Some key highlights of the 3.3 trillion, or $662M budget are :

1. There will be a 15% increase in the salaries of all public workers, effective July 1 2015.

2. Free tuition for all JSS girls when schools reopen.

3. Establishment of a skills development fund: providing youths with seed money to start businesses.

4. Establishment of medical risk allowance.

5. Establishment of Small and Medium Enterprises structure for dissemination of preferential interest loans.

6. Le97 billion for the ministry of health.

7. Le7.8 billion for constituency development fund.

Highlights of the 2015 Budget

Theme: ‘Restoring livelihoods for Post Ebola Economic and Social Recovery’

1. Wages and Salaries:
15 percent increase in wages and salaries for all categories of public sector workers effective July 1, 2015. The increase will result in a minimum wage from Le480, 000 to Le 550,000 for civil servants and from Le600, 000 to Le660, 000 for teachers, police, military, prison officers and fire force.

2. Agriculture:
Launch the Three Years Fertilizer Programme; and
Launch the Strategic Grain Reserve Programme.

3. Tourism and Culture:
Undertake image building and rebranding programmes, and the use of international media houses, particularly in the post Ebola national image rebranding efforts.

4. Fisheries:
Construction of cold rooms in district headquarter towns; and
The construction of fisheries training school.

5. Health:
Medical Insurance Scheme for health workers;
Public Health Sierra Leone programme to capture various projects; and
Mainstream sanitation and hygiene across the country; establish a national ambulance service; a pool of paramedics and trained clinicians. Hence a Public Health master plan will be developed shortly.

6. Education:
Support nationwide school feeding programme;
Accelerate education through radio and television teaching programmes; and
With effect from next academic year, Government will pay tuition fees for all the terms for girls in Junior Secondary School. The current situation involves the payment of tuition fees for three terms for girls in JSS I, two terms for girls in JSS II and one term for those in JSS III.

7. Water Resources:
Establishment of a National Water Resource Management Agency to improve the operations of Guma Valley Water Company and SALWACO;
Support water improvements in Freetown and other cities and townships.

8. Roads:
Le131.8 billion is allocated in respect of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of trunk roads, Freetown urban and district headquarter town roads/ streets.

9. Energy:
Power Sierra Leone launched to provide1000MW by 2017;
Addax Bio-energy to provide 15MW;
Cooperbelt Engineering Cooperation (CEC) 128MW to be delivered over a period of 18-36 months to improve energy access in the Western Area; and
“Electricity Medium-Term Bond” in 2015 to raise an amount of US$106 million to fund the installation of power plants and transmission and distribution materials in provincial headquarter towns as approved by Parliament in July 2014.

10. Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) Fund:
Support training for SMEs;
Development of young entrepreneurs;
Improve access to affordable finance at preferential interest rates through the Community Banks and Financial Services Associations;
Establish an independent agency to execute the SME fund; and
A National Steering Committee for SME Development will be established comprising Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Bank of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Office of the Chief of Staff, Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion agency and the International Finance Corporation to implement a holistic SMEs development programme incorporating the SME Policy and the SME Fund. BSL will regulate the programme through the Apex Bank.

11. Labour and Social Security:
Le5.3 billion to review obsolete laws for private sector employment promotion; and
Le 4 billion for cash transfers to the aged and vulnerable groups.

12. Skills Development Fund:
To develop skills in the economy especially among the youth;
Establishment of a Young Engineers’ Corps; and
Roll out a Young Professionals Internship Progrmme for university graduates.
There are 201,000 bike riders and 1,500 Ataya bases with a membership of 50 each, compared to 621graduates in engineering, medicine and mass communication over 2010-2014. Based on the estimate from the Ministry of Health, Sierra Leone needs 3,300 medical doctors. There are at present 386 doctors including only 9 Dental Surgeons in the country, leaving a gap of 2,914 doctors. The estimated number of nurses and mid-wives is 1,365. Estimates from the Ministry of Health indicate that an additional 8,615 nurses and mid-wives are required. This indicates the prevalence of unskilled work force;

13. Social Protection:
Cash transfers to Ebola Orphans and families affected by Ebola; and
A total of Le 47.7 billion will be invested in protecting the vulnerable sections of society.

14. Governance and Public Sector Reform
Le7.8 billion to Parliament as Constituency Development Fund for rural infrastructure projects;
Support National Population and Housing Census;
Le 1.0 billion for the preparatory activities for the third Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey; and
Le2.0 billion for the construction of a Public Service Academy.

15. Gender and Women’s Empowerment:
Le2 billion to operationalise the Women and Youth Empowerment Fund in 2015;
Provide seed money to support rural women;
30 percent of all Government-funded procurement transactions should go to women.

16. Structural Reforms:
The foreign currency component of payments for all Government funded contracts is decreased from 70 percent to 50 percent.

17. Post Ebola recovery –the near term plan:
Consistent with the low Ebola scenario, fiscal policy in 2015 will lay the foundation for post Ebola economic recovery. The strategy will focus on the following areas:
(i) Reviving the Economy: Stabilise and stimulate the economy by supporting the recovery of agriculture, commerce and trade as well as services, especially tourism;
(ii) Strengthen Health Systems: Establish Public Health Sierra Leone, including the establishment of a well-staffed and equipped Centre for Disease Control and medical insurance for health workers;
(iii) Revitalise the Education Sector: Address the challenges of re-opening schools by implementing a nation-wide school feeding programme; improve hygiene in schools and provide incentives to encourage children to return to school;
(iv) Support Recovery of the Agriculture Sector: For food security, re-establish farm activities and training requirements, gradually provide assistance to farmers in the form of inputs such as farming tools, seeds as well as credit facilities;
(v) Improve Access to Finance: Improve, access to finance for SMEs to foster cross-border and regional trade for job creation and restoration of household incomes;
(vi) Scale up Social Protection support: Provide support to vulnerable groups especially orphans and those affected by the Ebola Disease; and
(vii) Re-start Infrastructure projects: Support on-going works on roads, energy and water and sanitation to provide opportunities for private sector development; create jobs especially for youths and improve household incomes.

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