NATIONAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES D12.1 BILLION REVISED 2017 BUDGET

By: Kebba Touray

Deputies have finally approved the revised budget amounting to over 12 billion (12,000 million) dalasis for the 2017 fiscal year brought before them by the minister of finance and economic affairs yesterday, Thursday, 6 July. However expenditure on debt services is pegged at 4363 million dalasis.

This approved budget is a revised version to the one that was already approved by the former National Assembly for the 2017 fiscal year which had a budget deficit of 4.7 billion dalasis. This budget is designed to reduce the deficit to 955 million dalasis.

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Amadou Sanneh

In presenting the revised draft estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2017, Mr. Amadou Sanneh, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, told the law makers that “With a new Government in place, we are submitting a revised budget to this Parliament in order to address the dire macroeconomic situation this administration has inherited …”

The finance minister identified these challenges as a ballooning of the public debt from 83.3 percent of GDP between 2013 and 2016, the depletion of the domestic foreign reserves to less than 2 months of future imports, the abuse of State-Owned enterprises such as Gamtel, SSHFC, NAWEC, etc., a 9 billion debt portfolio for NAWEC, siphoning of royalties from the mining sector, among others.

He said “the new administration intends to prioritize macroeconomic stability with emphasis on addressing the burgeoning debt situation by instilling discipline…”

Before approving the Amendment of the Appropriation Act No. 1 of 2017, the National Assembly members from both sides, in their contributions to the debate, highlighted many issues for consideration in the revised budget and which include the need to reduce expenditure in the areas of national celebrations, fleet of government vehicles and fuel consumption, foreign embassies, among others.

Halifa Sallah, in his intervention, told the minister that what the law provides in a revised budget is for the reduction of the sums that are already approved, adding that if there is any area that is increased, what the law requires is for a supplementary appropriation bill to be introduced. He also acknowledged the efforts being made to address the challenges but added that more needs to be done in terms of addressing the issues of low income earners and pensioners.

In his brief comments on the Bill, Hon Halifa Sallah of Serre Kunda  said in considering this particular Bill, it is important for the minister of Finance to give a clear indication of what the debts constitute and to clearly explain what  the government’s intention is.