By: Kebba AF Touray

Hon. Halifa Sallah, Member for Serrekunda Central, in his contribution to the debate on 2018 Estimates at the National Assembly yesterday indicated the need to move away from dependency on external budget support and on project grants.

He said that the 2018 Estimates puts the revenue at 19.7 billion dalasis. Out of this over 9 billion dalasis is what the country will generate as tax and non-tax revenue while 10.2 billion dalasis is going to be derived from budget support and projects granted to the Government. He indicated that these figures reveal that the country is dependent on external support, which has conditionality which must be met.

He opined that 2019 will be an interesting year, adding that they will definitely hold the bull by the horn to ensure the whole resources of the land are actually identified to ensure they are made to generate revenue to be able to maintain the needed services.

On expenditure, he queried the increase in salaries, asking how many can be employed and how many can be helped to increase salaries with 176 million. He said salary is not an ordinary matter, adding it is not allowance and has advantages that should be taken into consideration. He argued that there is the need to look at the different grades and improve on them under the poverty reduction strategies to be able to build confidence and generate savings somewhere to increase their earning capacity. “Essentially, cuts in certain areas should manifest themselves in helping to manage wages”, he said.

He said the task before them, is for them to take their collective responsibility in reshaping the whole financial mechanism of the country. He expressed the need to present the Estimates in line with the Financial Act.

On revenue generation, he cited the issuing of ID cards, public enterprises and tourism board, pointing out that one should know how much they can contribute in order to know what is generated annually.

He also said that the Estimates for the first time has indicated the salary and allowances of the president. But he questioned why the entry is not made in the right place, beside “president” as required by law.

On the office of the first lady, he said that they are not condemning anybody and that all the wives of the president are respectable people and should not be a subject of discussion, but by putting it in a budget, they have made it a subject of discussion.

“Why should such an office exist? How many presidents are women and why don’t you make their husbands ‘first husbands’?” he asked. He said throughout the world and Africa, no one has ever talked about office of ‘first husband’, citing Margaret Thatcher as an example. He said those who are gender sensitive are still not taking this matter up.

He said family relation is personal and not state or republic matter and that family members should not be a subject of discussion or scrutiny, but by including them one will make them subject of scrutiny.

He advised very strongly that if there is to be a new start, let them eliminate that and that should not be part of their discussion, part of their own state architecture, because a republic does not recognise anybody who is not elected or appointed for a post in the public service.

Concluding, Halifa Sallah said, “So in essence, then looking at what is before us, adjustment has been made to be able to deal with the current realities of the country”; that the adjustment they are making should enable them to move into future so that they will not be depending on external budget support nor entirely on the project grants.

He recommended that before the end of 2018, all the public enterprises will provide their budgets, audited accounts in full, so that they will be able to determine the profit and loss before and after; that they know the dividend they could make, know the revenue they could pay so that they will find it in the national budget.

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