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Need for more fiscal discipline

Nov 20, 2014, 10:17 AM

Our National Assembly Members have given their approval for the government to borrow and spend an additional D1,134, 695, 948 now against December 2014.

The parliamentarians approved this funding by adopting the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2014, in which the government said it needs the additional money to spend on emerging expenditure before the year ends.

Initially, a budget of more than D11.5 billion was approved for the whole of 2014.

Barely less than two months to the end of the year, the government has found that amount to be grossly inadequate hence a supplementary appropriation to the 2014 national budget.

Our concern is that this year’s supplementary budget is more than 250% higher than the D300 million approved for last year, 2013.

Since the fiscal year is coming to an end, why the need for a supplementary budget with such a huge amount?

Supplementary budgets generally are made to cover emergencies such as disaster relief, recession, defence or other needs deemed too urgent to be postponed until the enactment of the following year’s regular budget.

Under normal circumstances, National Assemblies should only allow a supplementary budget if the need is urgent and in which case the government must prove the urgency of the request for more funds, and show what they will be used for.

In our case, the government needs the money to meet some “unexpected expenditures” key among which is the need to improve health service delivery with the advent of the Ebola virus, contribution to international organisations, foreign policy maintenance, road construction, and development projects.

Except for Ebola safeguards, how many of these are actually really unexpected and could not wait until the 2015 fiscal year?

Most of these items captured under an apparently urgent budgetary circumstance could have been catered for earlier than now in the course of the year.

As a Third World country, we should try hard to practice tackling and handling issues as planned – that is what fiscal discipline is all about.

There is need to put in place a strategy on how to best cut government’s spending and address its rising debt and budget deficits.

This strategy may require difficult decisions, but can improve the country’s fiscal future and sets The Gambia on a new course for fiscal responsibility, rather than having supplementary appropriations to the budget year in year out.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

Jim Rohn