By Fatou Dahaba
Officials from the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and Economic Affairs appeared before the National Assembly select committee on Agriculture on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, on the 2023 budget allocation, which was said to have affected the Agriculture Ministry.
At the sittings, the officials from the Ministry of Agriculture argued that the plenary approval budget needs to reflect in the actual budget.
The Permanent Secretary of Agriculture Ministry, Hassan Jallow, said D634 million was approved for his ministry in the estimated budget but was asked to pay 400 million by the finance ministry for input subsidies out of the 634 million, which left them with a balance of 234 million.
Jallow said their last year’s budget of 312 million is more than what has been allocated for them this year. However, he predicted that it could be due to the crisis faced by the government.
Meanwhile, PS Jallow based their argument on the number of projects under the ministry of agriculture, saying they are many and they need government support in investing in agriculture.
He added that the lack of budget is affecting them in implementing their programs. ‘As a result, most of the institutions under the ministry are struggling and cannot offer the essential services they are mandated to do.’
“The country needs to put agriculture where it should be as a stepping stone in the degree of development,” Agricultural PS said.
In response, his colleague at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Permanent Secretary Abdoulie Jallow, urged the two ministries to sit over the numbers and discuss the issue at stake.
Jallow said, “after handing over the approved estimate to the National Assembly, all subsequent amendments were done in consultation with the clerk’s office and not unilaterally.”
He added that a consultative process is done at the level of the government, having the sectoral allocations approved by the cabinet.
“It is the executive that approves sectoral allocations in a meeting attended by all ministers, and that’s what they presented to the assembly,” he stated.
The Finance PS said they need to confirm these reallocations at the plenary to get the specific numbers they are talking about.
The select committee urged the two ministries to go back and discuss among themselves to identify the problem and get back to the Assembly on February 28, 2023.