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Clarifications on purported cuts on health budget

Clarifications on purported cuts on health budget

The attention of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development is drawn to a recent Press Release titled “Government Cuts Health Budget for 2012”, issued jointly and severally by Save the Children, Budget Advocacy Network and World Vision.

Given Government’s open policy for dialogue, the Ministry unreservedly registers its appreciation for the genuine concerns raised in the Press Release and the advocacy for the less-privileged in our society. This, in the first place, was the reason for Government’s introduction of the Free Health Care Programme without any pressure from any advocacy group.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, however, wishes to provide the following clarifications in respect of the issues raised in the said press release:

First, the increase in Health Sector Allocation in the Financial Year (FY) 2011 was mainly driven by the huge increase in the Wage Bill for Health Sector Workers in the second year of the implementation of the Free Health Care Programme. There has been huge savings in the Health Sector payroll. As a consequence, the health sector wage bill is projected at Le74.8 billion for about 8,100 health sector personnel, compared to Le 82.3 billion provided in FY 2011, representing a reduction of Le7.5 billion.

Second, the minimal reduction in the health sector Goods and Services budget by Le3.4 billion, from Le64.1 billion in FY 2011 to Le 60.7 billion in FY 2012, does not in any way affect the allocation for the Free Health Care Programme, which has been almost doubled, from Le 3.3 billion in FY 2011 to Le 6.1 billion in FY 2012. Thus, the 2012 Budget fully recognizes the need to sustain the Programme, and hence continue to provide for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five.

Third, the doubling of the Free Health Care Programme budget allocation in 2012 excludes an allocation of Le 30 billion to Local Councils for Primary Health Care Units, drugs and other supplies.

Fourth, the Budgets for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 provided for significant investments in the Health Sector, including the rehabilitation, furnishing (beds, window curtains, etc) and refurbishment of Government Hospitals across the country. During the same period, Government also procured ambulances for District Primary Health Units, and medical equipment; funded the completion of hospitals; and provided counterpart funds for the completion of Medical Stores in every district to ensure safe keeping of drugs and other supplies. These activities were undertaken with minimal donor support.

Fifth, as mentioned by the Honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Development, the FY 2012 budget indicated expenditure allocations in three priority areas: (i) continued implementation of the public pay reform programme to raise salaries for public sector workers; (ii) financing on-going infrastructure projects on roads, energy and water; and (iii) funding the 2012 General Elections. Thus, for 2012, the allocations for Agriculture, Roads, Energy and Education collectively will improve our health indicators significantly, by complementing direct health sector funding. These key priority expenditure allocations on energy, water and roads facilitate clean water, less pollution from dust, clean energy, and pipe-borne water in order to improve the health of the general population.

Sixth, in 2012, Government will also be providing about 60% of the required funding to conduct the general elections, increasing the allocation to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) by about 271%, from Le 23.9 billion in FY 2011 to Le88.6 billion in FY 2012. This is a show of Government’s firm commitment to fully provide for the elections to ensure a free, transparent and credible process. Additionally, to ensure security and safety of the population against election-related violence and criminal activity, adequate funding has also been provided for the security agencies. Thus Government has allocated a total sum of Le106.5 billion as its contribution towards the conduct of the 2012 general elections.

In a non-election year, this is funding that could be made available for priority sectors of the Agenda for Change, including Health.

Despite the huge one off expenditure on the 2012 elections, Government remains fully committed to providing sustainable health sector financing during 2012 and beyond, especially for the Free Health Care Programme, through the payment of salaries for Heath Sector Workers, procurement of drugs and other logistics, including the provision of counterpart funds to complement donor funded projects in the Health Sector. The general public is assured of Government’s commitment to meet its obligations under the Abuja Declaration and the attainment of the important Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal and child mortality rates.

Finally, all beneficiaries of the Free Health Care Programme, including pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five, are assured of Government’s unwavering commitment to support free medical care for them. Government wishes to thank civil society groups for their strong advocacy while informing the general public that it remains firmly committed to this programme. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development would like to assure all advocacy groups and budget oversight committees of its continuing cooperation with them to achieve our common goal of reducing infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone.

Financial Secretary                                                                                             
Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
21 December, 2011

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