By Aji Fatou Faal
The 2017 pre-budget analysis capacity building training for National Assembly Members has begun which aims to harness the required skills and techniques to interrogate the budget which is funded by UNICEF.
Delivering his official statement, the Honourable Mariam Jack-Denton, Speaker of the National Assembly, said the executive has done its part by preparing and consolidating the contributions from the ministries, departments and the agencies of government, saying it is the first budget prepared under the purview of the Coalition government.
“We came last year and found a budget which was considered to be unrealistic and had to be revised during the course of the year,” she said.
She said their role as legislators is to give this budget a seal of approval after thorough examination and deliberations.
She said it is therefore a window of opportunity for them as representatives of the people to harness the required skills and techniques to interrogate the budget from the perspective of the poor, particularly women and children, as well as ensure that it is in line with the wider development objectives of the government.
According to her, the facilitation team would help them develop the analytical skills necessary to scrutinize the budget from different angles, so that informed decisions are made before approving the budget.
Speaker Jack-Denton urged members to take keen interest in the presentations that would be delivered and to seek clarification when necessary to ensure that they understand issues, challenges and opportunities offered by the budget.
Shabnazz Zahereen, Project Inclusion of Children at UNICEF who deputized the UNICEF Acting Country Rep, said UNICEF continues to advocate for increase of government investments in the abovementioned social sectors as studies have found that social sectors investment does not only act as a catalyst for poverty eradication but also a stimulation for economic growth.
For his part, Omar Ousman Jobe, a development consultant, said citizens’ expectations are very high; “there is a despair among the youths to the extent that they are handing themselves over to human traffickers in their quest to seek greener pastures because in their view, they cannot make it here; certain reports indicate that over 60% of the pregnant women are anemic; stunting is also a problem among children due to poor nutrition.”
He said it is common knowledge that essential drugs are lacking in the hospital and that allocations to quality related issues in the education sector are inadequate.
Momodou A. Sise, deputy clerk, finance and admin at the National Assembly, also spoke at the official opening.