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The Sierra Leonean economy is heavily dependent on borrowing and donor support. Between 2014 and 2017, domestic revenue funded, on average, about 54% of the government’s expenditure, with the remainder catered for by donor support and borrowing. The two major political parties, APC and SLPP, made several promises on enhancing revenue mobilisation to drive their development agenda. The general observation is that, APC’s strategy to mobilise revenue is rather broad while SLPP make specific commitments on how it plans to increase revenue.
The incumbent APC has an ambitious goal to increase domestic revenue annually by a minimum of 1.2% of GDP and to increase total revenue to 18% of GDP by 2023. The challenge however is the fact that most of APC’s promises (see appendix A) do not provide specific measurable strategies to address the revenue mobilisation challenges in Sierra Leone. This greatly undermines accountability and affects the swiftness with which policy reforms are carried-out. The sweeping nature of the promises also creates room for different interpretations which can be easily manipulated to suit a government’s political agenda.
SLPP, on the other hand, made specific promises (see appendix A) to increase revenue by 20% in 3 years. The strategies proposed by SLPP largely align with the revenue mobilising objectives of the Agenda for Prosperity. While this is laudable, most of the strategies promised by SLPP are not new. For instance, in the 2018 budget, the incumbent government also declares their intention to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA), ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) and to streamline the tax exemption provisions. SLPP however goes a step further by giving specific targets such as halving waivers and exemptions in the first two years.
Meanwhile, given the key challenges, several of the critical issues of revenue mobilisation were not addressed by the two major political parties. There is a need to focus on widening the tax base by addressing the issue of a large informal sector, providing clear policies to address tax evasion and non-compliance, introducing proper addressing systems as well as automating and fully integrating the tax system.