Our national budget was tabled on 8th March 2017 and much has been written about it. Firstly, I agree with the overall fiscal sentiment that we need to manage our funds in a more efficient manner. It is certainly no secret that we have been living above our means and that our expenditures had the potential of causing us many problems in the future.
I hence agree that our expenses should be reined in, related and aligned to our priorities and to ensure that we only spend, to a large extent, money that we actually have. That tone is correct and it has my full support.
On the allocation of funds, I also agree with the portion accorded to the social sectors and public safety and order. The ultimate resource of a nation is its people and it is good that we provide funds for them to be skilled and healthy.
I also agree with the allocation to the public safety and order sector, as I firmly believe that without peace, stability and social order there can be no genuine socio-economic development. Countries in turmoil all over the world are proof to this. It is something we should not take for granted and I think it is good that we see this reflected in the budget.
The area where I think we completely missed the plot are the allocations to the ministry of sport, youth and national service; labor, industrial relations and employment creation; as well as land reform. With regards to the sector of sport, youth and national service we seem to have completely missed the plot.
The youth comprises over 60 percent of our population, however, the budget allocated to them is less than 1 percent; 0.6 percent of the national budget to be exact. Something is not right here. In a country with huge challenges such as unemployment, poverty and inequality this cannot be real. In my view this ministry’s funds should be increased threefold at least.
Sports is highly underfunded and not taken serious. However, sports has the potential to address many challenges faced by our country. Many of the youth that do not make it academically might have the potential to become our future Collin Benjamins, Frank Fredericks, World class boxers etc.
My recommendation in this regard is to take three sports codes, fund them fully for the next five years and see what happens.
For example, if we take soccer, government could come in and actually provide the funds that our football fraternity begs for from the private sector. In this way the funds of the government are spent locally, can provide jobs, can sustain an industry and in this way encourage the private sector to also chip in.
The money stays in the country and we then directly deal with three of our major challenges of unemployment, poverty and income inequality. It also has the potential to reduce our health budget.
On the labour, industrial relations and employment creation allocation, I think it is underfunded especially in terms of employment creation. We seem to be more focused on providing social welfare than creating jobs. This is not sustainable in the long term.
Land reform in my view is also hugely underfunded. If we look at the potential sale of the game farm, Erindi, it is as per various media articles, three times more expensive than the entire budget allocated to the Ministry of Land Reform.
Something somewhere is not right and certainly not sustainable. Otherwise, I think it is fine, but let us please relook at the funding of sport, youth and the national service. We surely cannot provide less than 1 percent to the sector that deals with 60 percent of the population.
* Iipumbu Sakaria wrote this in his personal capacity and the views expressed here are in no way related to his employer.