By Fatmata BJ Samura
The Movement Against Inequality Sierra Leone in partnership with OXFAM on Friday 15th October 2021 launched the West Africa Commitment in reducing Inequality Index.
The launching was done at the IGR office, Wilkinson Road in Freetown.
Launching the report, Dr. ShakaBangura from the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, said inequality is perhaps the greatest challenge face by Sierra Leone as a country.
This challenge, he said is right across the globe and that COVID-19 has amplify the situation.
“The government is committed to reducing inequality and that goal ten of SDGs speaks to that. It’s quite big challenge when we look at the multi-dimensional issues. Sierra Leone has had a number of dimension that is been monitored and that a lot of work has been done in that direction,” Dr. Bangura noted.
The Government Dr. Bangura said is pushing the free quality school education, though it is difficult but government is doing all it can.
“Since the establishment of legal aid board there had been mass improvement in legal representation of people who come in contact with the law. When we talk about inequality we also take about inclusion,” he said.
Dr. Bangura noted that government takes the report very seriously and will work on areas where they have not done well.
“We will also continue to work on areas we have done well and we look forward to civil society engagement in this direction,” he said.
Giving the overview of the report, NuruDeen of OXFAM said Sierra Leone is rank 13 in reducing inequality. He added that the country has been doing well but much needed to be done.
NuruDeen noted that take home salaries of most public sector workers are low as compare to other public sector worker doing almost the same job.
“Sierra Leone has done well in responding to COVID-19 with support to the social sector. Despite the huge spending on social services with increase budget in education there are still challenges. Wages remains key challenge with huge disparity, he said.”
He said Sierra Leone rank low on the index and that government was trying to implement anti inequality before COVID and sharply increased in debt. Debt servicing by 200 and 2021 will siphon off about 61.7 percent of government revenue in west Africa and that support program have been replaced with austerity measure as COVID-19 infection rates are increasing in many countries of the region.
“Sierra Leone he said has the seventh lowest inequality in West Africa whether measured by its Gini coefficient or its Palma Ratio between top 10 percent and bottom 40 percent of incomes, nevertheless, it Gini coefficient remains well above the level assessed by the IMF as affecting growth negativity. So inequality needs to be reduced in order to accelerate growth, he said.”
Nuru said protecting the right of workers remains a challenge and that Sierra Leone continue to perform low in this direction.
Sierra Leone he said has a progressive tax system but an aggressive GST regime.
There are rich people in society who are not paying taxes as compare to the number of poor people who are paying taxes.
Enhance women’s labour rights enforcing its minimum wage and extending rights and social protection to informal and vulnerable workers and receiving broader debt relief to free funds for anti-inequality spending is key.
The Chairperson of the occasion HabibKoroma speaking earlier on said the government has committed itself to reducing inequality and that civil society is also working to compliment government effort.
He said the social sector is still challenge but applauded government for developing the human capital.