The 54th Legislature has finally approved the country's 2023 budget at US$782.9, which is far short of the US$1 billion mark envisioned by the government.
The budget was approved after the House of Representatives and the Senate passed competing versions, which then forced them to settle for a conference to reconcile the differences.
The House ratified the budget at US$794.5 million, while the Senate did its version at US$782. 9 million.
This was the third time that the House and the Senate in postwar Liberia history had passed two versions of the budget. The first occurred when current Senator Emmanuel Nuquay, as a representative, was elected as chairman of the House’s ways, means, and budget committee.
The second was when another senator, Prince Moye, also a former Deputy Speaker, was elected chairman of the House’s ways, means, and budget committee.
But the finally approved 2023 budget package is a win for the Senate, which had passed a budget with an increment of US$9 million after about 95 days of scrutiny, adjustments, and readjustments.
Meanwhile, members of the House had earlier increased the budget by US$16.5 million from its previous submitted amount of US$777. 9 million.
“Hence, after consultations, the Conference Committee affirms that the new revenue number for FY 2023 is US$782.9 million,” the 15-man conference committee said in a report.
“During the budget review process, the earlier ratified version found no material difference in the proposal of the Senate to what was included in the working papers of the Joint Budget Committee of the Legislature.”
The budget, which President George Weah originally submitted in December 2022, was down by nearly US$29 million when compared with the US$806.5 million approved budget for the fiscal year 2022.
But the Weah budgetary figures have changed as a result of the House and Senate adjustments.
Weah had proposed US$777.9 million for the 2023 budget, which features massive recurrent expenditures, but fails to reach the US$1 billion mark that has been envisioned by the government.
The total resource envelope of Weah’s proposed budget consists of US$667.9 as domestic revenue (85.9% of the budget amount), while external resources on-budget account for US$110 million or 14.1% of the proposed budget.
Meanwhile, the 54th Legislature is expected to adjourn for its first quarter today in accordance with its revised rules and procedures.
The 2nd quarter will commence in May to July; and the 3rd quarter will run from September to December.