–Finance Minister Tweah tells Lower House. President Weah to formally communicate constraints by June 20
A repeat of the delay of the submission of the 2020/2021 national budget, which was to be submitted on April 30, as well as the subsequent delay in its passage, may have a disastrous impact on the economy and likely stifle growth, a member of the House of Representatives, who is also an economist and member of the ruling party — the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) — said on Tuesday.
In keeping with Section 11 of the Public Financial Management Law, the President shall submit the Proposed Budget and accompanying documents to the Legislature no later than two months before the start of the fiscal year and that the preparation of the National Budget shall conform to the process and time table set forth in Section 11. Which means, the budget is to be submitted at least by April 30, since the budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The lawmaker said the delay would also force the postponement of the Senatorial midterm election for the second time which is set for Tuesday, December 15, knowing that the country operates under a cash-based budgeting system as well the legal deadline for preparations and expenditures for the election.
The angry CDC lawmaker, who asked to remain anonymous, buttressed calls from Representatives Samuel Kogar, Robert Womba and Franklin Nyumalin, who openly expressed their displeasure about the communication from Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, citing constraints to the timely submission of the 2020/2021 budget after the original deadline passed since April 30.
“If the budget continues to delay and is submitted to the Legislature by the end of June or early July, it will take another month for scrutiny and two or three weeks for debate on the respective floors. The economy will regress amid the COVID 19 and then it would handcuff gross domestic product (GDP) growth,” the lawmaker said.
In a communication to the House of Representatives, read in session on Tuesday, Finance Minister Tweah said “the formulation of the 2020/2021 budget has become exceptionally constraining.”
“In view of the above, we continue to explore options outside of our fiscal space, such as mobilizing additional extended resources for support of our recovery and development efforts,” Tweah explained as the reason for the delay.
“This requires additional time for consultations with our development partners and which will be formally communicated by His Excellency President George M. Weah.”
He furthered that the President may outline the constraints to the House of Representatives before June 20.
Political commentators believe that the President might write requesting an extension for the submission of the national budget as he did during the 2019/2020 budget when he appealed to for a 45-day delay.
According to the last year’s communication from the President, he requested a 45-day extension of the deadline for the submission of the 2019-2020 budget from Tuesday, April 30, 2019, to Saturday, June 15, 2019.
Interestingly, the budget was finally submitted about a week after the 45 days extension elapsed.
Many believed that the President’s explanation for the delay and extension might also be the same as compared to last year; arguing that the delay is necessary to enable him present an all-inclusive national budget against a backdrop of negative economic forecasts.
The budget is the government’s annual announcement on its plans for revenue generation and expenditure for the coming fiscal year.