— President Weah submits 2017/2018 forecast budget; CBL, Finance Ministry differ on balance in coffer
The pro-poor government of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has formally submitted the recast budget of the last quarter of the 2017/2018 recast budget to the Legislature.
House’s Speaker Bhofal Chambers told journalists in an interview over the weekend that both branches are “tightly coordinating to ensure that it (recast budget) is done.”
“I think you know the challenges we are faced with, so with the challenges, we are carrying on some methods to ensure those unusual challenges are addressed, and we will do reconciliation in many ways… meaning, we will take proper inventory of the state of the country’s economy; we want to know where we are and how we will start…” Speaker Chambers said.
Though he did not say how much is the projected amount for the recast budget for the last quarter, unconfirmed reports say the recast budget is about US$145 million, and the priorities have been shifted to economic development, civil servants payment and empowerment.
The Daily Observer has reliably gathered that the chairman and co-Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget, Representative Thomas Fallah and Senator Morris Saytumah and corps of officials are representing the Legislature to coordinate with the executive on the process.
“Hopefully, before March 14, the recast budget is expected to be presented before the Plenaries of the House and the Senate for concurrence and passage into law,” a member of the House told the Daily Observer in confidence.
However, in an Executive Session on last Thursday, the submitted forecast of the 2017/2018 National Budget was on the Agenda of the 14th day sitting, on Thursday, March 1, where 75 copies were distributed among the Representatives.
The 2017/2018 Fiscal Budget in the amount of US$563.6 million, as submitted by the Legislature, has become law following its approval and printing into handbills by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
It maybe recalled that former President Sirleaf signed the 2017/2018 budget on July 27, 2017.
The handbills were printed on July 31, 2017. This was the 12th and last budget the former President passed before the end of her second term.
The House of Representatives passed the budget on July 18, following weeks of thorough scrutiny and public hearings by the Joint Committee, comprising of Ways, Means, Finance, and Development Planning as well as Public Account and Expenditure.
On July 21, the Senate concurred with the House of Representatives.
What this paper could not confirm up to press time last night is whether there is a projected budget surplus in the forecast or there would be a backdrop for the Legislature’s coming debate over tax cuts and potential new spending.
However, in an Executive Session (secret), the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature voted unanimously to forward the Forecast Budget to the Joint Committee on Ways, Finance and Development Planning and the Public Accounts and Expenditure.
The Forecast of the 2017/2018 would give-way to the submission of the 2018/2019 Budget, of which according to the Public Financial Management Law, the Executive is expected submit on April 30.
The 2017/2018 Fiscal Budget will elapse on June 30, while the 2018/2019 Budget will begin on July 1, 2018 and end on June 30, next year.
The Economy is Broke
In a related development, over the weekend, the Speaker said the economy is broke.
He indicated that evaporation of resources have been clearly manifested in past administrations with lavish spending on goods and services.
The Speaker argued that the submission made by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the Finance Ministry indicate that the country has a liquidity problem… by large and capital or money problem.
It may be recalled on last Thursday, the CBL told the House of Representatives that as of January 22, the balance in the government coffer was US$5,637,941 and L$534,146,445.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has disclosed that as of January 31, there are US$11,825,407 and L$642, 673, 701.40 (equivalent to US$5,141,389), which totaled US$16, 966, 791, in the government coffer.