Deputy House Speaker Prince Moye says the Legislature will use the upcoming budget review period to harmonize salaries of public servants, especially top-level appointees, in a move to address income inequality and curb excessive and extravagant allowances and benefits.
He said the House of Representatives has set up a committee to review salary structures across government ministries and agencies, to give a clear picture of the level of income inequality.
“The lawmakers are not taking this lightly and that is why we have set up the technical committee to identify the level of income inequality in the public sector before we can take action. We will also use the upcoming budget year to harmonize all government ministries and agencies’ salary structures and benefits for employees.
“We cannot continue to be a country where the revenue collected goes just to salaries, leaving nothing for development and economic growth. This trend is suicidal and to end this, we decided to introduce salary harmonization across all public sectors,” Deputy Speaker Moye added.
Issues of income inequality and excess benefits have resulted in 86.7% of Liberia’s budget accounting for recurrent expenditures. Due to the severity of the problem, the previous government’s Agenda for Transformation in 2012 warned that to avoid future violent conflict, Liberia needs to address income inequality; widely share the rewards of economic growth, and purposefully spread the benefits across the population.
The salaries of director generals and principal deputies of autonomous agencies vary from one agency to another, including ministries. These top government officials’ salaries range from US$15,000 to US$25,000 per month in addition to gasoline slips and scratch cards.
While civil servants, such as a patrolman of the Liberia National Police (LNP) earns a gross monthly salary of US$157; an immigration officer makes a gross salary of US$100 per month; a public school teacher with a C certificate earns US$130 per month.
In 2015, former Minister of Finance and Development Planning Amara Konneh announced that out of the US$3.1 billion revenue generated between 2012 and 2015, about 60% was spent on government administration, which included salaries and other incentives to government employees, with the bulk of the money distributed among government officials, and very little to civil servants.
Deputy Speaker Moye added that one of the several benefits of the planned salary harmonization is that half of the revenue collected will go directly to development projects and initiatives for economic growth, unlike the past when there was not enough money to undertake such activities.
“We cannot continue to depend on loans to undertake most of our development projects, because they increase debt; but when revenues collected are used for a relevant purpose, it improves the lives of the people and develops the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that the House is currently undergoing a series of branded processes to build public confidence in the legislature.
“As part of the re-branding process, we have asked the Internal Audit Agency to come and look at our books and prepare for an audit,” he said.