The Joint Standing Committee on Ways, Means, Finance, and Development Planning, Public Account and Expenditure of the House of Representatives and the Senate will today begin scrutinizing the Expenditure Component of the FY US$562.2 million Draft Budget in public hearings, after nearly a month of closed-door hearings of the revenue portion.
According to the daily schedule, at least 10 ministries and agencies are expected to appear before the Joint Committee, to justify their allocation in the budget, including giving an account on how their previous allocations in the 2017/2018 were expended.
The press director of the House of Representatives, Isaac G. Redd yesterday told journalists that Expenditure Hearing will begin Thursday, June 15, and end on Tuesday, June 19.
Those ministries and agencies which are expected today, include ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Information, Youth and Sports, Gender, Children and Social Protection, Liberia Revenue Authority, the Monrovia City Corporation and the Governance Commission.
On Friday, authorities of the ministries of Education, Public Works, University of Liberia, Booker Washington Institute, Tubman University, West African Examination Council and Cuttington University are expected to appear for expenditure public hearings. Others are ministries of Transport, Commerce, Post and Telecommunication, National Transit Authority and international partners.
Meanwhile, analysts are raising contentions, citing some contradiction about government’s priorities.
At the Ministry of Information recent press briefing, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, said the projected revenue is US$474 million does not represent what is stipulated in the draft budget, which puts the total revenue at US$515,771 million.
This means a budget shortfall is imminent, a situation which the country has experienced since the era of Amara Konneh, former Minister of Finance who introduced the medium term budget.
It may be recalled that Minister Tweah said the budget was crafted under “extreme difficulty.”
“The President has managed to rationalize the fiscal space. We have to be able to move a good share of resources to pro-poor activities. We are doing a lot of rationalization relative to last year’s public sector investment. We have moved up from US$55 million to US$73 million, so we have found US$20 or more millions to add to public sector investment,” Tweah said.
In his presentation to the House, Minister Tweah told lawmakers that the budget is “not perfect,” but it is an instrument in the direction of moving the country forward.
Furthermore, in its introduction of the draft budget, Tweah admits that the current outlook of the economy is increasingly challenging.
“Not only is it impacted by the slow recovery from the EVD and the uncertain commodity price shock, but also by the slower than-needed progress toward economy-wide diversification, the draw down of peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia as well as the alarming depreciation in the value of the Liberian currency,” Mr. Tweah said.
“Additionally, as we strengthen our efforts to diversify the economy, coupled with continued infrastructural investments as well as prudent policy measures to tackle this mild recession, relatively low but stable growth is highly anticipated,” he said.
“Real GDP growth is projected at 3.9 percent in 2018 compared to a projection of 2.5 percent in 2017. This represents a downward revision of the values relative to FY2017/18 projections of 5.2 percent for 2018 and 3.2 percent for 2017.”
In the draft budget, infrastructure and basic services are allotted the highest amount put at US$188,769,526; energy and environment get US$132,846,998; health gets US$73,395, 544, followed by social development services with US$46,880,559 among others.
Among the low funded sectors in the draft budget includes commerce with US$600,000; municipal government is allotted US$4,772,347, and accountability and transparency get US$17,802,194.