By Leroy M. Sonpon, III
There are strong indications that the over 300,000 civil servants (government workers) will not enjoy the closing months of the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government because no provisions are apparent for new minimum wage and salary increments in the 2017/2018 National Draft Budget.
The Daily Observer has reliably learnt that with three days to the expected passage of the budget, the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget has not determined whether there will be any increments in salaries. The last increment for civil servants during this administration was in the 2012/2013 Fiscal Year when US$25 was added to civil servants’ pay.
The least salary for a civil servant at the lowest grade is about L$9,000.
A member of the Joint Legislative Committee said: “I don’t think we should be talking about salary increment. What we should be talking about is infrastructure development – constructing roads, building a resilient health system and tackling our messy education (system).”
The 2017/2018 Draft Budget is US$526.6 million which reflects 12.3 % reduction from the US$600.2 million approved for FY 2016/2017, and a 3.5% decrease at the end of year forecast of US$545.5 million.
In the draft budget, the expenditure portfolio consists of two major segments. One is the recurrent investment plan (PSIP) of US$27.5 million which is 5.2 percent.
The major component of the expenditure for FY2017/18 includes US$31 million for liabilities (debt services), US$10 million for payment of domestic liabilities (debt) principal and interests and US$20.2 million for the payment of foreign liabilities, principal, and interest.
Also in the draft budget, US$19.8 million is to conduct the October 2017 Presidential and legislative elections, US$296 million for compensation of employees, US$ 81.1 million for goods and services, including supplies for education and health.
The draft budget also has in it US$3.4 million in subsidies to non-governmental service delivery entities and US$60.3 million in grants to government service delivery entities.
Making the presentation of the Draft Budget to House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay, Acting Finance Minister Tanneh Brumson said the Ministry would apply fiscal measures to control expenditure to demonstrate to partners, the government’s commitment to priorities before attracting their support.
Madam Brumson stated that Liberia’s economy, like most in the world, is experiencing some turbulence due in large part to the global economic downturn.
“We are confident that our economy will withstand the tests of the moment and is highly poised to come out stronger than before,” said Brumson.
“This will not happen by chance. We will have to make tough decisions in both the short and medium terms, not only within the executive but also in the legislative and judicial branches of government,” Brumson cautioned.
However, with the number of requests from institutions about budget increments for operations, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), the University of Liberia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs among others, an increment in salaries of civil servants appears unlikely.
The revenue component of the 2017/2018 Budget was under scrutiny by the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate June 5 thru 9; and the expenditure component ran from June 12 thru19.
The budget is in Committee room for a conclusion before presentation to both Houses’ plenary for enactment.
The national budget covers July to June of every year.