Sirleaf Endorses US$18M for District Development

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has endorsed US$18.25 million for Direct District Development projects in the national Fiscal Budget 2014/2015 respectively.

In a communication addressed to the House of Representatives Tuesday, June 3rd, in Monrovia, Madam Sirleaf stressed the need for central government to embark on specific district projects in the 73 electoral of the 15 counties.

According to the President, said initiatives “accelerate economic activities in the districts and alleviate the difficulties in attracting skilled professionals for assignments away from Monrovia.”

In response to the Legislature’s request for more support to rural development, President Sirleaf said; “Government will invest US$18.25 million primarily for the construction of security and social infrastructure.”

This means that Madam Sirleaf endorses the controversial US$73 million district development fund being demanded by the Lower House, essentially ignoring an opposing view from the Senate, whose members don’t see the wisdom of the money.

House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and colleagues are resolved to identifying said amount in this year’s budget, insisting that “nothing can stall the process.”

In the wisdom of President Sirleaf, appropriating US$73 million for district purpose is a brilliant idea, but she believes the timing is not right and there must be a beginning point.

However, the Chief Executive encouraged lawmakers to embrace the initial US$18.25 million in order to ensure that proper spending is carried out while they play their role of robust oversight responsibility.

The President’s comments were contained in a Budget Message addressed to the House of Representatives in keeping with the Public Financial Management Laws and Article 34 of the 1986 Constitution.

Relative to the security and UNMIL drawdown process, the President announced that government is proposing an increase in its own allocations to security projects in order to maintain peace and stability in the country.

“While projects totaling US$59.3 million were proposed, the fiscal space only provides for US$23.5 million.

We propose that funding focuses on establishment of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) training academy in Foya; extension of Police Training Academy in Monrovia; continuation of the Camp Todee Military Academy’s rehabilitation; and training, logistics and deployment of 1,832 recruits into the various security institutions. We need to protect these core programs if we are to position the sector to effectively cater to our national security needs when UNMIL closes its mission,” President Sirleaf, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia, declared.

The President reminded public servants of the need to sacrifice in the execution of the budget, adding; “We are being guided by expenditure principles.”

She named the principles as: “Prioritizing debt repayments and other non-discretionary payments prevent the build-up of arrears; waging a war on waste and reducing recurrent expenditures in order to free up resources for the Agenda for Transformation by eliminating some budgetary lines and reducing other lines that are very highly discretionary. Paying government’s portion of high impact projects across a number of sectors, known as counterpart funding, in order to leverage over US$300 million of additional donor funds and develop much needed infrastructure. “

In short, Madam Sirleaf indicated: “We are also going to reduce excessive expenditure on goods and services by eliminating scratch cards and reducing spending on fuel and foreign travel.”

The Executive Mansion announced that fuel will be restricted to operational use only; and for all air travel less than eight hours in the duration, officials and ministers will be required to fly economy class. The number of foreign trips will also be limited to three per year, with the exception of the President, Vice President, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance; and there will be a limit of more than five members on any travel party.”

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