–But Senate requests Finance Minister appear before Senate Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget
After two months delay, President George Manneh Weah has, in a communication to the Liberian Senate, expressed hope to Submit the 2020/2021national budget prior to July 15, 2020.
But the Senate plenary, with some reservations, received the President’s communication and decided that the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, should appear before the Senate Leadership in executive session on Wednesday, July 8.
In his communication, dated June 30, 2020, President Weah lamented the delay in submitting the budget in line with the Constitutional deadline of April 30th, citing several “unavoidable hurdles, among them the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
“Mr. Pro Temp and members of the Senate, the formulation of this national budget remains exceptionally constrained [by] the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, increasing expenditure demands that necessitate the formulation of a budget which addresses critical public expenditure priorities in the midst of uncertainties the country faces as a result of the pandemic,” President Weah noted.
He, however, assured the Senate that the Government remains committed in addressing these challenges through appropriate and effective policy interventions.
“Honorable Pro Tempore,” President Weah continued, “in view of the above, we continue to explore options outside of our own fiscal space such as mobilizing additional external resources to support our recovery and development efforts.”
In fiscal year 2020/2021, President Weah said his government expects “a combination of International Monetary Fund disbursements in additional budget support, while our major donors with whom discussions are ongoing on how, together, we can bridge this gap if we must succeed in our national recovery drive.”
President Weah asserted that the delay is being experienced with discussions on option for a broad facility which could bring up more resources for the new year for social interventions and support the private sector in these difficult times. “This requires additional time for consultations with our development partners; we therefore hope to submit the budget prior to July 15, 2020.”
“Kindly accept our sincere apologies for the constraints this poses to the Legislature to work within a reduced time to approve the National Budget before the start of the new fiscal year, as we in no way intend to undermine your important and legally mandated oversight role,” President Weah assured.
According to him, the additional time will allow the Executive to find the resources needed to meet the challenges the country now faces in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Meanwhile, to avoid negative impact on government operations, we also use the opportunity to request your approval for the execution of the fiscal year 2020/2021budget, based up to 1/12 (one-twelfth) of the approved fiscal year 2019/2020 recast budget of US$18 million; this will enable us meet critical obligations, prior to the approval of the budget,” the President’s communication continued.
He then assured the Legislature that the Minister of Finance will continue to brief them on the draft budget under development, consult with them on the revenue expenditure options being considered, “to ensure that the National Budget is reflective of the national development priorities…”
Meanwhile, following the reading of the letter, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teah threw the Senate into argument when he proffered a motion to thank the President for doing them a favor by letting the Senate know about the delay, and committing himself that the budget would be presented prior to 15th of July.
However, through the intervention of Pro Tempore Albert Chie, Senators H. Varney Sherman, Morris Saytumah, Oscar Cooper and others, that motion was dropped and instead allowed for discussion.
In a new motion by Senator Cooper, the Senate agreed that the President’s communication be sent to the committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget, with the request that the Minister of Finance be made to appear before the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget on Wednesday.