Over a dozen Senators on Tuesday, November 7, made public their strong disagreement over a three-page report from the Economic Management Team (EMT) on the state of the economy; the alleged missing L$16 billion and the status of the infusion of the supposed US$25 million into the economy to strengthen the depreciated Liberian dollar.
The angry lawmakers, including Senators Thomas Grupee, Matthew Jaye, Varney Sherman, Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, Henrique Tokpa, J. Gbleh-bo Brown and Dan Morais, said the report lacked detailed explanations on the specifics on the economy, but instead it is filled with financial graphs which they cannot understand to interpret to their constituents who elected them.
In a soft-but-firm tone, Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee rebuked the Chairman of the EMT, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah for speaking from his head and not from a prepared text, taking into consideration the severity of the matter.
Senators Brown, Jaye and Lawrence, said the “graphs are laughable, because the EMT did not take into account their professional backgrounds.”
Tough-talking Senator from Grand Cape Mount County, Varney Sherman, said the current state of the economy is too alarming for the Economic Management Team to be toying with.
“I have been here for the past four years and I don’t remember us having public hearing and anything good come out of it. Why? Because the people who come to talk to us give us generalities and no decision can be made by us. The status of this economy is very serious. We call our experts here – people who’re supposed to advise us – and they come and talk to us from the top of their heads… How can you expect me to understand the status of the economy on three pages,” Cllr. Sherman said.
Bong County Senator Henrique Tokpa said based upon his professional background he understands the graphs but his other colleagues who are from different backgrounds need a simple explanation on the monetary and fiscal policy and the impact of the US$25 million infusion in the economy.
The lone female Senator in session, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, described the three-page report as unprofessional, far below standard and does not fall within the best financial practice.
She asked that Senators Morris Saytumah and Jonathan Kaipay, whose arguments were in defense, be allowed to give a general perspective on the economy and through questions-and-answers, the Senators’ specific questions will be addressed.
However, Min. Tweah apologized for not making reference to the summary compiled by the team but said copies had been made available for members of the Senate.
The Economic Management Team comprises of the Central Bank Governor, Nathaniel Patray, Finance, and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, Commerce Minister, Wilson Tarpeh and Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority, Thomas Doe Nah.
For a way forward, after berating the EMT, River Cess County Dallas Gweh proffered a motion for the EMT to be discharged in order to bring a detailed report on the economy, including the alleged missing L$16 billion, the state of the economy, the infusion of the US$25 million and the impact as well as which institutions benefited or how it was infused.
The motion, which was amended by Senators Morris Saytumah and Peter Coleman, also said about 33 copies of the report should be submitted to the Secretary of the Senate, latest on Friday, November 9 and then return on Tuesday, November 13 in the Senate Chamber, by 11 am.
The issue of EMT remaining under oath was disregarded by Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie.