Following seven postponements for no tangible cause, the Liberian Senate last Tuesday attempted to finally start debate on the report of the state of the economy, but again the debate was unceremoniously called off. It is now expected that another attempt will be made to place it on the agenda after the Easter Break.
The report was prepared by the Senate joint Committee on Banking & Currency; Ways, Means, Finance and Budget; Judiciary, Claims and Petitions; Commerce, Trade and Industry.
The joint committee’s report is based on a mandate from the Senate plenary to review a letter from Senators Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa; Morris Saytumah of Bomi, and Armah Zolu Jallah of Gbarpolu counties, in which they make six recommendations with the objective of assisting to improve the country’s economy.
According to the committee’s report, five public service institutions with economic relevance to the issues raised by the three Senators were cited to a consultative meeting at the Senate Chambers on March 1 for expert opinion.
Following the consultative meeting, the committee came out with five measures which it claimed will help in some ways to resuscitate the economy. The measures include the policy of the Central Bank of Liberia to withhold 25 percent of remittances and pay same in Liberian dollars to recipients; payment of 20 percent of employees’ foreign exchange allowance in Liberian dollars and the payment of taxes in Liberian dollars.
The joint committee warned that it was inappropriate for the West African Monetary Zone to urge Liberia to institute a single currency regime. “While the institution of a single currency regime is a plausible economic policy measure, it is not appropriate at this time due to the high inflation and volatility, and it is even suggested that the national call for a single currency regime be tuned down so as not to scare potential investors away.”
The formalization and promotion of commerce, trade and industry areas must be factored into the economic equation, according to the joint committee’s report. “Unless the engendered interest of Liberians in trade and commerce is nurtured and protected, the sector is under threat from foreign traders, and stringent trade policies, like the Container Clearance procedure at the National Port Authority, are harming the burgeoning Liberian entrepreneurship and must be relaxed,” the report suggested.
But one of the authors of the letter that has now underscored the need for the debate, Senator Lawrence, has on two occasions condemned the report after observing that it did not address a single item among their six recommendations.
“This report has nothing to do with our letter, and I am requesting that it be returned to the committee,” Senator Lawrence, who now appears to be the lone ranger fighting for the debate to take place, stated in Senate Chambers Tuesday.
Some of the recommendations in the three Senators’ letter are as follows: That the benefits of the President, Vice President, Speaker, President Pro Tempore, Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Legislators, Ministers, deputy Ministers, Assistant Ministers, heads of Public Corporations, Directors and commissioners be reviewed for a 25 percent reduction in gas slips, scratch cards, travel allowances…and commissions a study to cut unnecessary expenditure within government, and the dissolution of all inactive agencies of government to save money for needed institutions, among others.
For each of the seven times the report appeared on the Senate’s agenda for debate, it was always deferred to another sitting, sometimes with the flimsy excuse that the Chamber was too hot due to power failure and therefore the fear of suffocation; or that a chairman of the lead joint committee was absent to lead the debate.
Some schools of thought and political commentators are suspecting that some things are not right. “Why did the committee fail to even mention a single recommendation from the three Senators’ letter, and why are they now refusing to debate their own report? What is happening among the elders of the house of elders?” a Legislative commentator wondered.