“We Cannot Fix All Past Problems, But…”

Pro Temp Jallah.jpg

Pro Tempore Jallah, who spoke under the theme, “A Collective Effort to Transform Liberia,” challenged Liberians to focus on the country’s future, especially in preparation for what he described as the historic general and presidential elections in 2017.
“The former UN SRSG has correctly argued that the 2017 elections will be a watershed moment, and a pivotal event that will determine how serious we are as a nation to move the country forward,” Senator Jallah noted.
He emphasized that the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead are huge and vital to the kind of Liberia all citizens and other residents want to live in; -a Liberia that treats all its citizens with respect and whose governing class is compassionate enough to look beyond themselves.
“Each and every Liberian wants to see a quality healthcare system, a functioning educational system, empowering our women and rebuilding durable infrastructure on par with countries in the region; providing employment for our youth and ensuring equality of justice for all Liberians before the law,” Senator Jallah noted.
All of these, Senator Jallah asserted, require that available resources be used wisely for the intended purposes and that, if any of those are to be achieved in post 2017, “We have to begin to think, discuss and work together as Liberians.”
Under his leadership, Pro Temp Jallah maintained that the Senate is working with the House of Representatives to improve the capacity of the Legislative Budget Office (LBO) to serve as a functional and capable independent counterbalance to the Ministry of Finance, just as the Congressional Budget Office has done in the United States.
“We have the institution and the laws, but our challenge has always been implementing the laws we passed. With a stronger and capacitated LBO, we can have accurate and reliable information for the Legislature to more effectively perform its oversight and monitoring responsibilities,” he stressed.
Senator Jallah who hails from the mineral-rich county of Gbarpolu, painted a gloomy forecast that by 2017, majority of the country’s natural resources would have been contracted. If these concessions do not materialize in a timely fashion, it will create financial constraint on the nation and its ability to cope with many of the financial needs of the country.
Many Liberians, Senator Jallah suggested, would be puzzled to hear that their natural resources have been contracted to the tune of $17 billion.
He said 30.4 percent of Botswana’s budget is from mineral resources. In comparison, he said Liberia’s non-tax revenue (including revenues from minerals) is a meager 9.8 percent of the 2014-2015 national budgets.
Under the same budget period, Senator Jallah informed his compatriots that Liberia’s borrowing represents about 16 percent of the national budget, “So we are borrowing more than we are getting from our natural resources.”
He agreed with those who predict that the old economic model of too much dependency on natural resources is not going to work for the country.
Although the international community has assisted Liberia in waiving about $4.9 billion in debt, Senator Jallah said the country is yet again accumulating more debts each year since 2010.
“The Central Bank of Liberia reported that as of August 2014, the total public debt of Liberia was estimated at about $648 million, and some professionals estimate that by 201ave a national debt to the tune of over $1 billion,” Senator JWith this level of debt, Jallah warned that the principal and interest payments could further limit the country’s fiscal space and hinder its ability to invest in education, health and infrastructure development of the country.
He warned that if government fails to use the country’s debt on capital and human assets to expand its productive capacity, but instead use the debt on recurring expenditure, “we are laying the foundation of yet another collapse that will further hurt ordinary Liberians…” “And if we are not creating innovative ways to expand our revenue base,” Senator Jallah continued, “we could have a debt overhang and be right back again begging the international community for debt relief.”
He then appealed to all Liberians, especially those in the Diaspora to come together and develop a plan of action. “We have the benefit of hindsight; we know tomorrow’s problems, and so, I once again call on all Liberians in Minnesota, in the Diaspora and Liberia not to give up on Liberia. Together, we can fix our country and enjoy the fruits of it.”
Pro Temp Jallah concluded by borrowing these words from late U.S. President John F. Kennedy when he said, “wealth is the means and people are the ends…All our material riches will avail us little if we do not use them to expand opportunities for our people.”


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