Weah Still Alone on 25% Salary, Benefits Cut

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President Weah giving his State of the Nation Address speech at the Capitol Building. (Photo by: Nick N. Seebeh.)

Orders WASSCE fees waived nationwide

By David S. Menjor and Alvin Worzi

Maybe it’s still too early to tell. But since President George Manneh Weah boldly committed to reduce his salary and benefits by 25 percent and allot them to a consolidated fund account to support other areas earmarked in the national budget, the only response from the 54th Legislature was a euphoric ovation.

Weah, leading by example, expects the august body to “follow [his] lead”, but so far, nothing.

In his inaugural address on Jan. 22, 2018, he noted that it is about time state resources do not end up in the pockets of government officials while the majority of the country’s population continue to suffer in abject poverty.

Delivering his first State of the Nation address in the joint chambers of the National Legislature a week later, on Jan 29, Weah said, “In the interest of the people of Liberia, the struggle must end.”

“With the assessment that I gave you earlier of the poor condition of our economy, I believe that it is appropriate that we should all make sacrifices in the interest of our country,” he said, noting further, “According to Article 60 of the Constitution, the salaries of the President and the Vice President are established by the Legislature, and cannot be increased or reduced during the period for which they are elected.”

“However, in view of the very rapidly deteriorating situation of the economy, I am informing you today, with immediate effect, that I will reduce my salary and benefits by 25% and give the proceeds back to the Consolidated Fund for allocation and appropriation as they see fit,” he said, urging that “In the meantime, I would urge you, honorable ladies and gentlemen, to follow my lead, in the interest of your constituents.”

As provided for by law, the office of the President is entitled to US$3,943,030 of the overall fiscal budget of the country in 12 months. The amount is apportioned as US$75,000 for basic salary, US$90,000 for special allowance, US$276,000 for means of foreign travels, while daily subsistence on foreign trips costs US$210,000.

Others are foreign travel incidental allowance, US$105,000; domestic travel means of travel, US$112,500; domestic travel incidental allowance, US$239,686; and fuel and lubricant for vehicles, US$330,000.

The repair and maintenance of vehicles, US$85,000; stationery, US$20,000; printing, publication and binding, US$60,000; consultancy, US$550,000; special presidential projects, US$650,000; special operation services, US$270,000; and general allowance, US$119,844.

Weah admonished both houses of the legislature: “Let us all strive to practice servant-leadership, whereby all that we do inside and outside these chambers as elected leaders shall be for the benefit of the Liberian people, by whose mandate we have been given this responsibility to lead them, and this opportunity to serve them.”

The 25% reduction, as promised by President Weah, would amount to L$421,125 (US$3,346.78 at CBL rate of LS$125.83/US$1) and US$18,000 deducted from his annual salary and allowances respectively. Bundled together, Weah’s annual reductions would amount to US$21,346.78.

In a similar case in Tanzania, it can be recalled that upon winning the presidential election, President John Magufuli revealed that his salary will be and is at US$4,008 monthly as leader of that East African country.

Magufuli, who was elected president in 2015 on a pledge to tackle corruption, made the disclosure during a speech broadcast live on state television in Dar es Salaam.

He was hailed by his citizens for taking a bold step to fight corruption and reduce poverty.

In the case of President Weah, it remains to be seen whether members of the country’s legislature will follow suit and reduce their salaries and benefits by 25 percent.

Presently, a member of the House of Representatives is paid US$14,342, while Senators receive a little more per month as compared to members of Parliament in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, who earn US$1,271, US$7,266, and US$8,715 respectively.

In a related development, the President has announced that fees for the 2018 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) will be waived for 12th graders at private and public schools.

President Weah made the announcement at his State of the Nation address on Monday, January 29, 2018, stating that he had previously made a promise that the “government will absorb the WASSCE fees for all 12th graders,” and remains committed to that promise.

As the 2017 elections hung in limbo between the October 10 round and the December 26 runoff round, the Ministry of Education announced that the Government of Liberia could no longer afford to subsidize WASSCE fees. That pronouncement drove many stranded students to the party headquarters of Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change, begging the party’s standard bearer for help.

“My government has already started to disburse these fees by committing an initial amount of US$200,000,” the President told the 54th Legislature on Monday.

Accordingly, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), in consultation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), has extended the deadline for registration for the 2018 exams. The new and final deadline is February 13, 2018. Any school failing to register its pupils by this deadline will be responsible for paying the exam fees for those students.

MoE is directing all principals and school administrators to immediately register their students through WAEC’s online portal. Schools will be able to register their students without needing to make any payments.

Schools that have already submitted WASSCE fees to WAEC Monrovia national office should expect those payments to be refunded once the Government of Liberia fulfills its remaining financial obligation to WAEC.

The Ministry further urges all schools that have not yet registered their students to desist from collecting fees from students.

Authors

9 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. President, now you coming see the worthless people you put in office. The good-for nothing people who only like big talk. Not one will give one cent of their paycheck.

  2. A split is a aout to occur. Weah and the lawmakers will undoubtedly go through the rough and tumble. A 25% cut in the salaries of the lawmakers and others is considered a threat and therefore unacceptable.

    For 12 odd years, the lawmakers did not touch the issue of coins in Liberia. Liberia has had no coins for so long. You would think that not having coins is very important. Oh no. That’s a non-issue. What the do-nothings seem to care about is big salaries, excellent retirement packages, incentives, big cars, fat bellies, harassment of Asian businessmen for free materials (sometimes 100-lb bags if rice) and little girls or boys for pleasure.

    Is that how we’ll be until Christ returns?

  3. A split is a aout to occur. Weah and the lawmakers will undoubtedly go through the rough and tumble. A 25% cut in the salaries of the lawmakers and others is considered a threat and therefore unacceptable.

    For 12 odd years, the lawmakers did not touch the issue of coins in Liberia. Liberia has had no coins for so long. You would think that not having coins is very important. Oh no. That’s a non-issue. What the do-nothings seem to care about is big salaries, excellent retirement packages, incentives, big cars, fat bellies, harassment of Asian businessmen for free materials (sometimes 100-lb bags if rice) and little girls or boys for pleasure.

    Is that how we’ll be until Christ returns? The trian of change has arrived. Why are some people refusing to board the train? The country is broke. Scarce resources must be properly managed. It starts from the top.

  4. Liberia’s Law makers believe, The Senate and The House Of Representatives are places to accumulate personal WEALTH. That shouldn’t be. Let their ADEQUATE salaries/benefits be formulated by an Independent Body Of Economists. They should not be allowed to formulate their own salaries and benefits. Liberia’s Annual Budget says a lot. Liberia just can not afford to lavish such EXTRAVAGANCIES on Laws Makers and other Government Officials. We, have a Nation with 4.5Million people.The Annual Budget is less than $500, 000, 000(U.S.D). It’s simply beyond Liberia’s MEANS to continue with this NONSENSE…

  5. Although quite commendable, the President’s decision to reduce his salary by 25% merely scratches the surface of the problem. Rather than wait for other branches to follow suit, what the President should do now is to embark upon a thorough recasting of the national budget on the basis of certain rational criteria and best practices. (It’s called “cutting the coat according to the cloth.”)

    Among other things, such an exercise should yield substantial “savings” to help finance currently under-funded sectors like Health, Education, etc. Next, he should establish a National Planning Council (with a reconstituted Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs to serve as its Secretariat) and then proceed at once to draft a proper Five-Year Development Plan for Liberia.

    Finally, given the numerous corrupt acts they committed, key Sirleaf government actors should be subjected to forensic audits at once, with a view to recover fully all such national assets and resources as they may have misappropriated and embezzled by whatever means.

  6. Liberian Lawmakers are jokers! They are robbing Liberia’s treasury!

    For an impoverished, third world country like Liberia, they are making huge salaries comparable to what members of U.S. House of Congress make.

    Also, Liberian lawmakers are entitled to fabulous perks (gas slip, traveling allowances, etc.) which take up a hefty chunk of the Liberia’s meager budget. I don’t know why President Sirleaf approved such huge salaries for these and former do-nothing lawmakers.

    American Congress has not had a raise since 1999 when their salary increase was passed during Bill Clinton’s Presidency.

    Here is the yearly salary chart of U.S President and Congress members enacted since 2001.
    U.S.President: $400.000
    Vice President: $233,000
    Speaker of the House of Representatives: $223,500
    House of Representatives: $174,000
    House of Senate: $174,000
    President pro tempore of the Senate: $193,400
    Majority leader and minority leader of the Senate: $193,400
    Majority leader and minority leader of the House of Representatives: $193,400

    I just read on China Global Television Network (GGTN) webpage, “The President of Namibia, H.E. Hage Geingob, has banned all foreign travel by public officials until at least the end of February in a bid to rein in government expenditure.”

    President weah needs to put Austerity Measures in place to cut the deficit in the fiscal budget. To compensate for this short fall, he has to cut spending and increase taxes like the president of Namibia is embarking on.

    For Liberia, even if it means cutting down on the usage of government vehicles; cutting down on non-essential foreign travels; reducing redundancy in government ministries; reduction in non-essential government employees; and cutting down on the issuance of gas slips to legislators.

    Some of the results for these deficits in the fiscal budget are: government high salaries; low export market; high import market; frequent travelling; vehicle expenditures; insufficient tax revenue; corruption; unaccounted expenditures; travelling allowances; and just to name a few.

    When reckless expenditures exceed Liberia revenue generation mechanism; you will run into debt or deficit.
    If you spend more than you make, you are always going have a deficit.

    Good Luck Mr. President on balancing this thought monetary equation!!!

  7. Mr. President, if not yet, pls organize your economic and development council. Put Chief Cyril Allen on that council!Among other things, let them consider the salaries and benefits of civil servant, govt officials and members of the legislature. You are leading by example, but do not be in a rush by proposing a 25% cut in your salary and benefits. Let it be a comprehensive approach. CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME! Thanks for the leadership and concern! God Bless!

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