‘The Untouchables’

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President Weah wants the country's road network improved

President Weah’s recast budget exempts Legislature, Judiciary and Ministry of State

President George M. Weah has submitted an adjusted recast budget of US$536.2 million of the 2017/2018 Fiscal Year, which indicates a cut of 100% of “other goods and services” that summed up to US$27.4 million. The previously approved budget was US$563.5 million.

The recast budget, aimed at addressing resource constraints while ensuring efficient service delivery over the remaining period of the 2017/2018 fiscal year, from February 1 – June 30, 2018 was submitted for ratification by the House of Representatives.

According to the summary from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the strategy of the adjusted recast budget is to protect essential items, such as compensation, drugs, food, among others.

According to the summary, fuel is reduced by 55% across all institutions except for the LRA, medical facilities, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Security Sector.

Moreover, there is a 50% cut to telecommunications and workshops across all spending entities (excluding Legislature and the Judiciary). Similarly, there is a 55% cut to travels except for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Legislature, Ministry of State and the Judiciary.

Meanwhile, President Weah, in a letter to House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers, said the persistence of macroeconomic shocks arising from the fall in the prices of the nation’s major exports has seriously impacted revenue generation and the consequences of the adverse budget impact is a shortfall of US$83.7 million in expected revenue as at January 31, 2018.

“This situation has necessitated a revision of the original approved budget of US$563.5 million to realistically align expenditure with revised revenue projections,” President Weah wrote.

The President said the approved revenue envelop for 2017/2018 was US$563.5 million (about 6.1% reduction) to the approved amount of US$600.2 million for 2016/2017 budget.

“Of the approved 2017/2018 resource envelop, tax revenue accounts for US$401.4 million (71.2%); non-tax revenue accounts for US$100.4 million (17.8%); grants is US$54.9 million (9.7%); on budget borrowing is US$5.0 million (0.9%) and carry forward accounts for US$1.8 million (0.3%),” the President said in his letter.

He added: “However, as at January 31, 2018, the total revenue collected was US$231.6 million (about 41.1% of the projected revenue), which included US$226.8 million from domestic revenue and US$4.8 million from grants, resulting in uncollected revenue of US$332.0 million. The revised resource envelope now stands at US$536.2m.”

Meanwhile, the recast budget received its first reading on Thursday, March 8, during the 16th day sitting and it was unanimously voted for the budget to be forwarded to Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and Public Accounts & Expenditure committee, which should report to the plenary on Tuesday, March 12.

11 COMMENTS

  1. In failing to effect any cuts to the bloated expenditure estimates of the Legislature, Judiciary, and Ministry of State this alleged recast budget leaves a whole lot to be desired. Why have such “big spenders” been exempted from the exercise? There seems to be no reason at all, except maybe for corruption, cowardice and incompetence on the part of the architects. Budget recasting requires fairness, honesty, and courage. And where or when Austerity beacons no one should escape as “untouchable”.

  2. One part of the full budget statement that ought to arouse the interest of Security Sector intelligence analysts reads, “The strategy is to protect essential items, such as compensation, drugs, food, amongst others as well as institutions including the Legislature and Judiciary… new pro-poor interventions” amounting to US$9.6m on the revenue side”.

    Because though President Weah has done his part, a budget proposal is now in front of the House of Representatives (holders of Liberia’s purse string), we pray they will look at it from a bird’s eye view. It suggests taking into consideration the sobering reality that in addition to a pro-poor agenda, extreme poverty – which affects urban slum communities and most rural inhabitants, about 75% of the population – has been an ongoing threat to stability despite our “relative peace” chorus in the last few years.

    This is why we’re dismayed by the above quote, “The strategy is to protect essential items such as compensation…”

    The question boils down to, does “compensation” which include bonanza salaries and allowances for the higher echelons of the three branches of government and state corporations “essential items” which must be protected? Have we forgotten that in reply to questions in Houston, Texas, about troubling hikes in salaries and allowances in a country undergoing pervasive poverty, President Sirleaf said something to the effect that legislators ‘made her do it’ by refusing to approve of the budget of that year? Put another way, she was saying they blackmailed her with a potential government shut down.

    With an increasing illiterate population, full-time joblessness, insufficient food supply, substandard healthcare delivery system, unsanitary slum communities, and unsafe drinking water, how could government continue, for example, to pay US $ 9,000 monthly salary, plus rent, household help and so on for a job whose holder in 1979 got US $1,118 with no allowances except a car and driver? The irony is that in spite of the inexplicable giveaways, corruption morphed into vampire. Never mind our economic and budgetary planners are beneficiaries of this bad policy, hence have no incentive to change it, they’re unknowingly endangering tranquility.

    Lest we forget, compensation is an unproductive expenditure, that’s why other economic conditions, be they micro or macro, impact it in democratic countries.

    Last year, those bonanza wages and perks amounted, as usual, to a third of the budget, it would be the same if the Speaker and House Members don’t remember the conditions of the constituencies that elected them. Just imagine a paltry US $ 9.6 million for “new pro-poor interventions”; do these budget planners really get the destabilizing implications of their number crunching? A pro-poor agenda means poverty alleviation measures for marginalized citizens, and entail education, job training, jobs, access to safe drinking water, sanitary neighborhoods, improved healthcare delivery, food self-sufficiency, and so on. Or are expectations of foreign aid and loans going to do what we can for ourselves with a mixture of honesty, husbandry, and hard work?

    Our government can’t have its cake and eat it too. The few higher-ups wont keep their huge salaries and allowancies in the midst of almost mass suffering , and at the same time reduce poverty nationwide. Liberia is in denial.

    President Weah should be cautious of economic and budgetary teams that would unwittingly thwart his pro-poor agenda at a time pervasive poverty has reached existential proportion. The economy is foundation of stability in a post-war divided country, and a surefire tool for reconciliation. Let the Lower House look properly at this budget proposal – they don’t have to pass it ‘as is’. Old habits die hard, but they stuck the country in over a century of backwardness; change isn’t easy, however, it provides the only hope for a harmonized and happier Liberia. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

    • It’s a miracle that with acute poverty, the death rate per thousand has been declining since 2004 from 12.8/1000 to 8.1/1000 in 2015. The Liberian people are very resilient under severe hardship. I think Mr. Weah is serious about improving the welfare of the average citizen and we should all do our best to support and encourage him. He’s the first modern president who really cares about the poor which makes up the majority of citizens.

  3. Liberia oh Liberia, when will you wake up from your day-dream? Has anything really changed in 2018? Your quest for change is no change at all.

  4. It is a stunning irony to see the oppressed become the oppressors. Call it a curse, but Liberia is persevering a painful era of existence as a nation-state. Here lies the oxymoronic-paradox: We are begging international partners for funding to revive our economy, yet we are paying humongous salaries that by far surpassing the salaries received by officials of these very international partners we are begging. If this government is truly a pro-poor government, then it should begin to live up to its flamboyant credo: Drastically reduce these astronomical salary structures, to include the president own salary, and trim the budget to stifle recurrent expenditures from 88% to 52% so as to redirect significant portion of the budget to basic societal utilities to include education, healthcare, electricity provision, water, and sanitation. I am not sure the once oppressed people are capable of letting go these huge salaries and benefits for the greater good of society. Cry the Beloved Country!

  5. The Liberian people and resources got the funding. But not a cent of the people’s money, past, present or future currency in dollars, numbers, seven corners, coins, liberties or leafs will be expended out of the nation’s coffer until the we well understand the meaning of broke. If you need help, in understand, provide ways and means for those who understand, regardless of status, to explain to you why.
    Do not reply my box. Ask the capable Liberian people to help or take instructions from the silent majority.
    Gone to my okra source and fufu in silence.

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