Senate Debates Current State of Economy
Soaring exchange rates alarming
“Referral hospitals have not received supplies for over three months and people are dying for lack of drugs”
The Liberian Senate yesterday spent much of its 75th day session debating the state of the country’s economy and questioning the whereabouts of the 2017/2018 National Budget already passed by both chambers of the Legislature and sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to be signed into handbills.
The Senators said since the passage of the budget five months ago, “we are yet to know whether it has been signed, or what may have been added or adjusted to it.”
Yesterday’s debate was prompted by a letter from Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay in which he called his colleagues’ attention to the ensuing political transition in January 2018, “for which knowledge of the present state of the economy prior to that anticipated change is extremely necessary.”
Senator Kaipay’s letter dated November 20 requested the Senate plenary to cite both the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority to provide information on the current state of the country’s economy.
The Grand Bassa County lawmaker wants the information to be requested from the two finance houses to include an update on the second quarter of the Budget on which the Government of Liberia is currently operating, and revenue generated during the quarter under review, according to LRA’s revenue projection.
The debate that followed saw the majority of the 16 Senators present in a unanimous agreement to not only invite the Finance Minister and LRA bosses, but that the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and Minister of Commerce be cited as well.
Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, who had earlier this year flagged the deplorable state of the economy with emphasis on the exchange rate, told her colleagues that the situation is fast approaching an alarming state, adding, “referral hospitals have not received supplies for over three months and people are dying for lack of drugs. With such a situation, we need to know how much we have in the budget before the sitting of the new government to avoid an economic disaster.”
Because of the important and urgent nature of the letter, one group of Senators suggested that the Senate should conduct a public hearing, while the other school of thought suggested that due to what may be divulged by the officials to be cited, the Senate should constitute itself into a committee and conduct hearings in executive session (behind closed doors).
With a vote of 15 for and 1 abstention, the Senate agreed that the Ministers of Finance, Commerce, CBL Governor, and LRA Executive Commissioner be cited to brief the Senate on the state of the economy referencing their respective institutions.
Meanwhile, the Senate has mandated the secretariat of the Senate to request the President to send them a copy of the 2017/2018 National Budget passed by the Legislature.