The passage of the budget by the Legislature without public debate has not gone without criticism by the public, many of who have publicly voiced their displeasure on various radio talk-shows. Adding his voice to the chorus is Senator Darius Dillon who has expressed disgust at the action by his colleagues. He has called them spineless and unworthy of the public trust.
It is a matter which has not gone away and which may not go away soon. Just why most members of the Legislature would spurn public debate on the budget and give it an abnormally speedy passage is quite troubling. This has triggered a rising tide of public opinion suggesting that that body, a few excepted, has betrayed the public trust. Senator Dillon’s public utterances on the issue have only tended to reinforce this view.
Questions must therefore be asked about the role or disposition of the World Bank and IMF in this surreptitious affair. Are these institutions going to work with a document that has not been publicly vetted? And if so, would they accept responsibility for the fallout from such action? Further would such suggest that transparency and accountability will be thrown to the wind?
These are important questions to ask because a significant portion of the country’s national budget is being subsidized by donor contributions mainly from the United States, the European Union, Japan, etc. These are legitimate questions because it is Liberians — the ordinary Liberian — who will bear the brunt of economic hardships induced by IMF/World Bank debt servicing arrangements.
From past experience, most of such funding eventually find their way into the pockets of top officials often with impunity and, there is no reason or convincing evidence to suggest that transparency and accountability characterize the handling of the national budget. Under the past government, budgetary shortfalls were persistent. Budget performance reports were at best scanty.
Further, this trend has continued under this government and local transparency groups have expressed concerns that the Ministry of Finance has not produced a budget performance report since its ascendancy. But notwithstanding, as in the past and now, the Legislature has appeared spineless to demand a budget performance report from the Executive. But it is the Liberian people who will undeservingly bear the cost.
Not even the media had access to the budget before its passage and was therefore unable to assess the merits or demerits of the budget, which is for all purposes is a public document and should have accordingly been subject to public vetting. It is the opinion of most people the Daily Observer spoke to, the action of the Legislature has not only infringed on the right of the people to be informed of the activities of its government, it has also violated Article 7 of the Constitution of Liberia which reads as follows below:
The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.
The Legislature has greatly disappointed the Liberian people, judging by the spate of unfavorable public comments on this matter. Indeed, our lawmakers owe the Liberian people an explanation.
Senator Dillon has said much, we need not say more!