Liberia: National Draft Budget Critiqued Amid ‘Misplaced Priorities’
The House of Representatives is yet to commence hearing on the Draft Budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 but analysts are raising contentions, citing some contradiction bout government’s priorities.
The Draft Budget which is in the tone of US$562.2 million and was submitted to the Legislature through the office of the House Speaker by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah last Wednesday.
The Draft Budget, Minister Tweah said, was crafted under “extreme difficulty”.
“The President has managed to rationalize the fiscal space. We have to be able to move a good share of resources to pro-poor activities.
“We are doing a lot of rationalization relative to last year’s public sector investment. We have moved up from US$55 million to US$73 million, so we have found US$20 or more millions to add to public sector investment.”
In his presentation to the House, Liberia’s Finance Minister told lawmakers that the budget is “not perfect” but it is an instrument in the direction of moving the country forward.
What’s In The Budget
In its introduction of the draft budget, the MFDP admits that the current outlook of the economy is increasingly challenging.
“Not only is it impacted by the slow recovery from the EVD and the uncertain commodity price shock but also by the slower than-needed progress toward economy-wide diversification, UNMIL drawdown, as well as, the alarming depreciation in the value of the Liberian currency,” MFDP said.
The Weah-led government says expenditure outlay has increased, but it reckons that fall in global prices of fuel and food could help mitigate constrains on the economy.
It is optimistic that the domestic economy is expected to rebound with “improvements, particularly in the mining & panning sector followed by the forestry sector.”
“Additionally, as we strengthen our efforts to diversify the economy, coupled with the continued infrastructural investments as well as prudent policy measures to tackle this mild recession, relatively low but stable growth is highly anticipated,” the MFDP said.
“Real GDP growth is projected at 3.9 percent in 2018 compared to a projection of 2.5 percent in 2017. This represents a downward revision of the values relative to FY2017/18 projections of 5.2 percent for 2018 and 3.2 percent for 2017.”
In the draft budget, infrastructure and basic services is allotted the highest amount put at US$188,769,526; energy and environment get US$132,846,998; health gets US$73,395, 544, follow by social development services with US$46,880,559 amongst others.
Amongst the low funded sectors in the draft budget includes commerce with US$600,000; municipal government is allotted US$4,772,347; and accountability and transparency gets US$17,802,194.
During a press briefing at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism last Thursday, May 3, Tweah said the projected revenue is US$474 million, but his assertion doesn’t represent what is stipulated in the draft budget, which puts the total revenue at US$515,771 million.
This means, a budget shortfall is imminent. Liberia has experienced budgetary shortfalls since the era of Amara Konneh as Minister of Finance when he introduced the medium term budget.
He also bragged about the total savings on salary cuts amount to US$60 million, which also goes against US$4 million, outlined in the draft budget.
Source : fpa