Why Gov’t Prioritized Roads, Not Agriculture?
He added that he will make a case to law-makers for a possible budget cuts from other sectors such as Education to be added to agriculture, during their debate on the budget.
Finance Minister Tweah said with the development of rads and electricity in the country, development will be on a fast track, as they will serve as the driving force for the development of farm to market roads to facilitate the moving of goods and services from the cities and rural areas and agricultural produce from the rural areas to the cities and towns.
“Prices of basic food items are high because of the lack of roads to bring them to the cities from production areas,” he said.Minister Tweahwho has submitted to the National Legislature the draft of the National Budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018-2019 made the observation when he addressed journalists at the regular Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular Thursday press briefing last week.
Minister said the National Budget FY2018/19 that was on April 30, 2018 submitted to the National Legislature comprises of a total resource envelope of US$562.15 Million for total resource envelope, US$488.73 Million for total recurrent expenditure and US$73.42 Million for total investment expenditure.
Minister Tweah noted that a budget is an indication or projection stating what money is available and what to expect in a given period. We are projecting to spend US$56.2 Million while we have US$474 Million and have approved US$564 Million. It will be difficult to improve on the budget without a shortfall. The solution is to expand the economy in view of the many challenges facing us. We need to cut on tax exemptions<” he said.
He said the budget focuses on supporting the key sectors and cutting non-essential recurrent costs to make space for delivering the government’s pro-poor Agenda. “The path to prosperity, which can affect the lives of all Liberians means hard decisions which control non-essential spending to prioritize investment in Liberia’s infrastructure and essential service delivery sectors”, he added.
Minister Tweah also emphasized the austerity measures that have been taken and endorsed by government (the President and the cabinet), they include significant reductions in goods and services, subsidies and grants; a pay reduction sacrifice affecting allowances of employees making over US$1,000 monthly in the executive branch of government.
The measures also include aligning compensation of all public servants and officials in State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) such as autonomous and semi-autonomous entities with earnings above ministerial pay scale to that of central government and/or cabinet ministers, deputies and assistant ministers, comptrollers and other relevant positions.
Measures endorsed on the revenue: reviews of off-budget operating costs of SOEs and dividends arrangements including impact of salary reductions that must obtain final approval of the President, implementation of the excise law that will affect petroleum, tobacco and alcohol products, increasing investment in revenue generating entities.
According to Minister Tweah, the pay reduction sacrifice which for now will not affect the judiciary and the legislative branches of government, and reflects the government’s commitment to allocate resources to other sectors, adding that the reduction of compensations cuts down to US$303.4 Million.
He said implementing the pro-poor agenda means prioritizing spending to key sectors to ensure inclusive growth and provide essential services to the most vulnerable citizens, adding that the sectors of the economy that has carried more budgetary appropriations include Public administration that entails ministries and agencies of government.
“Others include key targets for recurrent spending necessary for service delivery such as infrastructure, education health and security,” Minister Tweah said.
Minister Tweah observed that by classification of the expenditures that amount to US$562.2 Million are: compensation of employees in the public sector or public administration amounts to US$303.44; domestic liabilities is US$7 Million; foreign liabilities is US$23 Million; grants expected US$63,85 Million; non-financial; assets – US$84.43 Million; social benefits –US$48 Million; subsidy- 1.49 Million; the use of goods and services – US$78.88 Million.
The Finance Minister expressed regret for the low amount of 1.5% that was appropriated for agriculture, adding that he will lobby with the national Legislature to ensure that allotments be deducted from other sectors such as education to be added to the agriculture budget.
He used the occasion to congratulate the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) for the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, adding that government stands ready to do everything to encourage fact-based reporting of events.
The Minister used as an example the erroneous report in the media about the just ended World bank Spring meeting that he attended at the head of a Liberia delegation, adding that many of our compatriots residing abroad want to hear and to learn about events unfolding in the country. The Spring meeting in Washington DC is not about development planning. (Writes John L. Momoh).