By Edwin G. Wandah
The Plenary of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 1, passed the Draft National Budget for fiscal year 2019-2020.
The budget had been with the House Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, Public Accounts and Expenditure since its submission by the Executive for passage, but delayed due to some critical components referencing salary cuts and the new harmonization process introduced by the executive.
Presenting its reports yesterday in plenary, the Co-chair of the Houses committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, Public Accounts and Expenditure, Representative Jeremiah K. Koung disclosed that the delay in the passage of the budget was due to consultation with major stakeholders as a way of deriving at possible ways aimed at reducing the burden on the government.
Rep. Koung further called on his colleagues to see reason to accept any cuts that could affect them, and according to the Nimba County, District #1 lawmaker, the benefits of other civil servants and their salaries had to be taken into serious considerations.
“If we do not sanction the cut down on most of the activities in the budget, very soon we will not be lawmakers because the perception out there are enormous, talking about health workers, teachers, and other civil servants who are working tirelessly to save the state,” he stated.
“If we do not cut the US$10,000.00 or so that we make here to have most of these areas vibrant, this process, as we all are aware, cut across everything. We need to make the sacrifice now,” Rep. Koung averred.
The committee’s report also revealed that previously the executive submitted a budget of US$532m, but due to the cut of at least US$7m, the Legislature has approved the total sum of US$526m.
The committee also pointed out in its report that there were provisions allocated to grant, subsidies, goods and services, and other areas it seems necessary for the benefit of the citizens.
Rep. Koung explained that the Judiciary was able to take 16% cut in salary, the Senate with 36% in salary including 50% cut in gasoline, while the House of Representatives had a 6% deduction in salary and gas.
The Nimba lawmaker narrated further that previously, international partners working in Liberia were assisting with the employment of 2,000 persons who were later turned down due to the departure of those International organizations and according to him the Government had to incorporate them.
Meanwhile, the Plenary of the House of Representatives has voted separately for the 2019-2020 fiscal budget and the standardization bill which will protect the passage of the current budget when it is passed.
In a unanimous vote, majority of the lawmakers voted for the passage of the two separate bills to avoid reoccurrence of repeated components.
Rep. Francis S .Dopoe of River Gee, Edward Karfiah of Bong and Dickson Seboe of Montserrado Counties respectively also provided clarity and further education on the importance of the cuts as were observed in the Committee’s reports, while the man who made the motion, Representative Crayton O. Duncan called for the passage of the bill.
But Rep. Larry P. Younquoi insisted that the local chiefs and teachers be reflected in the budget as according to him, most of the time, chiefs and teachers are left out of the process. However, Co-chair Jeremiah K. Koung clarified that the current budget included both supplementary teachers and chiefs.