LAST WEEK, PRESIDENT George Manneh Weah through the Minister of Finance Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah presented the draft 2022 budget to the House of the Representatives for passage into law. Two distinct milestones are associated with the financial instrument. On the one hand at the figure of $785.6M, it will be the biggest ever in the history of the country for the past 174 years and on the second hand it will be the first budget of its kind to run a full stretch year, starting from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.
ACCORDING TO INFORMATION garnered from the draft budget, the amount of $492.2 is expected to be generated from tax revenue, non-tax will cough out $148.4 and extra tax $145 M, Income and profit taxes will bring $199.8M, tax from international trade will produce $227.1, goods and services has $55.9 property income tax will generate $129 M, and real property and others will fill in $5.9
ORDINARILY, ON ITS face value, the numbers in the budget are good and one will have every reason to celebrate for the good days in 2022, but given the facts how the economy has struggled over the past 3 years and with the advent of the COVID 19 that has affected the global economy, Liberia being of no exception, there is a reason to doubt that the new budget stands a chance that it will be realizable. . But when stretched beyond nominal assessment, the entire budget appears to make a joke of what the government hopes to achieve.
WE ARE NOT being pessimistic about the budget after all of what use it is doing so when our survival be it business or personal hangs on the performance of the economy. It is incumbent upon every citizen to pray and wish the government well but our resolve to speak the truth and patronize the reality of every situation, especially the state of the economy has made us develop a different understanding that for now the indicators are all glaring that the budget 2022 may not be a reality.
NOW THIS BRINGS us to a summary question: where will the money come from to fund the budget? Theoretically, an expansionary budget should stimulate growth by way of creating jobs, increasing output, reducing poverty and even improving infrastructure for further growth. There is no doubt that the country has a big structural problem, mostly the lack of infrastructure to support the economy and the ever present policy defects that keep the country moving in circles. These are salient preconditions that must be addressed in order to make a leap into progress.
THE MINISTER OF Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr has not never hidden the facts of the weak macroeconomic foundation the government inherited that affected the economy for the past 3 years and which in fact has made it impossible for the government to fulfill its initial promise to uplift 1 million people out of poverty in 5 years. With the COVID 19 pandemic that has affected the world at large, Liberia is seriously experiencing its own shocks as businesses are losing revenues, workers being laid off, prices of goods and services are skyrocketing, and the future looks bleak.
ADDITIONALLY, MINISTER TWEAH in the course of last week, stated that the government has been using a large portion of its revenue to stabilize prices of goods and services as well as subsidizing social services to cushion the effects of the COVID 19 situation and to promote its pro poor initiative. So the government has already been cutting in the sources that will make the budget a reality. Curiously enough, the government has started mounting pressure on the budget with its ambitious plan to spend on what she called “critical sectors”, focusing on creating more jobs for teachers, health workers and security forces and providing tools for them to work.
IT IS WORTHY to note that the budget performance level of the government has been abysmal. A lot of projects are either abandoned or not being attended to because of paucity of funds under a dispensation with a less ambitious plan. So we are not excited with a figure that seems to look more political than economic. Increasing budget concomitantly with increasing costs that is backed with uncertainties cannot be a budget that will be a reality.
WE CALL ON the lawmakers to take a serious look at the budget especially against all the assumptions, some of whom should have not even been considered as a basis to prepare the budget. They must not be led away by the mantra of setting a record for passing a budget bigger than we have had in the past. They must be guided by the fact that this is not the first time the executive has ever proposed an ambitious financial instrument to change the narrative of our development agenda but later on falling short of achieving such an objective.
LASTLY WE FIND it expedient to remind the government of the continuous double whamming effect—the Liberian dollar appreciation against the United States dollar and the rising cost of goods and services that will be eating deep into the real value of the 2022 budget like every other previous ones, leaving in its wake mere statistics for unwary minds to celebrate. We believe presenting a more realistic budget without building false hope in the people will go a long way in providing the dividends of governance the people deserve.