MONROVIA: There could be extreme uncertainties surrounding the economic outlook of the country in the coming months as the House of Representatives took a decision in plenary yesterday, Thursday, January 25, 2024 to return the draft fiscal budget for the year 2024 to the Presidency on February 15, 2024 for realignment in keeping with the plan of the new dispensation.
The 2024 fiscal budget amounting to US$625.57m which was presented to the 54th national legislature by former President George Manneh Weah in December, 2023 almost at the expiry end of his administration but was not deliberated upon due to limitation of its statutory mandate which ended early January preceding the inauguration of the 55th legislature.
According to reports filed by the correspondent of this paper, the decision of plenary was predicated upon a communication submitted by Representative Ellen Attoh-Wreh of District #3, Margibi County.
“I present my compliments and request that the 2024 Fiscal Budget be sent back to the Executive for realignment”, Representative Attoh-Wreh noted.
According to her, based upon observation, the budget will need to be aligned with the agenda of the current government.
“In view of the above and due to the significance of the 2024 Budget; I would like you to kindly have it sent to the Executive for proper adjustment and realignment for the forward march of our country” she narrated.
Financial experts told The Analyst that the situation may hamper most of the development agenda of the government against the background of the high expectations from the citizens who massively President Boakai and his Unity Party Alliance during the just concluded general election to fast track the transformation of the country.
One of the immediate challenges will be the payment of salaries of government workers for the coming months as well as payment of goods and services for the running of the government.
“This is going to negatively impact the economy and the operations of the government. The shortest time possible we expect the budget to be passed should be around the end of the first quarter of the as it has to be properly scrutinized to reflect the reality on the ground”, William Tequah Settro, a financial analyst with a commercial bank in Monrovia told The Analyst last night.
What may be of serious concern in the short run to the government is the fact that the conditions to generate internal revenue to feed the budget may not exist and external support may not immediately, especially from the International Monetary Fund(IMF) which augmented the annual budget with the minimum amount of USD40m. Liberia’s enrolment into the IMF program that saw reaping technical and financial support expired late November and may only be re-enrolled based on the government fulfilling some terms and conditions.
At the peak of the campaign season last year, the presidential candidate Joseph Nyuma Boakai promised a lot of catchy goodies to woo voters, among which are increase in the salaries of government workers, provision of basic social services such as health care, education, funding critical infrastructure, massive internal revenue mobilization among others.
Some pundits have stated that realities may have set in with the government to the extent that it is now urging the citizens to manage their expectations as not much was done to evaluate the challenge the economy is facing.
“I think it was in order for some of the key officials of this government to start making the adjustment of what they promised the people. They were outside and made all kinds of promises but coming in, it is now clear that it is easily said than done. We will be in for a long ride and the sooner the government tells us what is actually there to hope for, the citizens will soon start to demonize them”, Sam Suah, Sr a social critic told The Analyst in a chat last night.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives J. Fonati Koffa made additional appointments of chairpersons of various committees to assist him run the administration of the lower chamber of the national legislature.
The appointed committees and their respective chairs are Ways Means Finance Development- Dixon Siebo, Judiciary- Michael Thomas, Public Accounts & Expenditure-Clarence Gar, Maritime -Frank Saah Foko Jr, Investment & Concession- P. Mike Jury, and Mines & Energy Natural Resource- Eugene Kollie
Others are Good Governance and Reform-Foday Fahnbulleh, Hydro Carbon-Richard Nagbe Koon, National Security-Musa Hassan Bility, Public Works & Rural Development- Matthew Joe, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries-Zinneh Norman, Health Committee- Julie Wiah, State Enterprises, Commissions, and Autonomous Agencies-Ellen Attoh Wreh, Post & Telecommunications-Ivar K. Jones, Youth & Sports-Bintu Massaley, Commerce & Industry- Alex Noah, Committee on Transport-Siafa Momo Kpoto and Contracts & Monopolies-Abu Kamara.