MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Finance Minister Samuel Tweah has finally presented the 2019/2020 draft national budget to the National Legislature.
Tweah presented the US$533 million budget to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers on Thursday, June 28, at least two days to the end of the last fiscal year.
The submission followed a prolonged delay by the Executive Branch to submit its budget. Liberiaâ€™s budget year commences on July 1 and ends on June 30 of the following calendar year.Â However, the executive is required to submit a draft of the budget to the legislature at least two months prior to the start of the new fiscal year.
On May 28, President George Weah wrote the House of Representatives asking that his submission of the 2019 draft budget would be delayed by 45 days. Tweah said the delay was necessary to allow the Executive Branch to submit a more credible and realistic budget.
However, the 45-day extension was exceeded by an additional 10 days, without any reason provided to the public for the extended delay.
During a recent major address to the nation, the president announces that as part of the efforts of his administration to address the countryâ€™s declining economy, the government would deliver a new and improved fiscal policy that will be announced with the passage of a credible national budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
â€œIn the last several years, we have passed a budget that exceeds our revenue potential. We are now working together with counterparts in the other branches of the government to pass a realistic budget,â€ he said.
However, the president pointed out that the move would require sacrifices from all. He named reform of the governmentâ€™s large wage bill, rationalizing spending to put more resources to critical sectors like health, education and agriculture, improving the way the government makes payments to government entities and vendors who supply the government with goods and services, and some actions on domestic arrears that the government owes local vendors as other actions the administration would take to stimulate the economy.
During the submission, Tweah assured the public that the high wage bill of the country was considered in the draft budget. He said the government would ensure that significant effort is made to pay domestic vendors, which account for US$35 million, one of the biggest domestic liability components than any budget.
â€œThe wage bill of the government in the FY 2018/2019 accounted for US$330 million, but with this harmonization, the governmentâ€™s new wage bill for 2019/2020 be US$297 million,â€ he said.
He assured that the president is committed to fighting abuse and fraud. According to him, the government has put in place better and stronger measures that will ensure that US$22 million is captured in new revenue during the new budget year.
For his part, the House speaker, who received the document on behalf of the legislature, said although the budget was delayed, it is necessary to have it better prepared before being submitted to the lawmakers.
Featured photo by Ida Reeves