By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie
Amidst the controversy between the members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate over the proposed US$73M for direct district development projects, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has recommended US$18.25m in response to the Legislature’s request.
In her budget message to the National Legislature for fiscal year 2014/2015, President Sirleaf explained that government will invest this amount primarily for the construction of security and social infrastructure.
The budget message which was read yesterday in session during that August Body 33rd day sitting, also indicated that the money will accelerate economic activities in the districts and alleviate the difficulties in attracting skilled professionals for assignment away from Monrovia.
It may be recalled that during the official opening of the 3rd session of the 53rd Legislature, on Monday, January 13, 2014,Speaker Tyler proposed to his colleagues for Plenary’s approval and the Liberian Senate’s concurrence an amount of US$73,000,000.00 million be placed in the 2014/2015 National Budget for direct district impact projects.
His proposal was supported by Lofa County District # 4 Representative, Mariamu Beyan Fofana, who later encouraged her colleagues to support Speaker Tyler’s proposal because during their nationwide tour discussing the new oil law of Liberia, they observed that people in the rural areas are living in awful condition that had drawn their attention.
After the proposal was made, the Plenary of the House of Representatives overwhelming endorsed the US$73,000,000.00 million and communicated to the Senate their decision.
About two weeks ago, the Senate rejected the House’s suggestion on grounds that it violates the Public Financial Management Law of the country and that the constitution they said talks about administrative districts and not electoral districts.
The President’s budget message also explained to the lawmakers that this budget calls for a period of national sacrifice, a sacrifice that calls for better efficiency in the allocation of available resources as the government combines aggressive revenue generation with careful debt management and sealed up spending in security, energy and the road work.
In view of this, President Sirleaf told the lawmakers beginning 2014/2015 budget year, government will reduce excessive expenditure on goods and services by eliminating scratch cards and reducing spending on fuel and foreign travels.
The Liberian leader said fuel will be restricted to operational use only; and for all air travel, less than eight hours in duration, officials and ministries will be required to fly economy class. She added that the number of foreign trips will also be limited to three times per year, with the exception of the President, Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance and there will be a limit of no more than five members on any travel party.
According to her, these recurrent savings will allow the government, together with its development partners, to tackle the country’s biggest infrastructure and security challenges.
After the President’s communication was read, the Plenary of the House received the documents and turned them over to its Committee on Ways, Means and Finance for immediate budgetary alignment. However, it is not yet clear as to whether members of the House would accept the President’s suggestion or not.