Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is vying for the presidency comes October, attributes consisting budget deficit in government in the past several years to lack of fiscal discipline, stressing, “We need to spend our money wisely.”
Vice President Boakai is on record for his public admission that most of the opportunities that came to the country during the nearly 12 years tenure of the Sirleaf administration in which he serves, were squandered.
Participating in a national presidential debate at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia on Thursday, 17 August organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition or DCC with support from Open Society Initiative for West African or OSIWA, he says raising taxes is not solution to the country’s fiscal challenges, but operating a balanced budget.
He is asking Liberians to elect him in October as the next President of Liberia, with an analogy that a racing car that is packed in the garage would have to be tested in order to determine its strength.
But Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party disagrees, countering that the Vice President cannot receive salaries and incentives for the past 12 years and yet claims he has not been tested for leadership.
Brumskine vows to reduce his own salary and salaries of top government officials, including members of the Liberian Legislature if elected President, in order to redirect those funds to improving salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and other apparatus.
The debate was attended by four of the six top candidates that were formally invited, including the governing Unity Party standard bearer, Vice President Boakai, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP).
For the second time since 2005, George Weah, senator and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was conspicuously absent at the debate hall. Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) also did not attend.
But on the question of the economy, ANC standard bearer Cummings believes the prescription is to grow the national budget from US$5.6 million to 2 billion, emphasizing the need to create middle class Liberians as opposed to President Sirleaf’s poverty reduction strategy.
For his part, ALP standard bearer Benoni Urey stresses adequate planning and wants the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs recreated to properly plan the country’s development agenda.
Urey continues that budget deficit persists because the government appears to be business unfriendly, adding that “We will continue to have deficit unless we plan properly.” He points out that 80 percent of the budget is on recurrent expenditure, particularly salaries and other benefits, while the remaining 20 percent which is very insufficient, is directed at development.