Submission by the Executive of US$562.2M draft national budget to members of the 54th Liberian Legislature against recent revenue shortfall of US$5.095 million reported by the Liberia Revenue Authority or LRA for March 2018, representing 7.8 percent is a cause for concern whether this government is anywhere far away from actually generating what is being projected to meet expenditure demands.
The LRA in the recent release, noted that total collection for the month in the current fiscal year, when compared to the same period last fiscal year 2016/17, show a significant drop in domestic revenue from US$50.604 million to US$40.082 million, an equivalent of US$15.617 million or 31 percent.
Without finding ways to addressing this gap, the Executive has submitted a draft national budget of about US$60 Million for FY2018/19. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah told lawmakers while presenting the draft financial instrument that public sector captures US$72 million, followed by Education, Health and Infrastructure.
Minister Tweah boasted that the proposed budget focuses on pro-poor policy of the government, suggesting that it is about people-centered plight that is little different from previous budgets.
But Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, who received the document, cautioned the Finance Ministry to fight against budget shortfall, underscoring that the senate would be happy to receive realistic budget in order to avoid shortfall in the near future.
We share the thought of Pro-Tempore Chie’s on the need to carve realistic national budget, because this country had suffered similar fate before under the past administration that saw the economy dwindled so badly with unintended consequences.
We believe the March 2018 domestic revenue shortfall reported by the LRA should serve as early warning signal for government to tread cautiously. We know there is anxiety to meet the Weah Administration’s pro-poor agenda, but the reality is waiting to unfold.
Let’s not be perceived as pessimists, but it would save both government and the entire population, if we heeded Pro-Tempore Chie’s caution and come up with a national budget that would realistically tailor expenditure with income in order to management expectations.
It therefore behooves members of the Legislature to critically peruse line items being put forward by various government spending ministries and agencies against performance reports to derive final and realistic projections for service delivery.