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Competing Interests Must Not Delay Budget Passage

The passage of the 2014/2015 National Budget may be for a long haul, if what’s emerging on Capitol Hill between the Liberian Senate and House of Representatives over the proposed US$1m per district by the latter for district development is not amicably settled. The Liberian Senate, on Thursday, May 15, 2014 reached the decision following a motion by Senator Isaac Nyenabo of Grand Gedeh County, who had argued that the House of Representatives was in violation of the 2009 Public Financial Management Law, even though he did not state the particular provision.

Though  House Speaker Alex Tyler expressed outrage at the rejection, stressing that the decision by the Senate to trash out their proposal will not be left alone as they (members of the house) were prepared to go the extra miles in finding the reasons, last Thursday’s action by the Liberian senate means a return of the bill to the sender either for amendments or something else (in the thinking of Speaker Tyler).

The Speaker (forerunner of the bill) and his colleagues had indicated that the US$73m for the districts of Liberia was intended for Liberians, they say, live in “isolated communities” across the country, following their nation-wide national oil consultations tour last year at which time they claimed  to have identified their appalling conditions- a claim many continue to dispute as being in their own interest ahead of the 2017 general and presidential elections in Liberia. But Speaker Tyler continues to blame the rejection on some hidden hands: “We also believe that this bill would be taking development directly to the doors of our people; but we’ll not rest until the needy results surface.”

Ironically, another proposed bill to allocate 15% of the 2014/2014 fiscal budget for county development is being discussed by the Liberian Senate. The bill, crafted by Rivercess County Senator Jonathan Binney, will be considered over the US$73m proposal by the House of Representatives. In view of the foregoing, the proposed 15% may absolutely be failure as members of the House may also be set to payback the Senate’s action.

And amid all of these ‘hauling and pulling’, the passage of the 2014/2014 fiscal budget may suffer setbacks, and delay the continuation of national programs and projects already under the auspices of the Government of Liberia to the detriment of the very people of Liberia they claim to represent in the Legislature. While this conflict may still be in its embryonic stage, it is only prudent enough for the relevant Liberian stakeholders to constructively engage the Senate and House for a quick solution before the “appalling conditions” rural community dwellers get “nasty” if the justification provided by Speaker Tyler and colleagues is anything to go by.

If it even requires the immediate intervention of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, following her return to the country, so it must be, in the interest of national development, which, we think, both Houses wholeheartedly support. Even if a common ground would be to suspend the two proposals for now in the interest of the passage of the 2014/2015 fiscal budget until a resolution is reached, it could best serve our national interest. But the conflict over US$73m by the House and 15% budgetary allotments by the Senate for district development must not be allowed to delay the passage of the next fiscal budget.

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