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Economy is sluggish

–Says Albert Chie

Senate President Pro-Tempore Mr. Albert Tugbe Chie says the Senate has noted signs of a bit of sluggishness in the economy since the 2023 National Budget was enacted into law.

“Since the 2023 National Budget was enacted into law, the Senate has noted signs of a bit of sluggishness in the economy leading to challenges that include depreciation in the exchange rate,” he said Tuesday, 6 June 2023.

At a press briefing, Mr. Chie also noted a “little struggle” [in] completing payment of salaries on time as well as agencies and institutions complaining of delays in getting funds for their various activities and programs.

Given the challenges he listed, Mr. Chie said these economic matters have been discussed with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the recent mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

“It has been noted that the Liberia Revenue Authority has not been meeting [its] quarterly targets,” he added.

Chie revealed that the IMF has also indicated that revenue from Customs is not performing despite the increase in the volumes of imports.

“Slowness in the economy is not strange in an election year in developing countries due to many factors associated with elections, including the laissez-faire attitude of

Taxpayers,” he argued.

According to Chie, the Executive and Legislature are working together to remedy the economic challenges, and hopefully by the end of July, significant progress will be made. 

He detailed that some of the measures that may have to be taken quickly are to cancel some of the incentives agreements which have been entered into between the Government and some private entities.

He made special emphasis on the ones without legislative ratification, and the cancellation of certain duty-free privileges, especially on fuel.

“There is a forecast of a finance gap in the 2023 National Budget in the tone of approximately 44 million US Dollars and there are plans to prepare and enact a Recast Budget in order to cut spending,” he continued.

Regarding the National Census results, Chie said the Liberia Institute for Geo-Information Services (LIGIS) has written the Senate and indicated that the final census results will be available by the end of this month.

Once the results are received, he said the Legislature will act per the Constitution and other laws.

Concerning bills in Joint Committee Rooms, Chie explained that there are several bills that are subject of Conference Committees between the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

These bills, he said, include the Drugs Law, the amendment to the New Elections Law, the Infrastructure Bill, and a few others. 

According to him, the Senate Plenary has received assurances through the Judiciary Committees that all bills in the joint committee room will be completed before the adjournment of this second segment.

In another development, Mr. Chie has frowned on staffers of the Legislature holding political party activities on the grounds of the Capitol.

“While we cherish political pluralism, nevertheless, such activities should not be carried out here by our staffers,” he cautioned. 

“We kindly request all staffers to abide by the memorandum to that effect issued by the Director of Security.”

Further, Chie addressed accusations that he allegedly donated vehicles to an opposition political party.

He said on 16 May 2023, he left a caveat while delivering his opening statement at the second segment of the sixth session.

In that statement, he said he had urged Liberians to be careful to digest well what they hear and read before they believe because this is an election year. 

“Political lies, character assassinations, rumors, fabrication with the intent to deceive the masses will be the order of the day,” he repeated his warning. 

After giving such a warning, Chie said he was appalled by the news that social media and a few radio stations had been parading with information alleging that he purchased a certain number of vehicles for the opposition Unity Party. 

“Some said 8, others 10, 15, and up to 25 pickups. Opportunists have just added 73 bikes to the list and may add more items before the week ends,” he said.

Chie said this information is untrue, baseless, and unfounded and has now become a smear campaign to distract the attention of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). 

“At no time have I purchased any vehicle for or made [a] donation of any kind, directly or indirectly, or requested any individual or business, directly or indirectly, to make a donation to the Unity Party or any other opposition political party, institution, and individual,” Chie clarified.

He lamented that these lies are said to have started as the result of panic by some persons when information was posted on social media that the Unity Party had acquired 15 pickups and 73 motorbikes. 

“This situation is now being exploited by some opportunists who are constantly placing more inciting information on social media to confuse and laugh at the CDC and nourish confusion among its rank and file.”

The Senate President Pro-tempore said the opposition Unity Party is quite aware that he has not donated to its institution.

“I challenge anyone in this country to provide evidence that I have made a donation of vehicles or any item, directly or indirectly, to any opposition political party.”

He said if anyone has such evidence, they should provide it to the press for publication.

“I do not sneak, and I have no need whatsoever to sneak. Let me state here that I remain committed fully to the CDC and use this opportunity to thank many CDCians and other supporters of the CDC who have expressed, both privately and publicly, that they don’t believe the false allegations against me and have named some of those behind this false accusation and black lie.”

He insisted that from the opinion polls he has seen, the CDC is in a comfortable position and will retain the Presidency whether on the first ballot or the second ballot.

Chie said there is no need for any person to panic when there is news that a certain political party has brought in or purchased a certain number of vehicles or some logistics. 

According to him, the CDC Government, despite a few challenges here and there, has done well for the people.

He thinks the people will give CDC a second chance to complete the various projects and programs it has started all around the country.

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