The 2012/2013 National Budget continues to be at the core of public discussions in Monrovia and elsewhere in the country. Radio talk shows and newspaper articles also continue to serve as platforms for the ongoing debate, even though the budget is currently before the Liberian Legislature for perusal and adjustments. While some members of the Legislature are ‘raising eye-brows at the budget and its structure, authorities of the Ministry of Finance continue to advance defense to justify their work as head of the budget committee.
On Monday, June 25, 2012 during a local radio talk show in Monrovia, Deputy Finance Minister for Revenues James Kollie described the current draft budget before the Legislature as highly reflective of the interest of the people of Liberia. According to Dr. Kollie, the budget aims at improving the infrastructural component of the country to include the reconstruction of roads and bridges, as well as the provision of electricity through the reconstruction of the hydro.
Further justifying what his ministry had done, he noted that the budget is a working plan of the Government of Liberia as it also looks at capacity-building for young people, as well as reduce unemployment for the ob-seeking population through job creation, admonishing individuals with misconceptions in understanding the 2012/2013 draft budget to “spend more time reading it” for broader understanding.
But in a descending opinion, Ex-presidential Candidate in the 2011 election, Mr. Simeon Freeman described the document as a bad budget owing to the fact that it had “lots of wasteful suspending, replication of allotments of government ministries and agencies, bureaucratization, as well as prioritization of foreign interests over domestic interests, more allotments to foreign and domestic travels-all of which were indicators of the difficulties for ordinary Liberians to feels the budget’s impact.
Mr. Freeman noted that the draft budget was crafted with the intent of enriching heads of public bureaucracies and not ordinary Liberians, stressing that these analysis showed that more money would be spent on top officials, government ministries and agencies rather than every Liberian. While one may want to agree with the objectives of the budget as initially outlined by Deputy Minister Kollie, its impact-making actualities as contended by Mr. Simeon Freeman are matters that are difficult to comprehend.
Perhaps that’s why some members of the honorable Liberian legislature, including Senate Pro Temp Milton Findley condemned the 2012/2013 draft national budget as lacking policy statement, describing it as “bundles of papers with huge figures without interpretations.”
In the mind of one who “reads between the lines”, the foregoing condemnation of the budget is an impression of dissatisfaction and resistance by the honorable men and women of the Legislature to the manner and form in which the entire document was structured, leaving one to harbor the belief that there’re actually sinister motives by the crafters.
“To God be the Glory” that the Legislators themselves have discovered the budgetary flaws and probably, the motives. This is why many well-meaning Liberians are appealing to the wisdom of the Legislature to ensure that the 2012/2013 fiscal budget is characterized by impact-making priorities for the ordinary Liberians, and not the few whose primary interest is to financially capacitate themselves in preparedness for their continuous stay in the United States at the end of the government or the next political season come 2017.
The Legislature must be urged to be steadfast in screening/scrutinizing the budget, giving credence to the realities, including salaries and benefits for civil servants-nurses, mid-wives and other medical practitioners across the country, as well as disregarding the inflicted interests of a few as reflected in the budget.