The Executive Branch of Government, through the Ministry of Finance, recently presented to the Liberian Legislature a ‘Multi-Year Budget’ or Three-Year Budget covering its expenditure. The government has set aside Six Hundred and Forty Nine Million United States Dollars for its first year operations.
Principally featuring in the Budget are the St. Paul Hydro Project for the supply of constant electricity to Monrovia and its environs, the pavement of the Monrovia-Gbarnga, Gbarnga-Ganta and Ganta-Fish Town Highways, as well as Youth Development, including job creation and Reconciliation.
Most notably absent from the 2012/2013 Fiscal Budget was increment in the salaries of Liberian civil servants, the least of whom earns a hundred United States Dollars, while the highest, a hundred and Seventy-Five United States Dollars with little or no benefits at all.
When the matter should have been dealt with by the Budget Committee before presenting same to the Liberian Legislature, the committee chose to table as a matter of discussions between itself and the Legislature for possible increment in the salaries of civil servants.
While the committee would want Liberians believe that benefits of ministers, deputies, assistants, representatives, senators and other senior government officials, including gasoline/fuel, luxurious vehicles, huge travel allowances, among others were reduced to identify funding for the hydro, roads and youth development, it has actually translated these reduced benefits into cash considering the huge salaries and monthly allowances or ‘SP’ without any regard to the socio-economic welfare of civil servants.
Not even the issue of a motivating salary structure and benefits for medical practitioners, including nurses and doctors, as well as state security personnel did the Minister Konneh and Budget Committee address. But the Minister is heavily relying on current discussions between his Ministry and Legislators to do what the minister refers to as “selective increment”.
One thing those who crafted the budget failed to take into consideration was the campaign promise by former Finance Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan that the salaries of civil servants would have been increased in the next fiscal budget (2012/2013) if President Ellen Sirleaf and her Unity Party won the 2011 elections.
Is the Budget Committee suggesting to the people of Liberia, including civil servants that continuity does not exist in the operations of the Ministry of Finance?
When our ‘honourable men and women’ of the 53rd Legislature are currently pressing for an increment and another allotment for the mid-term campaign activities, the possibility of giving credence to any increment in the salaries of civil servants may just be too far-fetch.
The Minister of Finance and his Budget Committee must be made to understand that the less attention government gives to its ordinary employees or civil servants in terms of motivation, the more the problems in terms of the lack of commitment, corruption, etc., etc in its functionaries.
By not placing emphasis on the welfare (salaries and benefits) of civil servants as is being done for the cabinet ministers, their deputies and assistants, as well as lawmakers and other officials of government will completely undermined and make mockery of those who do the “dirty jobs” in the government.
It is unfortunate that the very people in whose interest they claim to be working are the same ‘old people’ they continue to consider as OUTCASTS, meaning people who don’t deserve any good benefits and amenities from the government for which they work.
Whether or not Minister Amara Konneh is using the ‘honourable’ lawmakers as a way of scape-goating the decision by him and the Budget Committee to down-play the issue of increasing salaries of civil servants at least to an appreciable amount, it is left to the determination of the Legislators.
Since the Minister of Finance and his team ‘deliberately’ decided to brush aside civil servants in preparing the Multi-Year Budget, it should now be in the wisdom of the ‘honourable’ men and women of the 53rd Legislature to prove their critics wrong by increasing the salaries of civil servants and forget about increasing their already fact benefits.