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Messy salary harmonization

From every indication, the Government of Liberia’s ongoing salary harmonization is causing more harm than good for employees in the public service. Some civil servants are yet to receive salary for the past three to four months, while others suffer massive reduction in salary, significantly shrinking their disposal income, leading to strike by health workers across the country. And many others are grieving in silence over the associated inconvenience and hardship that has characterized the ill-fated exercise.

Even the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, has got no clear explanations, while appearing before the Senate recently for the exercise he abruptly embarked on in July this year.

The Senate instructed Minister Tweah to immediately halt the harmonization exercise and restore the full salary of those affected employees, pending enactment of the draft national budget currently before the legislature.

The Minister has not accepted accordingly, as indicative by the huge number of HR personnel from various ministries and agencies thronging to the Ministry of Finance daily with listing of their respective staff being affected by an unscrupulous process presided over by Samuel Tweah.

And the excruciating and frustrating thing is, neither Minister Tweah nor the Ministry of Finance has issued any statement to the effect of assuring those employees affected that whatever percentage was cut from their monthly salary would be restituted, as instructed by the senate.

But this has not been done. And some of the employees, mainly health workers and teachers have not received salary at all for the past two to three months. What is responsible for the delay in payment, for these are employees who have been on the official payroll over the years long before the problematic salary harmonization?

Why can’t the Ministry of Finance wait until the draft national budget is passed as advised by the senate? What is making it so difficult for the government to pay its employees from the regular payroll?

We don’t blame health workers across the country for going on strike because they are not only hungry but frustrated. Their disposable income cannot put bread on the table for their respective families.

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The government needs to act with urgency in this situation to calm tension among the workforce as a direct result of this action by the Minister of Finance. The economy is very bad, the Liberian dollar has massively depreciated and prices have skyrocketed. The ordinary citizen in the street needs relief.

If the so-called salary harmonization were meant in the first place to bring those employees in the lower bracket on par, why rush with the process in the face of less public education and awareness? Minister Tweah should return to the old payroll and pay civil servants their full salary, pending passage of the national budget into law before implementing the harmonization.

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