On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Finance Minister Amara Konneh appeared before members of the House of Representatives following a much trumpeted invitation from that august body, requesting his appearance and to show cause why the nation continues to experience budget shortfalls since his rise to the post as Finance Minister.
Liberia’s current budget stands at US$582, 931m approved by the Liberian Legislature, which is the appropriating arm of government. The initial draft FY 2013/14 budget as forecasted and presented to that body by the Executive Branch was projected at 553,262m. The 53rd Legislature after budgetary hearing added additional revenue of 29,669m. Reading from a Ministry of Finance fact sheet, the total revenue collected as at May 8, 2014 just five days before the appearance of the minister was put around US422, 700m, indicating an outstanding revenue of US160, 231m for the fiscal period which ends on June 30, 2014.
There is also a US74, 575m considered as uncollectable or risky revenue that may not be collected. These include, according to the minister, social contributions from oil companies, LPRC and the NPA as well as a shortfall in funding from the EU. Now amidst all these statistics and many more is the fall of the Liberian Dollar against the US Dollar, with prices of basic commodities climbing high as well as the echoing suffering voices of the masses.
Minister Konneh had since appeared on Tuesday depicting ex-ray results of the nation’s current economic problems, but the question that remains unanswered is what next, after his appearance? Is it that members of the House of Representatives were only interested in listening to Minister Konneh’s explanation or do they have a solution in mind?
We believe that its time that members of the legislature take appropriate steps to curtail some of our nation’s economic mishaps – looking at the fact that our economy is import based, with most of our resources being exported in their raw state. It’s time that the Legislature comes up with strong policies compelling investors to build factories here that would transform some of our natural resources into finish products locally.
For instance, arguably Liberian is the second largest exporter of rubber in the world but cannot boast of one factory here producing rubber materials from Liberian rubber. Timber, with all the logging companies not one is transforming any log into for instance, plywood. The country imports everything, including pepper, oranges and even garden eggs (bitter boy) from neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.
All these put pressure on the exchange rate as businessmen and women move across these borders to acquire food stuff that can be grown here locally. It takes only a national leadership with strong national policy and a willing population to address some of the economic issues currently facing this nation. For example, despite the fertile lands here, agriculture is one sector that remains poorly under developed – most of the vegetables or fruits grown here are done on a seasonal basis when the fact is that they could be grown during all seasons.
We believe that until a national action is taken to reduce the dependence on imports and concentrate on the agriculture sector as well as focusing on the local manufacturing industry, our nation’s economic woe is here to stay for a long time. No matter how many times the minister of finance or Central Bank Governor is invited at the Capitol, it won’t amount to anything.