Pro-poor lawmakers enjoy protection

The Liberian government’s much publicized “pro-poor agenda” appears to be rapidly becoming another Animal Farm story or cow pu-pu agenda as the reality on the ground seems completely different from what is on paper.

The Weah-led Administration thru the executive is proposing austerity measures that would see cut in certain categories of goods and services, totaling US$27.1m, while protecting members of the Legislature, the Judiciary and medical facilities, among others.

“The strategy is to protect essential items (such as compensation, drugs, food) as well as institutions (such as medical facilities, the Legislature, the Judiciary, etc)” a recast drafted budget forwarded to House Speaker Bhofa Chambers last week reads.

The proposal leaves many ordinary Liberians asking how protecting key institutions, particularly lawmakers whose fabulous salaries have sparked serious controversy here even under the past administration, contributes to the government’s “pro-poor agenda.”

One commercial motorcyclist notes that if the recast budget is anything to go by, then the “pro-poor agenda” is in reality, meant to protect top officials of government rather than poor Liberians.

According to the national budget, each member of the House of Representatives earns a monthly salary of about US$14,342.00, with breakdown as follows: Basic Salary – US$2,873.00; General Allowance – US$5,793.70; Special Allowance – US$2,500.00; and Transportation Reimbursement Allowance – US$3,175.00, respectively.

Others include Telecom, Internet & Post – US$16,957.00; Residential Property Lease – US$15,656.00; Vehicle Fuel – US$45,499.00; Generator Fuel – US$2,586.00; Repair of Vehicles – US$1,724.00; Domestic Travel – US$20,128.00 Other Specialized Materials – US$35,896.00.

In short, a representative’s annual salary is about US$172,104.00, in a government that preaches “pro-poor agenda.” So, for an entire six tenure, Liberia spends over US$1,032,624.00 in salaries and allowances on just one lawmaker, while citizens live in poverty, disease and misery.

But the government maintains that these austerity measures or adjustments will lead to a balance budget of US$536,2m, consistent with the Public Financial Management or PFM Act.

-Story by Jonathan Browne

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