Drama unfolded in the Senate’s chambers on Tuesday, 21 February during plenary when Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson exploded in emotional outburst characterized by walk out over a communication from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Liberian Legislature, seeking lawmakers’ consent to cut salaries and benefits of senior officials of all three branches of government by 25 percent.
The President’s proposal is part of ongoing prescriptions or fiscal policy by the government to nurse the economy out of recession. President Sirleaf had earlier announced a suspension of all foreign travels of officials here for 90 days as part of the austerity measures following separate meetings of the cabinet and the government economic council.
The current rescue mission followed a three-day locked down by local business houses under the banner Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia or PATEL in protest against high tariffs and 4G depreciation of the Liberian dollar to the U.S. dollar with the exchange rate hitting three digits for the first time in the country’s history. The locked down particularly in Monrovia and its environs nearly brought the already ailing economy to its knees.
But we are completely flabbergasted by the attitude of Sen. PYJ, who is a former presidential candidate and presently seeking the nation’s highest seat for the second time come October.
He argued that that Sirleaf -led administration received millions of dollars from the international community besides millions collected thru taxes, but the government failed to account for these monies, noting that cutting officials’ salaries and benefits would be like a drop in the bucket, which could amount to making mockery of ongoing efforts aimed at stimulating the economy.
The Nimba County lawmaker is enjoying 18 years or two nine-year tenures in the senate with fabulous salary and benefits, including cook, driver, housing and gasoline allowances as well as vehicle to enable him execute his job besides a salary of US$15,000 or more.
Paradoxically, he wants to become President but is unwilling to make sacrifice in the interest of the state and its people that he aspires to lead. Senator Johnson’s posture on the current situation clearly exposes his depth of insensitivity to the plight of the people.
He has enjoyed taxpayers’ money since 2005 as member of the government, but blames President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the economic woes in the country. He should be man enough to share in the current unfavorable condition rather than shifting blames.
We wonder how Senator PYJ expects the government to support or maintain the current fabulous salaries of senior officials when the economy is unhealthy amid skyrocketing prices with the pinch being felt by ordinary citizens in the face of serious unemployment.
We challenge the senator to provide alternatives to the President to salvage the economy if he opposed salaries’ cut. PYJ does not need a rocket scientist to make him realize that if you can’t sustain your present consumption the prudent step to take is to reduce expenditure to an affordable level. This is plain elementary economics and the reality is very vivid here with many ordinary Liberians unable to find daily meal.
Candidly, we await those alternatives from the Nimba lawmaker and presidential hopeful on the way forward in rescuing the economy from total collapse other than current measures being advanced by President Sirleaf.