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Wolokollie defends draft budget, but…

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By Bridgett Milton

The Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning Samora Wolokolie has been defending the draft national budget for FY 2022. He says total projected revenue from Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) is US$640.2 million or 82%, while External Resources account for US$145 million or 18%.  

His comment comes as the National Legislature begins hearing into the draft national budget of FY 2022.

According to him, revenue assumptions are supported by the following macro-economic and tax policy assumptions, Real GDP (in dollar terms) for 2021 is estimated at US$3.2 billion and is expected to reach US$3.3 billion in 2022.

He said the statistics speak to the good health of the economy under the   Weah administration. 

Appearing before the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance, Budget & Development Planning of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate at the start of the budget hearing Thursday, November 25, 2021, Minister Wolokolie explained for FY 2022, there are no new tax policy measures underpinning the budget, but the government intends to further strengthen those policies that are already in effect.

“Tax Revenue, which forms the dominant share of government revenue, is comprised of compulsory transfers to the general government sector, this aspect of DRM will account for a little over four hundred ninety-two million dollars (US$492.1) or 63% of the resource envelope”, Wolokolie noted.

He notes that comparing this projection to the previous year, it is an increase of US$30.7 million or 6% which is a remarkable feat in just 12 months, considering externalities such as the coronavirus.

“Tax revenues are derived from the following five (5) sources: income and profit taxes, real property taxes, taxes on goods and services, international trade taxes and social development contributions”, he adds.

He continues that rents and licenses for the exploitation of public resources such as forests, minerals, petroleum, etc., fees and licenses for the operations of mobile networks and other telecommunication and radio equipment; sales of state assets; fees for administrative services such as the issuance of passports, work permits, resident permits, birth, and medical certificates, police clearances will all go under the road funds to be able to support the budget. 

Mandatory transfers from state-owned enterprises and regulatory authorities register – (6%) and road funds – (18%), respectively.

He says the new budget calendar is aimed at maintaining consistency with international best practices and also with businesses and public enterprises in the country. 

The total resource envelope or FY-2022 is a United States Dollar equivalent of seven hundred eighty-five million, five hundred eighty-seven thousand, three hundred one dollar, twenty-five cents (US$785,587,301.25). 

Thirteen percent of that amount or (LRD21.0 billion) is domestic currency, and $681.9 million or 87% is actual United States dollars. 

Meanwhile, Minister Wolokolie disclosed that the average annual projected exchange rate by the Central Bank of Liberia is US$1 to LRD202.7.

In response, the Chairman on Ways, Means, and Finance at the House of Representatives, Thomas Fallah, welcomes the various government agencies and hopes the needs and expectations of the people will be met.

However, Civil Society Organizations under the banner “Integrity Watch Liberia, Foundation for Community Initiative and CSO Budget Platform” identify ambiguities line items in the draft national budget.

Addressing a press conference Monday in Monrovia, they pointed to a US$10 million proposed to implement promises made by President Weah during his nationwide tour this year, and a US$46 million dollars proposed for the construction of new roads, amongst others.

Narvin Ireland, Project Manager for ‘Fiscal Transparency and Budget’ says while the proposed investment expenditure is welcoming, it is, however, not disaggregated by sector, project, and unit cost per project indication of the specific locations where the project will be implemented.

“By this presentation, it only leaves the public to suspect, speculate and wonder what role did the Office of the President of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs played during the budget preparation process as there was sufficient time to have provided this vital information well in advance”, he argues.

He continues, “There is also a concern of lack of transparency as disaggregation of this investment expenditure would eventually affect education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, and social protection issues. Hence, a potential understatement of these sectors’ share of the proposed budget.” https://thenewdawnliberia.com/recurrent-expenditure-tops-liberias-785m-2022-budget/Editing by Jonathan Browne

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by the Searchlight Communications Inc. Office is located on The UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is a bilingual (both English & French).

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