Monrovia, Liberia – The Draft National Budget submitted by the Ministry of Finance to the National Legislature for Fiscal Year 2024 shows a decrease of over US$157 million, indicating the difference between the current instrument and the approved budget of Fiscal Year 2023.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2023, the Deputy Finance Minister for Budget and Development Planning, Tanneh Geraldine Brunson presented the draft budget to the House of Representatives through House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers in the tune of US$625.57 million.
The 2023 FY budget finally signed into law by President George Manneh Weah was in the tune of US$782,943,000, a US$5 million increase to the version submitted by the Executive.
But our legislative reporter said the current draft instrument submitted by the Executive through the Ministry of Finance and Development is in the tune of US$625,570,000, which points to a whopping decrease of US$157,373,000.
In accordance with the Public Financial Management Act, it is reported that the draft budget for FY2024 should have been presented to the Legislature in October 2023 in order to facilitate further legislative actions. However, President George Weah has formally requested that the Legislature extend its session by ten days in order to receive the budget.
Minister Brunson first expressed regret to the Speaker at the presentation up Capitol Hill for the delay in submitting the budget, blaming it on the distraction and national focus surrounding the tough elections in 2023.
She pointed out that the submission procedure, which covers the period from January 1, 2024, to December 31, 2024, is compliant with Section 17.1 of the Public Financial Management Act.
The US$623.14, or 99.6% of the total, is anticipated to come from local sources, according to the Deputy Finance Minister for Budget and Development Planning. The remaining US$ 2.43 million, or 0.39 percent, is anticipated to come from external sources.
Minister Brunson stated that Public Sector Investment Projects are expected to cost US$31.03 million, or 5% of the entire proposed expenditure, while the recurrent component of expenditure is US$ 594.54 million, or 95% of the total proposed expenditure.
She asserts that the initial assertions regarding the resources at hand centre on the mandatory spending categories that need to be met.
According to her allegations, the US$ 594.54 million designated for ongoing expenses has been distributed and prioritised in the following order: grants, employee compensation, debt service (both internal and external), goods and services for the health and education sectors, and so on.
“Honorable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, while this budget is a reflection of the programs and priorities of the out-going administration, it should not be unexpected that the incoming administration may institute measures to tweak, recalibrate, or even recast the programs and priorities herein to indicate policy change, hopefully in the spirit of continuity in governance.”
“In the wake of mounting pressures, especially national debt burden and recurrent expenditures, only critical cross-cutting national programs and projects in three sectors have been proposed under the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP) segment of the budget. Among these is the National Road Fund under the Infrastructure and Basic Services Sector.”
Following receipt of the budget, House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers demanded that the budget procedure be automatically scheduled.
In the best interests of the nation and its citizens, Speaker Chambers declared that the legislature would exert every effort to guarantee passage. He said that the Supreme Court’s decision to order the government to pay former lawmakers’ arrears will be closely monitored by the body.
As to his statement, the overwhelming goals for the review process will be the payment to the shipwreck victims in order to maintain collaboration between the three levels of government.
The proposed budget for FY2024 is currently awaiting careful examination by the Senate and the House of Representatives. After all legislative proceedings, it will be returned to the Executive via the Office of the President of the Republic of Liberia for approval, at which point it will become a law.
Reported by: Blamo N. Toe