SENATOR JEWEL HOWARD TAYLOR (NPP, Bong), addressing Liberians in the U.S. City of Philadelphia last week shamefully called for an increment in salary for Liberian lawmakers.
THE BONG COUNTY LAWMAKER wrongly told the gathering that she and her peers’ US$10,000 is just not enough – they want more.
SO MUCH MORE, according to Senator Howard-Taylor, that the salaries of lawmakers ought to be increased so that it is commensurate with what Cabinet Ministers are making.
THE SENATOR SITS in a body that refuses to disclose how much they make, ignore multiple requests from the media to disclose their monthly and annual salaries and benefits but yet has the audacity to tell Diaspora Liberians that they want more?
THE TIMING OF the lawmaker’s assertions comes as Liberians are complaining daily about the hard life, when the grassroots and those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder are barely making it or managing to get by, when businesses continue to complain about high taxes and the complications of clearing their goods from the port; when young women and children are being raped and trafficked; when so many ills are being ignored and abandoned.
THE SENATOR’S JUSTIFICATION, according to her, stems from the fact that they need more money to cater to their constituents who come to their offices daily for assistance and in some cases, they pay tuition, underwrite burial costs and other expenses.
THE SENATOR SHOULD firstly lead a charge in the legislature to demand that their salaries be made public. It is unfair and deceptive for any member of the national legislature to push for more salaries and benefits when they cannot tell the Liberian people what their actual salaries are.
SENATORS AND LEGISLATORS are elected not to pay tuition or pay for burials of their constituents but according to Article 29 of the Constitution, pass legislations.
ARTICLE 34 STATES: The Legislature shall have the power to create new counties and other political sub-division, and readjust existing county boundaries; to provide for the security of the Republic; to provide for the common defense, to declare war and authorize the Executive to conclude peace; to raise and support the Armed Forces of the Republic, and to make appropriations therefor provided that no appropriation of money for that use shall be for a longer term than on year; and to make rules for the governance of the Armed Forces of the Republic; to levy taxes, duties, imports, exercise and other revenues, to borrow money, issue currency, mint coins, and to make appropriations for the fiscal governance of the Republic, subject to the following qualifications: all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imports, duties or taxes, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills. No other financial charge shall be established, fixed, laid or levied on any individual, community or locality under any pretext whatsoever except by the expressed consent of the individual, community or locality. In all such cases, a true and correct account of funds collected shall be made to the community or locality.”
ARTICLE 36 IS CLEAR that “The Senators and Representatives shall receive from the Republic remuneration for their services to be fixed by law, provided that any increase shall become effective at the beginning of the next fiscal year.”
WHAT HAS SENATORS actually done in the past twelve years that warrants increase in their salaries? When was the last time the Senator spoke out against anything sensitive regarding those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder? Yet she chooses to use a Diaspora platform to shamefully make a plea for salary increment.
RESPONDING TO THE backlash she has received since the Philadelphia speech, the Senator issued a statement on her Facebook page expressing somewhat of a remorse. “I made a comment, in answer to a question about high salaries for lawmakers; which has angered Liberians. In my comment, I tried to explain the financial demands on lawmakers. This was not my intent and I sincerely apologize to Liberians for the misconception.”
THE SENATOR’S APOLOGY is a little too late. Perhaps she should have read her own party’s agenda titled, “Prosperity for All’ in which the plight of the people is clearly articulated. “The Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) answers this important question in this “Agenda for Prosperity,” our bold vision to transform post-conflict governance and assure prosperity for all Liberians. It is the product of many discussions and consultations with the Liberian people. We have felt their pains and heard their stories. We package these common sense ideas into what we now call an Agenda.”
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS and in its party’s platform, the CDC has trumpeted itself as the party of the downtrodden and poor by shooting down the policies of the current administration.
THE PARTY STATES: “Under the Unity Party, our people continue to experience extreme hardship. We reverse this pattern of neglect and abandonment of the poor through our National Poverty Innovation Strategy (NPIS). NPIS would direct assistance to different categories of the poor including: ex-soldiers and former combatants who missed out on schooling during the years of war; out-of-school street merchants and peddlers; farmers and families where no member has received more than a high school education. Within the first two years, the program looks to significantly reduce the number of children selling in the streets, putting them sustainably back to school. Within a short time, frame, we put poor Liberians on a government enabled path to a better standard of living.”
WHAT IS EVER MORE DECEPTIVE, is the party’s pledge to reduce wealth creation while its vice-presidential candidate is trumpeting one. “We know that continued strength in revenue performance is our surest path to reducing the punishing burden of poverty afflicting the poor and to financing innovations in wealth creation. Toward Transparent and More Innovative National Budgeting The national budget can be an important fiscal tool in poverty alleviation and wealth creation if harnessed effectively.”
THE IRONY IS DISTURBING: The average Liberian lives on nearly USD$2.00 a day. In contrast, those they elected to serve live on more than $300 a day, if the Senator’s calculations are right.
SENATOR HOWARD-TAYLOR must understand the political party she has entered into a marriage with and what it his trumpeted over the years.
THE CDC HAS SOLD ITSELF as the party of the grassroots. It is rather ironic and really pathetic, that the woman it has chosen as its standard bearer, has forgotten that.
SENATOR HOWARD-TAYLOR and her peers in the national legislature should be working overtime to introduce laws that will make life better and simpler for Liberians, laws and policies that will make small businesses improve their profits margins, laws and policies that will give tax breaks for struggling Liberian businesses who are barely getting by, laws and policies that will make it easier for local businesses to succeed and not fail.
LIBERIA DOES NOT NEED lawmakers whose interpretation of their job is to pay tuition and cover funeral expenses. Perhaps if lawmakers can work to improve the conditions of their constituents, they wouldn’t put themselves in the position have having to keep knocking on their doors for help. What the Senator has done is diminish whatever believability the CDC’s mantra had on those sympathetic to the party’s agenda.