Mixed Reaction Over Recast Liberia ‘Pro-Poor’ National Budget
Monrovia – President George Weah’s biggest support base in the 2017 election that brought him power were slum communities and pehn-pehn riders – people from these groups are considered to be living way below the poverty line.
Report by Al-Varney Rogers [email protected]
With that, the CDC-led administration developed a ‘Pro-Poor’ theme to tackle poverty.
In an attempt to show it seriousness, a total of US$9.6 million has been programmed into the recast budget for ‘pro-poor’ projects.
As part of its pro-poor interventions, the Weah-led administration has decided to pay the WAEC/WASSCE fees for all 9th and 12th grade students in both public and private schools and has appropriated US$1,900,00 for that initiative.
The pro-poor agenda also considers restoration and maintenance of traffic and street lights as integral and has therefore allocated US$600,000.
The University of Liberia has also been fitted in the pro-poor plan with an allotment of US$300,000.00 to digitalize the student registration process on the Capitol Hill campus. The amount would also be used to install wifi internet at key locations on the campus.
John F. Kennedy Medical Center would receive US$500,000 from the recast budget for equipment and upgrading of facilities.
Local entrepreneurs would receive a stimulus package of US$1 million in the budget.
The pro-poor agenda considers the issuance of National Identification biometric cards as being important to helping clean up government payroll and has therefore appropriated US$500,000 to the national registry.
Staffing the Education Sector by bringing 400 Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) teachers onto the payroll and correcting 180 underpaid personnel would need US$400,000, according to the budget.
Professional skills development to increase the number of local Liberian experts has been allocated US$500,000 and also the First Lady has half a million dollar in the budget for humanitarian outreach.
Feasibility studies for President Weah’s promised military hospital is taking US$200,000 of the National Budget.
Many believe that the projects selected are not immediate priorities for a country’s whose economy is said to be broken.
A motorcyclist, Franklin Tamba said, the construction of the military hospital is not a priority for Liberia, suggesting that vocational education for motorcyclists should have been first on the list.
“For me I voted the papay (President Weah) but military hospital is not important right now and I don’t see or hear anything about the pehn-pehn riders,” Tamba said.
Questioning Tamba about the US$200,000 allotted to do the military hospital feasibility study, the pehn pehn rider expressed shock that the government would be spending such amount on feasibility study but claiming that the country is broke.
A University of Liberia student Mark Dennis said three months is short to achieve the pro-poor projects.
“This is another scheme for them to steal from the Liberian people; when will they put out a bid for consultancy to do the feasibility study before it is approved and get the study is done?” Dennis asked.
He continued: “The First Lady will have half a million for humanitarian just for three months?
This is too much for this short period.”
According to him, in twelve years President Sirleaf was unable to clean the payroll and there is therefore no assurance that President Weah can achieve that in three months.
“Why are we in rush with this biometric ID issuance for payroll clean-up? This US$500,000 should have been used to directly impact slum communities.”
Dennis averred that pro-poor projects should have targeted slum and rural communities.
“In the next few months we will be in the raining season, West Point, Clara Town, and New Kru will be affected by sea erosion and those are the people that voted him the most,” Dennis said.
Unlike Dennis, a forex trader Thomas Gueh said some of the projects are truly pro-poor.
Gueh named that paying of WACE and WASSCE fees, the equipping of John F. Kennedy and the inclusion of teachers on the payroll as pro-poor projects.
Gueh said the loan meant for business people should impact those at the bottom of the economy.
“This should not end up like the loan that Dr. James Kollie and Amara Konneh gave to their friends,” Gueh cautioned.
The Executive Director Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) Herald Aidoo said in an exclusive interview with FrontPageAfrica that the pro-poor agenda has not been fully understood by the public.
“The government professes pro-poor is a good idea, we are almost three months since the inauguration they should begin to unpack what this pro-poor means,” Aidoo said.
Aidoo added that the recast budget isn’t pro-poor and questioned how it addresses the issues affecting the country’s poor people.
“What does it mean in terms of health, agriculture, how do we look at technology?” he questioned.
According to Aidoo, there’s the need to formulate programs that address some of the underlining factors causing Liberians to be spectators in their economy and such programs must be reflected in the budget.