Pro-Poor or Stay Poor: Liberian Intellectuals Critique FY2018/19 Draft Budget

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Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]

Monrovia – The Center for Policy Action and Research has, through a detailed and thorough analysis, concluded that the draft national budget for FY 2018-19 submitted to the Legislature does not reflect the interest of the suffering masses and the pro-poor agenda of the government.

The analysis was compiled by M. Boakai Jaleiba Jr., Jacob Jallah and Alieu Nyei who deduced that the budget offers a poor start for development planning and is remarkably different from a policy instrument that tends to address poverty.

“Figures assigned to interventions were done arbitrarily and the budget seemed to be hurriedly prepared with the aim of only meeting the submission deadline.  It contrasts the Government’s pro-poor aspiration on several fronts,” they indicated.

They raised concerns that their analysis points to a potential budget shortfall based on “unrealistic revenue projections”.

According to their analysis, many revenue lines are projected significantly higher than their performance trends.

From the Center for Policy Action and Research analysis, 21 public sector institutions in the budget are only receiving salaries with no programmatic activity.

The FY 2018-19 Draft National Budget carries a total allocation of US$8,544,461 for compensation to public sector institutions and zero for programs.

“This is simply telling the workers of those entities that they should only go to work, sit and do nothing because there is no money in the budget to fund programs,” Nyei said while revealing details of the analysis to reporters.

The group lamented that frontline service delivery institutions like hospitals and health centers were not prioritized despite an increase in the budget for the health sector. “This is not pro-poor and will certainly lead to health crises,” CePRA warned.

The budget in their view makes no effort to tap on the potential of both agriculture and tourism subsectors. They noted that agriculture and tourism are high job growth and labor-intensive sectors and that “the spending plan is not married to the professed pro-poor agenda with on-the-ground action”.

They further critiqued the draft budget for maintaining the same financing model for the education sector that was used over the last 12 years. This, they said, would continue the routinely dishing out of subsidies, constructing more schools and racking up enrolment as opposed to placing focus on improving learning outcomes or overall quality of education.

The George Manneh Weah-led administration’s commitment to improve the energy sector is not at all reflected in the draft budget, they noted.

For example, from fiscal year 2012/13 to 2016/17, average capital investment per annum in electricity generation stood at US$ 5,724,201 compared to the current 2018/19 proposed appropriation of zero. These were funding made available to support rehabilitation work at both Mount Coffee and the WAPP transmission line project.

Concerns are that, how does the government intend to increase energy access to households and businesses?

According to the Liberia Electricity Corporation, the current customer connection of under 58,180 and 23 large businesses with only 28 MW of Mount Coffee’s 88MW power generation capacity utilized, thus leaving 60MW of the energy potential at Mount Coffee untapped.

CePAR noted that the proposed appropriation 2018/19 sets aside US$3.8 million strictly for administration and management in the electricity sector (LEC & Renewable Energy). In the Public Sector Investment component of the draft budget, US$40.5 million is proposed for investment in infrastructure. The analysis observed that while energy is usually lumped together with roads and other hard infrastructures, no effort was made to disaggregate financing for any specific energy project in the expanded section of the budget covering the energy sector.

The appropriation for key youth and sports development programs runs below the average spending per annum of the previous regime by over $680,000. 00. US$2,636,837.00 appropriated to youth and sports development which represents 0.47% of the national budget, according to CePAR’s analysis.

CePAR: “Compared to the 5-year average spending, the draft budget presents a drastic reduction in appropriation for vocational and technical training institutions and programs. An average cut of 65% affected the Klay Agricultural and Vocational Training Center, located in Bomi County and a training hub for Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu Counties, the Tumutu Agriculture and Vocational Training Center in Salala, Bong County (a training hub for Bong, Nimba, Margibi and Lofa Counties), the Julijuah Tailoring School for mainly disadvantaged young women in Bomi County, the Grand Kru TVET Program and subsidies to the community based vocational and technical training programs.”

The proposed appropriation for administration and management substantially increased with general allowance and fuel (for vehicles) leading the charge.

The beach and waterways maintenance program providing short-term jobs for disadvantaged youth was scrapped, the analysis found.

Funding to the National Football Team is $350,000.00 representing 0.0006% of the national budget.

A total of 29 National Sporting Federations and Associations received only $72,700.00. This is definitely not a solid commitment to sports development.

Editor’s Note: This piece is the first of upcoming series critiquing and analyzing the FY 2018-19 National Draft Budget which is currently before the Legislature for ratification.

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