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EDITORIAL: Cut in the Salaries of Lawmakers Would Go A Long Way Salvaging Liberia’s Economy

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THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES took an unprecedented move to announce through the 2019/2020 draft National Budget that it has “massively” cut its benefits by 31 percent. 

ACCORDING TO THEM, this ‘massive’ deduction will see each of the representatives loosing at least US$2,586 from their bulk, allowance figure. 

THE REPRESENTATIVES didn’t disclose the bulk figure from which they derived the above amount that would be deducted from each of their benefits going forward. Nevertheless, doing a sample percentage problem solving for the missing ‘X’, one realizes that this missing and questionable amount is US$8,342. Questionable because it has always been reported that members of Liberia’s Legislature make five figures in benefits. This was recently corroborated by one of them in the Senate.

THE REPRESENTATIVES also decided to slash their gasoline benefits to half from US$2,225.   

IN THE DRAFT BUDGET, which members of the House passed on Tuesday, October 1, they also proposed a 36 percent reduction from each of the 30 senators’ benefits, too. According to the House’s version of the draft budget, this cut will amount to US$3,600 from each of the senators. 

THE SENATE HAS to, however, concur with what their fellow lawmakers in the House had passed from their side and sent to them. 

AS PART OF THE harmonization, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance, and Public Accounts and Expenditure on the draft National Budget, also reduced by 16% salary and benefits of judges, and did a 6% reduction in salaries of all employees of the Judiciary Branch of Government. 

THE STANDARDIZATION of salaries and benefits of employees in government shall, according to the Committee, be extended to all state-owned enterprises. 

FOLLOWING ALL THE cuts in their view, the House of Representatives passed the 2019/2020 draft national budget at US$526 million or L$110.5 billion.

THE BUDGET is in the tune of US$526 million, which is almost US$7 million short of the US$532.9 million submitted by the Executive for scrutiny. 

Of the total US$526 million, tax revenue accounts for US$377.9, non-tax revenue, US$87.2 million and external resources accounts for US$60.8 million.

ONE BENEFIT OF all this harmonized draft budget will see the Liberian Government keep in its coffer a whopping US$3.5 million annually just from cuts alone from members of its bi-camera legislature. There would also be leftovers from cuts in the Judiciary Branch’s budget, too.

WHILE ALL OF THAT is a good news that had longed been desired by Liberians, this didn’t just come by the volition of the lawmakers, who have for years ignore the cries of Liberians that they (lawmakers) can’t be making so much in a country that most of its citizens live below the poverty line i.e, less than US$2 daily. 

It HAs been a long road and tough stance from some of Liberia’s international development partners to get members of the Legislature to come to this decision of drastic salary cut.

THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF) had set a benchmark that the government has to meet in order to help the nation recovers from this worst economic nightmare that the country is now experiencing. The nation’s economy is in the toilet at the moment. The House Joint Committee on Budget said it instituted several measures including salary reduction and omission of the contingency revenue portion just to satisfy the IMF’s standard.

THE US$10.4 MILLION was identified as additional revenue accounting for road fund arrears and contributions for State Owned Enterprise (SOEs), will have to be reserved in line with the Government’s standard for enrollment in the IMF program.

WE STRONGLY BELIEVE that in addition to the very rigorous mandate from the IMF, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s revelation did play a major part in hyping the public sentiment thereby joining pressure with the IMF to force the lawmakers to carry out the cuts. 

ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, who have just had two months of legislative experience as senator, announced his gross salary and benefits as senator. 

HE SAID THE BENEFITS and salary were disclosed to him in a hand-written letter given to him by Sen. Morris Saytumah, who chairs the Senate Ways, Means, and Finance Committee.

ACCORDING TO DILLON, the paper that Saytumah had allegedly handed to him, contained his salary and gross benefits subject to tax deduction and the accumulated amount was US$15,325 and US$ 12k after-tax deduction. He also said L$29k was his monthly salary.

WE WANT TO THANK the IMF and Sen. Dillon for helping some Liberians to think patriotically about their country. 

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