Liberia: VP Taylor Wants ‘Special Preference’ for Teachers & Health Workers in Salary Harmonization Scheme
Monrovia – Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor has broken silence on the ongoing debate about the harmonization of government employees’ salaries, calling for “special preference” to be given the health and educational sectors.
Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]
The “harmonization” scheme continues to receive stiff resistance ever since it was introduced by President George Weah’s administration.
The government claims the move is being backed by the International Monetary Fund as a means of reducing the already bloated wage bill.
The controversial policy has caused massive cuts in the salary of civil servants and several other top officials of ministries and agencies, raising concerns that the scheme will further strain the already depreciating purchasing power of civil servants and exacerbate hardship.
Health workers and teachers have expressed outrage as they threaten go-slow action.
At the Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County, teachers have dropped chalk, a situation which prompted students of the university to stage a protest in the city on Monday and shut down major government offices in the county.
There have also been repeated threats from faculty and teachers of the University of Liberia. They are also are contemplating protest if their salaries are sliced.
It is unclear whether health workers have also been affected by the harmonization scheme, but FrontPageAfrica learns that they are prepared to resist any attempt by initiating a nationwide protest.
‘Some Preference’ For Health, Education Sectors
And speaking in defense of the health sector on Tuesday, August 27 at the start of the second edition of the National Scientific Conference in Monrovia, Vice President Taylor openly called for health workers and teachers to be exempted from the harmonization process.
Personally referring to Senator Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County, who was also attending the conference, Madam Taylor emphasized that health and educational sector “must be given some preference”.
Said VP Taylor: “As the national legislature debates the harmonization of salaries, I hope you will add your very strong voice to ensure that those in the health sector – which includes not only nurses and doctors but administrators who must ensure that funding is paid and programs are done in order to make the health system works but also to the universities’ professors – they have also raised up issues, and you [Senator Coleman] are a member of that group – let the educational sector, in order for us to do Science and expand – must also be given some preference”.
She admonished Senator Coleman, who is also the Chair on the Senate committee on Health and a member of the Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning committee, to “use your voice to ensure that these sectors are protected in a way.”
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has argued that the process is expected to increase salaries of civil servants of the health and security sectors who had been grossly underpaid.
However, the Vice President’s stance on the trending controversial policy birthed by the Executive epitomizes her divergent view on the government’s fiscal policy.
“As the national legislature debates the harmonization of salaries, I hope you will add your very strong voice to ensure that those in the health sector – which includes not only nurses and doctors but administrators who must ensure that funding is paid and programs are done in order to make the health system works but also to the universities’ professors – they have also raised up issues, and you [Senator Coleman] are a member of that group – let the educational sector, in order for us to do Science and expand – must also be given some preference”.– Jewel Howard-Taylor, Vice President, Liberia
‘A Gross Violation’
Her comment comes on the back foot of several other condemnations from the Legislature who has termed the “harmonization” as “a gross violation” of Article 34 of the Constitution and the Public Financial Management Act of 2009.
Senator Thomas Fallah, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and Public Accounts & Expenditure of the House and Senate which is supervising the ongoing 2019/2020 budget hearing recently warned the MFDP to discontinue the “harmonization”.
“I would like to give a strait jacket instruction in line with the authority that we have, that this House of Representatives, invoking those provisions that are available to us informing the authority of the Ministry of Finance to put an immediate halt if at all it is happening. To invite the Minister will cause delay,” Senator Fallah said.
Also, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa on Monday called for a “critically look” at national security and political stabilization issues as the salary harmonization scheme is being effectuated.
He said although the MFDP is pointing to the employment of 14,000 persons through the salary harmonization process, it has, meanwhile, failed weigh-in on the ramifications.
Said Rep. Koffa: “They did not tell you that 10,000 people were going to see a pay decrease… the issue here is this: according to the UN, one Liberian feeds himself and nine other persons so you’re affecting a hundred thousand people in a town where 300 people can cause protest or riot. We have to look at national security and political stability when we talk about salary deduction.”
No Show for Tweah
Meanwhile, MFDP Minister Samuel Tweah, who was expected to answer to questions from lawmakers on Tuesday about the harmonization process, failed to show-up at the Capitol.
Tweah’s Deputy for Fiscal Affairs, Samora Wolokolie wrote the House on Tuesday pleading that the Minister had travel out of the country and would be available Thursday, August 29.