Liberia: President Weah Cites Reasons for delay In Submission of National Budget, Begs for Extra Time
CAPITOL HILL, Monrovia – President George Weah has called on the Liberian Legislature to grant him additional time to prepare a budget that is realistic and reflects government’s priorities in the wake of worsening macroeconomic outlook exacerbated by COVID-19 and Russia’s ruthless war on Ukraine.
The PFM Law mandates the President to submit the proposed budget and accompanying documents to the Legislature no later than two months before the start of the fiscal year.
By: Gerald C. Koinyeneh
Counting from now to the beginning of the new fiscal year on January 1, 2023, President Weah should have submitted the draft budget on November 1, 2022.
However, in in a communication to the Legislature, the President requested an additional 22 days to submit the draft budget.
Citing reasons for the delay, the Liberian leader said the Government has not concluded discussion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concerning Liberia’s next monetary and fiscal policy goals, which are largely aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability.
As a follow-up to the recent discussion at the World Bank’s annual meeting, he said an IMF 5th Review Mission under Liberia’s extended Credit Facility (ECF) program is currently in Monrovia to conclude its assessment of the government’s macroeconomic developments and performance; as well as its fiscal policy outcomes and projections for fiscal year 2023. He told the Legislature that under the ECF program, negotiations with the IMF needed to be concluded before finalizing the resource envelop for the next fiscal period.
On the impact of COVID-19 and the Russia/Ukraine war, the President said: “It is important to ensure that our resource envelope is realistic and reflects government’s priorities in the wake of the worsening macroeconomic outlook exacerbated by the lingering impacts of COVID-19, the Russia/Ukraine war and the increasing expenditure demands on our meager resources.”
This, he said, also includes ensuring adequate funding of the 2023 General and Presidential Elections, addressing extra budgetary pressures to subsidize the current rice situation in the country as well as to fund government’s institutions in order to remain operational without causing disruptions during the elections’ year.
“All these require agreeing the FY2023 Revenue and Expenditure Envelop with the IMF,” he stated.
In the House of Representatives, the President’s communication was greeted with mixed feelings. Following reading, Rep. P. Mike Jurry (District 1, Maryland County) called for the President’s communication to be placed on hold until Mr. Samuel Tweah, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning is invited to give more detail for delay in the submission of the draft budget.
But several of his colleagues argued there was no need to invite the finance minister as the President has already outlined the reasons for the delay. The communication was then accepted by a majority vote.
Similarly, in the Liberian Senate, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon (LP, Montserrado County), in a motion, called for the President’s request to be rejected and urged the Senate to mandate him to submit the draft resource envelope.
Senator Dillon argued that the President’s communication was belated as he waited until the deadline for submission expired.
However, Senator Gblebo Brown (Maryland County) countered that the Liberian leader’s excuse was genuine and called on the Senate to accept.
Newly Elected Senator Cllr. Joseph K. Jallah, also joining the debate, said the
Senate has no choice but to accept the President’s communication as he alone is clothed with the authority to craft the draft budget for legislative approval.
Senator Jallah said rejecting the President’s excuse will only lead to a stalemate and further prolong the submission and subsequent review of the budget for FY 2023.
Dillon’s motion was overturned, and the Senate also voted to grant the President’s excuse.