Liberia: Civil Society Organizations Submit Shadow Budget Operation Paper to Govt.

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MONROVIA – Several Civil Society Organizations have presented to the Ministry of Finance a “Shadow” Budget Option Paper. The Paper conveys the dreams and aspirations of citizens to be reflected in how the National Budget is developed and how the meager financial resources are distributed.

In doing so, it begins with analysis of government development policies, revenue and expenditure trends and proposition of a set of recommendations for implementation beginning in FY2020/2021. The first development policy analyzed is the next five-year National Development Plan, the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) 2018-2023.

The analysis focused on the brief background contexts of Liberia’s under-development history, key aspirations and development outcomes of the PAPD, the high-level national targets and specifics indicators, targets, objectives and interventions in the health and education sectors.

The second development policy analyzed is the 5-Year Education Sector Plan, Getting to Best Education Sector Plan 2017-2021. The Education Sector Plan set an ambitious commitment for Liberia and defined key strategic goals to achieve over the five-year period. This include priorities for early childhood education, primary and secondary education, provision of quality education services, trained and specialized classroom teachers, elimination of “ghost names” from the payroll and a well-managed education system.

The last development policy analyzed is the 7-year Health Sector Plan, Investment Plan for Building a Resilient Health System in Liberia 2015-2021. This development policy comprehensively described the capabilities of the pre-war status of the health sector, the efforts and gains made after the first democratically elected government in 2006, the devastating effects of EVD outbreak in 2014 and the new investment plan for an improved, effective, efficient, service delivery oriented and a publicly trusted health delivery system for Liberia.

The revenue and expenditure sections provide trend analyses of forecasted estimates and actuals realized over a period of five years, beginning from FY2014/15 to FY2018/19. The publicly available approved national budget books and revenue annual estimates were used for these analyses.

 “Other sources of the analysis include publications of the Central Bank of Liberia, the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning and the International Monetary Fund. Given the results from these analyses coupled with consultative engagements with citizens and other CSOs representatives, a number of proposals or options for revenue, expenditures, and investments are recommended for consideration by the Government of Liberia.

“These recommendations are the concerns and aspirations of a cross-section of the citizenry whose views and opinions were sampled out. 2.0 Background and Rationale Public participation is very cardinal to the budget process as it makes government more accountable and responsive to its citizens. It also provides an opportunity for citizens to make inputs in identifying their priorities as well as improve their perception of the performance of the government.

The CSO presentation also stressed that Citizens play a critical role in advocating and helping to make public institutions more transparent, accountable and effective, as well as contributing innovative solutions to complex development challenges (World Bank Group). Hence, the recognition that citizen have both rights and responsibility to contribute to decision making processes that affect their wellbeing is fundamental to public financial management.

While citizens’ participation is still relatively new, some African countries are making frantic efforts to ensuring that they get on par with other countries around the world. However, many others including Liberia are still lagging behind in providing more effective opportunities for citizens to participate in fiscal management, especially during the budget cycle.

“We call on the Government of Liberia to adopt a more conservative revenue forecasting method rather than being overly ambitious. We also call on the Government to give timely and due consideration as priority of amending certain provisions of the Revised Revenue Code of 2011 with the aim of implementing the tax reforms indicated in the DRMS.

“This should include a more broader and comprehensive tax regime to comply with regional counterparts, significant revision of the list of beneficiaries under the tax exemptions as a result of Executive Orders. Lastly, the Government of Liberia should initiate and sustain a more robust partnership with bilateral and multilateral donors in order to breach its domestic revenue gap. Without a credible and accurate revenue estimate, the realization of its ambitious development plan will be far fetch.”

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