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As you are aware the fiscal year 2009/2010 draft budget of the Republic of Liberia, (RL) is being debated in the National Legislature at the Capitol Building on Capital Hill, Monrovia, Liberia. There has been motivation of much public interest in the current draft national budget debate. This attraction has been shown from discussions at the budget hearing in the Legislature, feedbacks from that budget hearing and arguments; all of which have been expressed in the local daily newspapers and the other local media in Liberia.
In all this development, what one can state about the growing public interest in the draft budget debate is the motivation that the budgeting process itself has been promoting.
For example, consider the fact that the executive branch of government had delivered the draft budget to the Legislature for passing into law before it becomes binding document on the Government of Liberia (GOL) to execute in the fiscal 2009/2010, which is normal. However, an added advantage which needs to be noticeable has been that the Ministry of Finance, RL., has published the draft budget on its website (www.mofliberia.org/), certainly after it had been delivered to the Legislature.
Publication of the draft budget on the website brings improvement to the budget hearing, because instead of the budget being in government and legislative circle only, it is now in the domain of the Liberia public – - the public can also access it from that website of the ministry. What such access has done to the budgeting process is that it has enabled public review and debates as they have been going on in the local daily newspapers and other media in Liberia.
The other issue of consideration is a change brought in the budget hearing taking place in the Capitol Building in Monrovia, Liberia. The Joint Budget Committee of the House of Representatives and Senate has moved the budget hearing forward by inviting professional career Liberians to the hearing. A Liberian banking and financial expert indicated to this blog that two professors of the University of Liberia (UL) were called to the budget hearing by the Committee. As a result, it is obvious the university professors gave expert review of the draft budget for the Legislature. All this indicates how the budgeting process is becoming to he open in Liberia.
However, what is the implication of all this development for the GOL? In defending allotments in the draft budget for their various ministries and autonomous agencies of GOL, some cabinet ministers and autonomous agency head appeared not to be aware of this openness of the budgeting process.
Particular incidences worth highlighting here are the extra over half of million United States dollars, replication of expenditure in allotments for the national police, no indication of scholarships for Liberian students in the allotments of the Ministry of Education , which were disclosed in the draft budget by the Legislature at the budget hearing. The Ministry of Finance, the national police, and Ministry of Education should have been aware that given the fact that the budgeting process is open to the Liberian public, these are issues that could easily come in questions from across the floor at the budget hearing.
As such GOL ministries and autonomous agencies need to open up with their budget preparations, because this budgeting process has taken the national budget of Liberia beyond the legislative and government circle into the public domain. Rather in the past, passing into law of the fiscal year budget of GOL was issue between the Executive Branch of Government and the national Legislature. When the budget was passed into law, then it would be announced on the radio and carried in the local newspapers for the Liberian public.
In view of the change, the departments, units and sections of government ministries and autonomous agencies must be involved with estimations of expenditures to be submitted for the fiscal year budget preparation by the Ministry of Finance.
By doing that, ministers and heads of autonomous will liberalize the budgeting process within their own institutions, they will be adequately equip to discuss and defend their allotments, and avoid some grilling they have been receiving at the fiscal year 2009/2010 draft budget hearing.
About a week today, the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) of the Republic of Liberia was giving public review; after the first period of operation, by the Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs (MPEA). On Thursday June 4, 2009, the MPEA held a conference at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, during which the ministry discussed the level of achievement in implementation of the PRS’s Four Pillars. As the MPEA revealed, and which the Liberian press including the web media Front Page Africa had reported the next morning, Friday June 5, 2009, the GOL had targeted 107 deliverables under the four pillars of the PRS to be implemented in the first year period, which began from April 2008. Of the 107 deliverables, the GOL was on target with 13.1 percent, however, it was off target with the remaining 68.7.
In April 2008, the GOL launched the PRS to be implemented in three year period – through June 30, 2011. It symbolizes a national vision, and it also embodies national development agenda for rebuilding Liberia.
As Madam President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s message in the PRS indicates, by June 30, 2011, the GOL want Liberia to be a country where a child can safely go to school with qualified teachers, get medicine, study by electricity, and safe drinking water – this is a vision by all means of where Liberians through theirs government want to see Liberia be in term of development in the future. In addition, "the PRS lays the groundwork for making sure that the child’s parents have a fine road to carry their goods to market, and can participate in a local government that is vested with increasing responsibility and resources." And indeed, implementation of the four pillars of the PRS will be a concretion in the three year period – the growth and development of Liberia in the future; of the statement above. These four pillars are Security, Economic Revitalization, Governance and Rule of Law, Infrastructure and Basic Services.
The PRS of Liberia is good because it creates expectation of where Liberia is to go in term of national development, since it was prepared by the GOL.
In fact most private sectors and
stakeholders, including their donor partners, of the rest of the world
wait for similar kind of macroeconomic frameworks of their individual
countries’ economies to know in which directions theirs national
governments are taking the countries’ economies. Based on such official source of information on national development, businesses, non-governmental organizations (ngos), and other stakeholders can make and implement well informed investment decisions and action plans in their sectors of the economies.
Despite the lag behind with implementation, it was good GOL could come out with this early review after the first period of operation. Because that early release of review has given ample chance for the GOL, donor partners, and the others – stakeholders of Liberia to take critical interest in the PRS itself, and for reviews and analyzes on how the public sector, private sector, and the third sector -that is the stakeholders, of Liberia can jointly participate in the PRS’ implementation, which has lying in it a macroeconomic framework for Liberia’s growth and development in a three year period – since April 2008 through June 30, 2011.
It is for this reason, we review some lapses that we have observed about the PRS itself, and its implementation. Although the GOL stated that participation in preparation of the PRS document was inclusive, the MPEA’s press conference we did not see full ownership of private sector in implementation of the PRS. The failures and successes with implementation were mostly attributed to the public sector – the GOL, or National Legislature of Liberia. This indicates that PRS is still official document for the policymakers; like with past governments. For clarification of this point of view, please go to Front Page Africa’s stories on Friday June 5, 2009.
We believe the PRS is good for Liberia development. This is why we suggest more private ownership of its implementation, and the GOL must see into it that involvement takes place. For this reason, we continue with review and analysis of each of the four pillars.