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By Jerromie S Walters

President George Manneh Weah has signed into law the National Budget for the 2023 fiscal year following its controversial passage by the National Legislature.

On Monday, April 10, 2023, the President signed the budget of L$122,139,108,000.00, which is the same as US$782,943,000.00.

This followed months of scrutiny, including public hearings. Both houses of the 54th National Legislature concurred and submitted the budget to the Office of the President for signature, even though a few lawmakers had some concerns about not having adequate time to digest the budget.

Earlier, the Executive Branch of Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, submitted the national budget to the Legislature as required by law.

The 2023 National Budget accounts for three separate revenue envelopes, including tax revenue and non-tax revenue as well as external resources.

Accordingly, the budget subsequently becomes law once printed into handbills.

Following the passage of the national budget for 2023 by the House of Representatives, Montserrado County District #4 Representative Rustulyn Suacoco Dennis and other lawmakers expressed dismay over what they termed the speedy passage of the budget and complained that they (lawmakers) are not always afforded the opportunity to digest the budget.

The House of Representatives Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance submitted the revenue envelope at the 11th day sitting of the first quarter of the 6th session of the 54th National Legislature on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, and it was overwhelmingly voted and passed.

But according to the female lawmaker and other lawmakers, much wasn’t done by members of the House of Representatives, as the budget was not properly discussed and sufficient allocations weren’t made available for several essential government entities, including the Disaster Management Agency, the Public Works Ministry, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and a lot more.

As one of the two lawmakers that didn’t vote in favor of the passage of the budget, Representative Dennis said lawmakers are not always given the needed opportunity to digest the national budget.

Even though the Ways, Means, and Finance committee often discussed the expenditure and revenue components of the budget, the Montserrado County, District #4 Representative believes that the entire plenary of the House of Representatives should also have the opportunity to vigorously critique the budget.

“There’s always been a problem with the national budget since I got in the Legislature. It’s a very good instrument, and I think it’s one of the biggest instruments, and it should be analyzed, debated, and discussed”, she said.

She believes a single day is not sufficient for lawmakers at the House of Representatives to discuss the budget and further emphasized the need for additional time to be given to legislators at the House of Representatives to debate the budget.

Among several other issues she had, Representative Dennis referenced the budget of the office of the Minister of Education, which she said massively increased from 1.5 million last year to 8 million in the 2023 budget.

The Montserrado, District #4 Representative, further complained that the Budget Committee has failed to provide reports on-budget performance, a fiscal deficiency report, and a lot more, and they have not made them available over the last five years, through all of the various budgets that have been passed by the House of Representatives.

Though there were several concerns, ranging from the opening of the budget amongst lawmakers to know what’s in it, the increment of government hospitals, and learning institutions’ budgets across the 15 counties, and several other recommendations and suggestions from other lawmakers during discussions prior to the passage of the budget, it didn’t yield any fruits.

Despite the various concerns, a member of the House of Representatives budget committee, Representative Moses Acarous Gray, justified that the 2023 budget met the necessary legislative requirements and didn’t warrant being revisited by the full House.

During the voting process for the passage of the 2023 national budget, 35 lawmakers voted for the budget’s passage, 2 voted against it, and 3 abstained from the process.

The draft revenue envelope for FY-2023 was submitted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning late last year through the Executive branch at US$777,953,000.00, but following consultations through various budget hearings by the House’s committee on ways, means, and finance, the committee concluded a revenue envelope of US$794,532,682.00.

With a sum of US$794,532,682.00, the compensation of employees in the budget covers $USD295; 620; 939; and the use of goods and services covers USD118; 656, 601; and 83. The subsidy covers $USD4, 946, 654, 00; grants cover $USD 95, 984, 314, 00; social benefits cover $USD16, 524, 851, 00; and none financial assets cover $USD 176, 226, 409, 00. Domestic liabilities cover $USD30, 112, 551, 00, and Foreign liabilities cover $USD56, 460, 362, 00. 

According to the House’s Committee on Ways and Means and Finance, as per the mandate of Plenary, vigorous and thorough scrutiny of the draft budget for the fiscal year 2023, beginning with the revenue envelope, was conducted.

The Committee conducted hearings with all major revenue-generating agencies, including state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, the Liberia Maritime Authority, the National Port Authority, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, and other revenue-generating ministries, agencies, and commissions.


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