2 September 2013

Liberia: Unofficial or Official Visit - Konneh Meets Bassa Administrators, Plans Revenue Collection Strategy

Liberia's Finance Minister, Amara Konneh's unofficial visit to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County over the weekend began seemingly official when he told journalists that he had two separate meetings with the administrators of the county and officials of the county youth caucus about series of issues that are significant to the economic and youth development agenda of the county.

Minister Konneh described the meetings as 'fruitful' and said the meeting with the county administration was intended to find ways for the Ministry of Finance and the County administration to form a partnership to increase revenue generation.

He said a one day round table discussion involving youths, elders, business community, and the private sector is expected soon in Buchanan to brainstorm ways and ideas to effectuate real estate tax collection and give support to the revenue collectors in other to boast revenue generation in Grand Bassa County.

Said Min. Konneh: The new thing we are going to be introducing is that: when the county officials and our people (revenue collectors) work hard to raise more money, the central government will not take all of that revenue. We will leave some of it here for development purposes for the city."

Minister Konneh's proposal about leaving back fraction of revenue collected in the county for the local administration to manage might not be in accordance with the public financial management policy but this idea seems welcomed by the Grand Bassa administration.

According to the plan, the Ministry of Finance and Grand Bassa County administration will entered a Memorandum of Understanding so that when revenue collected in the county exceeds the Ministry's target, the rest can be used to underwrite projects identified by the county and done in the interest of the people.

Minister Konneh named possible projects that might be targeted if the plan works as: completing the sidewalks in Buchanan City, paving some of the streets, and building a children playground. The Minister said such funds could be allotted by structuring it in the budget and it will be reflected as the county's contribution to the raising of revenue.

"It's an incentive for tax payers to pay their taxes because they can see some of the monies at work right behind their back yard," Min. Konneh told journalists.

The 'new innovation' to increase revenue collection is expected to be implemented in four cities: Monrovia, Kakata, Gbarnga and Buchanan cities. Min. Konneh said the idea should not be misconstrue as a policy, adding that when this new idea becomes a policy the Finance Ministry will layout the implementation details, governance and accountability mechanism.

As it stands, the government has done block mapping of the city to know the number of houses in the city. Min. Konneh said, this will give an idea of how much revenue can be collected.

Youths And Motorcyclists Concerns

Minister Konneh's plate was over flowing when requests came from Bassa Youth Caucus, the local Motorcycle union and the Community College students. Although he also described the meeting as fruitful, the Finance minister said he does not want to make any promises, however; he assured that he has listen to their concerns and will work with the ministry of youth and sports and find the necessary intervention.

Min. Konneh said motorcyclists union stressed the need to have a parking station, while students of the Grand Bassa Community College (GBCC) identified transportation as a major problem and they also have the desire to build a student center for intellectual proposes. For their part, the Bassa Youth Caucus wants their center furnished and assistance to complete an already existing project in the county.

The Finance Minister described his interaction with the groups as a 'listening tour'. He said he understands that the country's economy is not impacting everybody positively especially the young people but reemphasized government's willingness to continue making change and that the young people should know that the government has not forgotten them.

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