28 January 2014

Liberia: Ellen Admits Underinvestment

Delivering her State of the Nation Address to the 53rd Legislature Monday on Capitol Hill, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf publicly admitted that the government has underinvested in both the public and private sectors.

"Agriculture remains a key sector of the economy for local employment creation, poverty reduction, food security and income generation, as over 60 percent of the population depends on this sector for livelihood.

Food security is listed as a national priority, but we admit that there has been an under-investment in both the public and private sectors," she told the Lawmakers.

Consistent with national priority, the Liberian leader, however, said the Agriculture Ministry has mobilized support for small holders with production potentials in rubber, coffee and cocoa as they will have a positive impact on export and employment.

She had earlier disclosed during the speech that expenditure for the budget year 2012/2013 totaled $593m, which, according to her, was an increase of 23 percent over the previous year.

She reminded the Lawmakers that if government is to achieve its development goals and respond to the calls of citizens for better roads, more lights -available and affordable power, more water, schools and more hospitals, it must reduce the wage in recurrent expenditures and increase public sector investment to the level of minimum annual US$150m as required to achieve its targets.

The Liberian leader pleaded with lawmakers to exercise conscience and consultation in their review and action on the budget submitted by the Executive Branch in this political year, reminding them that the government wants development in rural areas, but that it could only be achieved through a realistic budget process and a Collaboratory process that recognizes respective constitutional mandates.

Having complied with the requirement of the HIPC Program, which led to the waiver of a significant portion of Liberia's external debts, President Sirleaf said Liberia is able to access financial [micro loans] to be able to increase public sector investment with fiscal prudent borrowing aimed solely at adjusting the infrastructure deficit.

For the first time, she said in the Fiscal Year 2012/2013, a budget was prepared using a medium term expenditure framework; the process that program's revenues and expenditures over a three year period, in alignment with the Agenda for Transformation.

The President, however, assured that government will implement stringent guidelines relating to state-owned enterprises, which she vowed will no longer be allowed to make discretionary disbursing approved by self-driven boards that are not in conformity with government's priority and goals.

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