24 February 2014

Liberia: Minister Makes Contradictions

Finance Minister Amara Konneh Tuesday provided series of contradictions on the status of the economy when he appeared before the House of Representatives.

Minister Konneh said the country's national budget was under serious pressure due to several factors, and said government institutions will experience cuts from their various operational budgets.

The Finance Minster said the realization of some projections made in the 2013/2014 fiscal budget was not forthcoming.

According to him, some revenue generating institutions of government were reluctant in making available their contributions to the budget.

He made specific reference to the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC).

Our reporter said following Minister Konneh's comment about the budget being under pressure, the Minister again said the economy is stable; as such, there is no need for panic.

"Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker and members of the honorable House of Representatives, the economy is strong; I don't have to worry," the Finance Minister assured.

But lawmakers considered the Minister's statement as a contradiction, considering the budget shortfall faced by government.

"Mr. Minister, you just told us that our budget was under serious pressure and that we should expect some cuts in our various budgets and now you are again telling us that we should not worry, how can you compromise these two statements... don't worry but expect cut?" Representative Matthew Zarzar of Sinoe County asked.

Following a barrage of questions about the state of the country's economy, Minister Konneh in an apparent angry mood told the representatives not to politicize the economy because it is stable.

He said instead of shifting blames and politicizing the economy, it is time that policymakers including the legislature take the needed steps to address challenges facing the economy.

The Finance Minister said one of the possible ways of ensuring that the country's budget is not pressurized is to invest in potential revenue generating sectors and institutions, especially agriculture.

He said the Ministry is putting in place mechanisms, such as enforcing tax collection to ensure growth in revenue generation.

Minister Konneh said Liberia is experiencing serious tax evasion, and appealed to the legislators to give the needed support to the Ministry to ensure compliance by revenue generating institutions and taxpayers.

Commenting on the hike in the Liberian dollar against the United States dollar, Minister Konneh attributed it to the presence of more Liberian dollars on the market than that of the United States dollars.

The Finance Minister claimed that it is difficult to control the exchange rate because Liberia is a dollarized nation.


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