23 May 2014

Liberia: Standoff Over U.S.$73 Million

What appears to be a standoff between the two houses at the National Legislature has ensued after the Senate overwhelmingly rejected the House of Representatives' proposal for the allocation of US$73 million in the national budget for direct district impact projects across the country.

The House wants US$1 million to be allocated every budget year for each of the 73 districts in the country, excluding the US$200,000 being given to each of the counties for county development.

In a communication to the House of Representatives, the Senate said it rejected the House's proposal due to the continued budget shortfall the country is experiencing.

"The Plenary of the Senate hereby rejects the proposal for the placement of the amount mentioned in the national budget in these difficult times of our economy wherein the government of Liberia is experiencing a serious budgetary shortfall," the Senate communication noted. Some members of the Senate have justified their action, saying the House's action was unconstitutional because electoral districts are not constitutional and the US$73 million seems to suggest that the money is being appropriated for electoral districts.

According to our Legislative reporter, following the reading of the Senate rejection in the Plenary of the House of Representatives Thursday, the entire chambers went in disarray with majority members expressing disappointment over the Senate's action.

The representatives said the senators' action shows insensitivity to the plights of people they represent.

Some of the representatives including James Biney, Acarous M. Gray, Edwin M. Snowe, Gabriel Nyanka, Munah Pelham-Youngblood and Stephen Kafi argued that the Senate's action was based on ignorance and a clear attempt to ignore the sufferings of the masses.

They said their action has constitutional reliance and called on the Liberian senate to stop politicizing the need to improve the living conditions of the citizens.

Representative Biney and others said their reason for the proposal is to ensure that the impact of government is felt across the country, because the President cannot be present in every county at once to ensure development.

The Representatives said they need no approval from Senators before proposing budgetary allotment, vowing to do everything possible within their powers to include the US$73 million in the 2014/2015 budget.

On Monday during programs marking the resumption of the legislative working activities after that body's three-month constitutional break, Speaker Alex Tyler revealed plans by his office to propose a US$73 million into the National budget separate from the County Development Fund to be used for developmental project in each district.

Speaker Tyler said the appropriation for infrastructural development shall be in what he referred to as "ballpark figure" and that implementation of each project identified, be clearly and specifically vetted on a project-by-project basis and approved by the Legislature before final appropriation and implementation can be made.

"When one imagines that Gboe-pole Administrative District in lower Grand Gedeh County has never experienced a motor road, makes this proposal belated, but this is one of the ways or means we believe that the much needed development can reach and impact our people in rural Liberia, Tyler added."

The House Speaker also called for protection for the three branches of government in the National budget in exercising its constitutional mandate.

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