25 May 2014

Liberia: Crisis in Making - Liberia Lawmakers Hold Budget Hostage

Monrovia — What appears to be a serious crisis is gradually developing at the National Legislature as the two chambers (Senate and Representatives) continue to differ on the US$73 million proposed allocation suggested by the House of Representatives.

Upon return for their second seating the House of Representatives proposed a US$73 million direct district development allocation in the country's National budget and communicated to the upper House (Senate) but the senate in return rejected the proposal. The decision by the senate has led to mixed reactions amongst Representatives as some feel their colleagues' action is out of order and should not be accepted.

The Lawmakers during Thursday's discussion claimed that the decision to send the proposed communication to the senate was in the spirit of collaboration, but did not need their approval quoting Article 34 of the constitution as their reference.

Article 34 (I) says; "all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, impost duties or taxes and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills."

Using this provision and other provisions of the constitution as their reliance, the lawmakers individually spoke on the issue and stating that the senate misinterpreted their decision to inform them about what they want to do in the budget year 2014/15 in the spirit of collaboration.

Representative James Biney (NPP-District#1 Maryland County)

"I was never convinced that the senate is keen in supporting the effort that will indeed improve the lives of the people we represent.

"Mr. Speaker remembers that when the issue came about, it was my advice that we did not need to write the senate and your response was that a lot of our colleagues see it as being in the spirit of coordination. My observation at the time is what we are experiencing today. I listen to Senator Isaac Nyenabo and he said one of the reasons they rejected the proposal is because electoral districts are not constitutional and the US$73 million suggest that the money is being appropriated on the basis of electoral districts.

But Mr. Speaker allows me to correct the senate since he spoke for them, electoral districts are established on the basis of the constitution and the reason why 73 in my opinion Mr. Speaker, it is the believe of our people that each Representative is supposed to speak for a constituency and we have 73 constituencies and that money is intended to target the people that is what we call the equitable distribution of our nation's wealth.

Only if those senators understand that we are here not to follow the caprices of the executive respect the executive, but at the same time adequately represent our people to the extent that if we decide to take loan to take care of the needs of our people, that's the constitution of our country and I really think we are at the point where our senators need to understand that for too long our people have suffered and we need to stop playing politics.

What I want to say to my colleagues is that change comes with a cost if it will mean the budget will stay here it will and if we succeed in doing it the rest of the other Representatives that will come after us will have a model to follow and I am sure in 20 years no district will look the way it look so it is about time if the senate is not ready we must proceed that is why we will continue to Represent the people they can represent the executive".

Representative Gabriel Smith (INDP-District #2 Grand Bassa County)

"The writers of our constitution did not make a mistake in Article 34 D of the constitution, which gives the power of the budget to the House Representatives that was never a mistake because they knew the House of Representatives are the full embodiment of the people. They are people who are from the villages and slums of our counties therefore their views will be represented. We represent the people we are the people from the villages, slums and ghettos we know the needs of our people they are elites, we cannot continue to follow them in the guitars to continuously relegate our people to a state of nobody.

This formula that is derived under your leadership should not be trashed into the dungeon what the Senate is doing is calculated and it is a calculated attempt to perpetuate that philosophy that puts others in a state of nobodiness.

There are places in this country Mr. Speaker our brothers and sisters will never have an opportunity to sit in a classroom if we do not take this stand so in conclusion the House is on the right trajectory this is our fragrant responsibility devour upon us by the constitution of the Republic of Liberia and will not be stiffer or impeded by some of our colleagues in the senate. Let us not be deterred".

Moses Acarous Gray (CDC-District#8 Montserrado County) Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, we are the good people in this legislature. If you take a panoramic look at this district where the three branches of government are you will see over five slum communities which demonstrates underdevelopment because in the past development projects are being Presidentially driven.

Making comparative analysis with countries in Africa where legislators make an appropriation on behalf of their people it is unfortunate that people are counter arguing that this cannot work in Liberia because it has never worked for a hundred and more years.

My district is a victim of over thirty thousand because of the budget shortfall and all that is because the project for which the money is being allocated for is a Presidential driven project. If the need be let so fulfill and take that decision and let the senate run to the Supreme Court to interpret this provision of the constitution".

Munah Pelham-Youngblood (CDC-District #9- Montserrado County)

"Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues this is not politics as usual this is our people we are talking about in the Liberian constitution, Article 80 talks about constituencies not political districts the framer of the constitution felt this is where equity comes about we need to distribute the nation's wealth equitably.

This is the time we can say sure Liberia has been lifted, but can we say the lives of the people in rural parts of the country have been lifted? This is not politics, we are in democracy of representation and since we are representing the people we are under obligation to talk for our people. It is about time that we ensure that the need of our people is addressed through the budget".

Edwin Snowe (INDP-District$6 Montserrado County)

"Mr. Speaker, we have the authority to appropriate the six hundred million dollars in the entire budget if the Liberian people can trust us with the entire budget, why question us for giving back 73 to our people for development.

We have an obligation to our people, let's not be deterred if it will mean we stay here until October when they are having elections before we pass that so be it but the Liberian people must benefit. We are not asking for salary increase, new vehicles or for us to go implement projects we are saying put the money in the budget the executive Branch will implement the projects through their respective agencies and Ministries".

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