Finance Minister Amara Konneh says the Liberian government remains committed to addressing the needs of its people utilizing resources allocated for the next budget period.
Speaking during a Government of Liberia /Donor technical meeting held in Monrovia recently, Minister Konneh stressed that the proposed budget submitted to the National Legislature highlights specific interventions and key deliverables.
The donor technical meeting brought together donor counterparts supporting the Liberian government in the areas of governance, human development, economic transformation and cross cutting issues, among others.
Providing a breakdown of the proposed budget to donor partners during the meeting, Minister Konneh mentioned that the 18.25 million dollars proposed by the Executive in response to the 73million dollars bill passed by the Legislature for Counties and districts development, will be tied to other big priority areas such as increasing police presence and constructing new barracks in rural areas, as well as constructing housing facilities for rural teachers and health workers to attract qualified professionals in these areas.
"We are still awaiting response from the Legislature on the proposed 18.25million and hope it will be soon". He said the budget is now developed to reduce unnecessary spending on fuel and lubricants to individual government officials.
Touching on elections, Minister Konneh pointed out that the Government has decided to open an escrow account for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to meet procurement demands ensuring that the Electioneering process is not tied to difficulties in the budget process. "2014 Senatorial Election will determine whether Liberia is ready for 2017"Minister Konneh said.
In response to the Outbreak of Ebola in the Country, Minister Konneh informed donor partners that 6million dollars has been allocated as contingency response, but also recognizing other emergencies such as flooding, which he says, the government will do its best to respond quickly.
Regarding roads, he mentioned that the Ministry of Public Works lacks the capacity to maintain roads; therefore, outsourcing remains the best alternative for now. He however indicated that the government intends to re-introduce maintenance of roads at the local level, utilizing the current capacity of the Ministry of National Defense, while gradually building up the capacity of the Ministry of Public Works.
He said 3million dollars has been placed in the budget to specifically target road maintenance but using equipment donated to the Ministry of Defense by the Government of China adding, that personnel will be trained on the use of these equipment to help open up feeder roads, while the government works towards ensuring that the Public Works Ministry be able to purchase its own equipment.
On the Constitutional Review process, Minister Konneh said the government is working closely with the Committee on what it takes to hold the constitutional review conference. He also intimated that loop holes under the issue of fiscal space are being addressed with policies on tax and duty free regimes being put into place, with a focus also on building human resource capacities, payroll reforms and grading structures to maximize efficiency and ensuring that the system works better.
Commenting briefly on the merger of the Finance and Planning Ministries, Minister Konneh hinted that assessment and evaluation of staff is on-going, while voluntary severance benefits and separation packages are being paid.
According to him, they are closely working with the Civil Service Agency to make the packages attractive, while the reform process is being enhanced to ensure that the New Ministry and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) become highly professional entities.
The Finance Minister then acknowledged the level of support and contributions being made to Liberia's reform processes by donor partners, and appealed to partners to increase their support to major areas of interventions. Donor Representatives attending the meeting included the United Nations System, United States Government, European Union, World Bank, and the Government of Sweden, among others.
The meeting was co-chaired by the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General of UNMIL Antonio Vigilante who also serves as the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.