ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, President George Manneh Weah and his Cabinet broke one of the good news that most Liberians have been waiting to hear like the day before yesterday: we mean long before Wednesday; however, "Better late than never."
LET US BRING SOME OF OUR readers who missed this good news up to speed with the latest development they have been waiting for.
AFTER MEETING WITH HIS CABINET Ministers and other senior members of the Executive on Wednesday, the President's Press Office announced that he and his lieutenants had agreed that in continuation of his "pro-poor agenda, they adopted several measures to enhance the government's position in realization of its objective.
"THE MEASURES INCLUDE the reduction or standardization of salaries for ministers of government and heads of autonomous agencies. The decision was reached on Wednesday, April 25, during the Cabinet's second session at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, chaired by President Weah. The Cabinet also took a number of austerity measures aimed at the standardization salaries across government, especially within the Executive Branch."
THEY ALSO AGREED THAT no longer will any official of the government, including heads of autonomous agencies make US$10,000 or US$15,000 respectively.
"THE CABINET RESOLVED that heads of public corporations or autonomous agencies will make not more than US$7,800 as salary. Cabinet also took a decision for a 10 percent salary reduction across the board for Cabinet ministers - mainly those at the highest level of the Executive.
"THIS DECISION ACROSS the board will affect approximately 4,140 employees; including civil servants that make above US$1,000. The decision by the Cabinet will take effect in the pending 2018/2019 fiscal budget."
THE PRESIDENT AND HIS CABINET also found time to "exhaustively discussed the 2018/19 fiscal budget with a view of identifying means to support national development that will impact the lives of the poor people and to ensure that money is not wasted."
THE PRESIDENT IS DOING ALL he can to match his words with his actions. Remember, he told Liberians and international guests on his inauguration day -- Monday, January 22, 2018, "My greatest contribution to this country as President may not lie in the eloquence of my speeches, but will definitely lie in the quality of the decisions that I will make over the next six years to advance the lives of poor Liberians.
"I INTEND TO CONSTRUCT THE greatest machinery of pro-poor governance in the history of this country. I will do more than my fair share to meet your expectations. I ask you to meet mine, for I cannot do it alone."
ALSO DELIVERING HIS FIRST Annual Message to the nation, Mr. Weah announced that "in view of the very rapidly deteriorating situation of the economy, I am informing you today, with immediate effect, that I will reduce my salary and benefits by 25 percent and give the proceeds back to the Consolidated Fund for allocation and appropriation as they see fit."
AS PROVIDED FOR BY LAW, the office of the President is entitled to US$3,943,030 of the overall fiscal budget of the country in 12 months. The amount is apportioned as US$75,000 for basic salary, US$90,000 for special allowance, US$276,000 for means of foreign travels, while daily subsistence on foreign trips costs US$210,000.
OTHERS ARE FOREIGN TRAVEL incidental allowance, US$105,000; domestic travel means of travel, US$112,500; domestic travel incidental allowance, US$239,686; and fuel and lubricant for vehicles, US$330,000.
THE REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE of vehicles, US$85,000; stationery, US$20,000; printing, publication and binding, US$60,000; consultancy, US$550,000; special presidential projects, US$650,000; special operation services, US$270,000; and general allowance, US$119,844.
SO, THE 25 PERCENT REDUCTION of the total amount of US$3,943,030 that the President receives for his office would be US$985,757.5; this is nearly a million dollar that would be saved annually.
THE PRESIDENT ASKED every Liberian, especially his Ministers, in his inaugural address, to meet his effort -- they agreed to the cuts on Wednesday. Mr. President, thanks so much for doing all to match your words by actions.
THE PRESIDENT FURTHER ASKED top officials of other branches of the government, including the Judiciary and Legislature to see reason to make personal adjustments in their monthly incomes and return it to the government because of his new "pro-poor agenda," which is geared towards the welfare of the poor in the country.
WE WOULD LIKE TO JOIN all the Liberians commending the President for rallying his troupe to muster this political will, but we think more needs to still be done to further cut wastes in many portions of the fiscal budget, especially in the recurrent expenditure.
TO DO SO, MR. PRESIDENT, we would like you to take cue from some cuts your Sierra Leonean counterpart, Mr. Julius Maada Bio, made on the same day when you and Cabinet announced yours.
PRESIDENT MAADA BIO directed with immediate effect that "purchase of vehicles by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and public corporations is banned until a new Fleet Management Policy is put in place."
IN THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION under Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, we saw that this was one of the chaotic areas where every senior official used unspecified thousands of United States dollars to purchase vehicles for their likings and not necessarily because of saving money for vital developmental projects.
MR. MAADA BIO ALSO INSTRUCTED that payment for fuel, telephone and internet services to public servants in Ministries, Departments and Agencies for their residences are suspended with immediate effect pending a new benefit policy.
PRESIDENT WEAH, WE are sure you can take cue from this also. This is one of the areas that wastes can be seen. Thankfully, the GSM operators, which are providing both telephone and internet services, in the country now support your pro-poor policy. They provide a three-day calling service for just one US dollar or its equivalent in Liberian dollar. They also offer internet services for reasonable amounts. Direct your Finance and Development Planning Minister to begin the purchase of affordable services for use by the state.
THE SIERRA LEONEAN PRESIDENT also directed cuts in many other areas, including over overseas travels, awarding contracts, recruiting new civil servants, etc.
MR. PRESIDENT, THANKS for mustering the political will to take the initial steps toward putting some money back into the Consolidated Account, but we look forward to seeing you take more actions that will italicize the actual meaning of a Pro-poor agenda.