30 April 2019

Liberia: Lawmakers Must Accept Prevailing Realities

No one would have ever thought that a sitting lawmaker of the governing Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Representative Acarous Moses Gray will be the first member of the House under the Weah-led administration to suggest cuts in lawmakers' benefits ranging from 10 or 20 percent. But this is exactly what he's recommending for his colleagues and himself, given current economic realities.

The Montserrado County District#8 Representative, who until his ascendency to the House in 2011 had been a bitter critic of the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, wants these cuts to affect domestic, medical, travel and other benefits that are placed in United States currency category.

He made the suggestion in a news conference Monday at his office on Capitol Hill, disclosing that a formal communication has been written to Plenary, recommending benefits cuts. According to Representative Gray, revenue that will be generated from these adjustments will go toward development to improve citizens' lives.

The reality is, the general economic situation in the country right now is very unfavorable, and we just can't continue with business as usual on Capitol Hill. This means members of the 54th Legislature currently earning fabulous salary and benefits should be willing to share with those at the lowest echelon of society, who hardly make ends meet.

Lawmakers should accept the prevailing realities and make the necessary sacrifices to keep the government and the state moving. The realities are the government does not have the cash to maintain the wage bill; with current revenue intake at US$400 million, it is difficult, if not impossible to sustain a national budget of US$570 million.

The other realities are hospitals across the country are without drugs, electricity, logistics and adequate trained personnel; public schools are not getting supplies anymore; civil servants will now have to wait for 60 days, instead of 31 days, to get their monthly salary; students on foreign scholarships are now at the mercy of their host countries because our government can't afford to provide them subsidy.

We could go on naming more and more or citing tons of reasons why we think the benefits cuts are necessary and fellow lawmakers should join Representative Gray in having these cuts implemented, for the sake of our country. That's mature leadership.

No, no, we must understand that nobody is going to stack monies in bags, put them on a plane and bring them here to develop Liberia. Partners may provide assistance time and time again, but we Liberians must learn to take the bull by the horn. We must become drivers of our own destiny by being willing to make sacrifices when times are tough. And times are tough right now; aren't they?

We understand the Executive is already effecting salary cuts from senior officials to redirect those funds to desperately needed areas. And this should be commended. When times are good, these salary structures may make sense, but not times like these when a 25kg bag of rice is being sold in the market for almost 2,500 LRD in Monrovia and more than this in the counties.

Representative Gray should be encouraged for mustering courage enough in coming out with this recommendation in the House, which we believe is not only life-saving, but a mark of responsible leadership.

Liberia

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