18 June 2019

Liberia: 2019-2020 Budget Submission in Doubt

The much expected 2019-2020 Fiscal Year National Budget which was to be submitted on Monday, June 17, 2019, has been deferred again thus raising doubts about its timely submission to the Legislature.

The 2018/2019 FY Budget is expected to lapse in 12 days. Therefore, any prolonged delay in its submission to the Legislature would ultimately delay its ratification since deliberations and final scrutiny may likely extend beyond 30 days.

According to the communication from President George M. Weah, dated April 23, 2019, the President requested a 45-day extension of the deadline for the submission of the 2019-2020 budget from Tuesday, April 30, to Saturday, June 15, 2019.

It may be recalled that in the President's communication which was read on Thursday, May 2 -- the 27th day sitting of the House -- he made reference to the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reform Law, which mandates the Executive, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, to present the National Budget to the House of Representatives on the 30th of April of each year for the purpose of strengthening greater transparency and accountability around public resources, but extended his regrets.

The President argued that the delay in the presentation of 2019/2020 Fiscal Budget by six weeks (45 days), would enable him (the Chief Executive) to present an all-inclusive national budget against a backdrop of negative economic forecasts.

The House of Representatives also voted for the Committees on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and the Public Accounts & Expenditure to coordinate with the Executive relative to emergent issues in the 2019-2020 National Budget.

Given the 45-day delay, the submission of the 2019-2020 FY Budget was expected on Monday, June 17, 2019, but was not delivered.

A member of the House's Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the 2019-2020 FY Budget "would not be submitted today (Monday)" but probably this week or next week.

The lawmaker could not disclose whether a formal communication was written to the House's Speaker for an additional deferment after the 45 days' extension and the House is yet to confirm whether it received a formal deferral communication from the President.

Meanwhile, financial experts have argued that the continued delay in the budget will cause the government's expenditure to be restricted to functional spending, which will be one-twelfth of the previous (2019-2020) budget. The budget calendar cycle is from July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020.

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