Monrovia — The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, says there is the need to critically look at the national security and political stabilization issues when effecting salary reduction as being done through the government's salary harmonization scheme.
According to Rep. Koffa, while the Ministry of Finance is bragging of increasing the salary of 14,000 persons through the salary harmonization process, it has failed to also disclose to the public that 10,000 civil servants are also experiencing massive salary deduction.
"They did not tell you that 10,000 people were going to see a pay decrease. Who are we kidding? The issue here is this: according to the UN, one Liberian feeds himself and nine other persons so you're affecting a hundred thousand people in a town where 300 people can cause protest or riot. We have to look at national security and political stability when we talk about salary deduction," Cllr. Koffa told FrontPageAfrica.
The wage harmonization program, according to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), entails fitting all government workers into a pay grade with seven steps. The grade covers all skillsets in Government as developed by the Civil Service Agency. The harmonization program abolished the basic and general allowance salary structures of the previous years, giving all government workers one pay. Where workers were previously paid with wide discrepancies, all workers under the harmonized bill will now be paid more equitably, with people of the same qualification and experience making about the same amount or in the same range.
Giving a Different Face
Cllr. Koffa said instead of cutting salaries, he expects the government to rather cut taxes and improve the purchasing power of Liberians as a means of dealing with the recession faced by the country instead of increasing the hardship of Liberians.
He said there is the need for government to reduce discretional spending and engage in more challenging investments like agriculture to support the budget rather than depending on aids coming from donors to support the National Budget.
The Ministry of Finance had warned that any attempt the Legislature to thwart the harmonization process could wreck the FY2019/2020 National Budget since the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU), World Bank and other donors may withdraw their support to the National Budget in tone of US$61 million for the FY2019/2020 Budget.
"To say that we're depending on US$61 million of budgetary support it's sad because we got to get up with programs now that would expand our economy. Let us expand our agriculture sector," he said.
He added: "If people get in the streets right now, what would the IMF say. The IMF is in Washington, they look at policy prescription without looking at the political effect and they are telling us to bite the bullet - yes, we can but you got to look at that from the context of a secure environment.
He said, the House of Representatives would not support salary reduction of citizens without any legal process.
"It is not in the interest of anyone to reduce this country to a nation of beggars," he said.
Cllr. Koffa added: "There are a lot of complaints; people have been sending us text messages complaining that their salaries have been reduced. We haven't seen anybody jubilating in the street because their salary went up or their salary remained the same. The people you are going to hear from and the most trouble that you'll have is going to come from the people whose salaries have been reduced."
Legislative Salary No Issue
Cllr. Koffa disassociated the issue of salary deduction for lawmakers as reason for opposing the government's salary harmonization. According to him, lawmakers do not have to be part of the harmonization plan for their salary to reduced.
"I am for Legislative reduction, in fact, US$2,500 is sufficient for me. I am for legislative salary reduction but we don't have to do it in the context of harmonization, we don't need that," he said.
He said lawmakers would still oppose the harmonization even if their salaries are reduced. He said if a bill is sent to the Legislature for the reduction of legislative pay, the bill would be passed and there would still be no support for the salary harmonization without a full understanding of what it is.