By Reuben Sei Waylaun
In order to ensure that the Liberian budget adequately supports education, health, infrastructure and public sector development, including adhering to its resoundingly and frequently echoed pro-poor agenda, the Liberia Media Development Initiative (LMDI), a local group involved with public information and media development activities, along with Internews, an international media development group, and the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia(CENTAL), an integrity institution working in and out of Liberia, Wednesday held a one day media dialogue on the country’s 2018/2018 national budget, a proposed financial instrument that was recently passed by the Liberian legislature at the amount of US$570M.
Nearly 200 fellows of Internews and other stakeholder’s organizations met at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship and carried out an interactive discourse on how the legislature may improve the sectors before the budget finally gets approval from President George Weah. Under the Liberian law, if the National Legislature passes the national budget and the President approves, the document should be printed into handbill after 21 working days, and stakeholders are concerned that the important financial instrument, despite meeting little improvements in education and health, that more needs to be done to improving the general welfare of Liberians, many of them, currently grappling with skyrocketing inflation in the country.
“This is your time today that you have to sit with your lawmakers to discuss issues and or concerns that you have relative to the national budget, and I urge you to open your minds and ask questions as we go along with this dialogue,” John Kollie, Executive Director of the Liberia Media Development (LMD) told participants in his opening comments.
“This forum is intended to allow you ask all of the critical questions, clarifications on issues that you have with respect to the budget, which is a public document,” John Kollie said. He also thanked partners for collaborating with the organization in such dialogue in which he described as ‘intensive and fruitful’.
Kollie particularly hailed the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) for sponsoring such initiative.
Also speaking at the one-day budget symposium, Representative Francis Dopoh who is also a member of the House of Representatives’ joint committees on ways, means, finance and development said the 2018/2019 fiscal instrument, which was recently passed from US$562.2M to US$570M, has an amount of US$8million increment.
The projection, according to the River Gee Legislator, who is also member of the legislature’s Public Account Committee (PAC), was added to the initial projection due to an extra US$30 Million that was provided by the European Union (EU-donor funding).
Representative Dopoh however cautioned against putting more pressure on the government as the national budget envelop is too small to handle all of the country’s immediate priorities. He, nonetheless, assured participants at the meeting the legislature will shortly pass on key policies that would eventually address the country’s economic woes, including its hiked inflation, as well as addressing issues of job provision for thousands of Liberian youths.
For their part, partners to the forum, including Internews, USAID, LMDI and CENTAL reaffirmed their support to a process that would allow citizens to participate in the budget discourse, noting that such would increase the voice of the people in the governance sphere of the country.