By Prince S. Nagbe
MONROVIA, May 3 (LINA) – Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah has said the 2018/2019 National Budget focuses on supporting key sectors and cutting non-essential recurrent costs to ensure that the government delivers on its Pro-Poor Agenda.
Tweah noted that the path to prosperity, which can affect the lives of all Liberians positively, can only be achieved if the government controls non-essential spending and prioritizes investment in the infrastructure and service delivery sector.
Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular Thursday press conference, Minister Tweah named ‘significant reductions in goods and services, subsidies and grants; a « pay reduction » sacrifice affecting the allowances of employees making over US$1,000 in the Executive Branch, as part of measures endorsed by the President and the cabinet on the expenditure side of the budget.
According to him, the cabinet also agreed to align the compensation of all public servants and officials of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), including commissions, autonomous and semi-autonomous entities with earnings above the ministerial pay scale to that of Central Government or cabinet ministers, among others.
« We have also endorsed measures on the revenue side of the budget which include reviews of the off-budget operating costs of SOEs and dividend arrangements, which include the impact of salary reductions to be approved by the President and the implementation of the Excise Law which will affect petroleum, tobacco and alcohol products, » Tweah emphasized.
He pointed out that the « Pay Reduction » sacrifice demonstrates the government’s commitment to promoting efficiency in the allocation of resources and has been a major driver in the reduction of compensation costs down to US$303.4 million and that money saved from such venture has been applied to the infrastructure sector.
Minister Tweah also revealed that the Executive has also agreed to authorize austerity measures in non-essential goods and services, including cuts on foreign travel, transport equipment, scratch cards and fuel, and it has preserved essential operational lines for goods and services in the current 2018/2019 budget for Health, Education and the Security Sector.
According to Minister Tweah, the increase in the amount appropriated for non-financial assets reflects the government’s commitment to invest in road works and other priority infrastructures.
He added that these expenditure measures have provided the fiscal space to facilitate aggressive investment in Public Sector Investment Programs (PSIPs).
He explained that the PSIPs amount to US$73.42 million, which is a 57 percent increase over the 2017/2018 fiscal budget appropriation of US$46.90 million, which included US$22 million for the national election and US$1.9 million for by-election costs.