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The executive branch of government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has submitted to the legislature the draft 2017/2018 national budget for passage into law.

Making the submission Monday, May 22, 2017 on Capitol Hill to House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay, Deputy Finance Minister for Budget and acting Minister of Finance, Tanneh Brumson said the formulation of the draft national budget has been exceptionally constrained.

Deputy Minister Brumson said the draft national budget has been prepared in a framework which addresses critical public expenditure demands as the country faces two major transitions, the 2017 presidential and legislative elections and the United Nations Mission in Liberia drawdown.

“The formulation of this draft national budget has been exceptionally constrained, not only by the impacts of the slow post-EVD economic recovery and unfavorable external and domestic macroeconomic conditions, but also the increasing expenditure demands placed on it. Despite these challenges and a constrained fiscal space, the committed remains committed to the delivery of critical public services, as well as, the completion of ongoing projects in line with the national development plan,” Brumson stressed.

The deputy minister disclosed that the total revenue estimate for fiscal year 2017/18 is US$ 526.5 million, constituting 12.3% reduction from the previous budget 2016/17 approved in the tone of US$600.2 million.

She further revealed that the total resource envelop is comprised of US$483.7 million in revenue raised from domestic sources (taxes and non-tax revenue), US$37.9 million in grant from external sources and US$4.8 million in contingent revenue from domestic resources.

“Non-tax revenue of US$90.2 million is projected to decrease by 8.2 percent compared to the US$98.3 million approved in the fiscal year 2016/17 budget. This is an improvement to the current year-end estimate and is driven by anticipated increases in petroleum storage fees, forestry, mineral mining, cellular mobile networks, as well as excepted improvement in state owned enterprises (SOEs),” deputy minister Brumson noted.

However, the acting finance minister intoned that in order to submit a balance budget, the expenditure portfolio is constrained to US$ 526.5 million which consists of two major segments, recurrent expenditure of US$ 498.9 million or 94.8 percent and the public sector investment plan (PSIP) of US$27.5million or 5.2 percent.

She also disclosed that the major components of expenditure for this year’s budget are US$31million for liabilities (debts services), including US$10.8 million to pay off domestic liabilities and principal and interest and US$ 20.2 million for payment of foreign liabilities principal and interest, US$19.8 million for the conduct of the October 2017 elections and US$296 million for compensation of employees among others.

For his part, receiving the budget on behalf of the legislature, particularly the House of Representatives, House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay highlighted the delay in the submission of the budget from April 30, 2017 to May 22, 2017; something he thinks might have an effect on the sooner passage of the budget into law.

“As you may be aware, this presentation by law should have been made on the 30th of April 2017 but we can understand that due to circumstances beyond your control which has already been indicated by you, you are now doing the presentation today, May 22, 2017 and we are almost a month late while you are calling for timely passage of this budget,” Speaker Nuquay noted.

He indicated that the timely passage of this year’s budget would require also the timely submission of the requisite copies of the original budget for proper scrutiny for passage.

House Speaker Nuquay stressed that this year is an election year, taking into consideration that the lawmakers would be seeking re-election and as such the speedily passage of this year’s budget would be in the interest of the entire country.

Meanwhile, the speaker has assured the executive of the speedy passage of the budget provided the necessary documents accompanying the budget are submitted in time for better and proper due diligence so as to pass it into law.

By: Jackson C. Clay, Jr.

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