Photo Credit: Mopea Photos
By Leroy M. Sonpon, III
Finance Minister Amara Konneh has observed that the Liberian economy is headed for “tough times”. He referenced a recent decision by the Senate to halt all negotiations of oil blocks offshore Liberia and the remaining iron ore deposit at the Wologisi Mount in Lofa, Northern Liberia.
The Finance Minister made the assertion yesterday when he addressed the launch of the National Budget Preparation Kick-off seminar held at the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.
The workshop was aimed at enlightening governmental institutions of the domestic based-budget, their status in the 2013/2014 fiscal budget as the 2012/2013 budget elapses in June-2013 as well as to advice them to adhere to the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) law to shun corruption.
The Senate recently convened a conference with authorities of Liberia’s National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). At that meeting, the Senate instructed the NOCAL to halt all future bidding for oil block one to five until previously unresolved businesses were cleared.
The Senate’s Lands, Mine and Energy Chairman, Grand Kru County Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson, leading a high-power Senate’s Special Committee on the intended Petroleum Transformation Agenda, told the NOCAL delegation headed by its Chairman of the board of Directors Robert Sirleaf, that the Senate was clear and unequivocal on its stance.
But Minister Konneh observed that this decision will not only affect the negotiation of the offshore oil blocks, but the remaining iron ore deposit in the Wologisi Mountain as well.
Though Minister Konneh noted that the cutting off of the proceeds from the natural resources to support the national budget is to allow the sectors to undergo reform processes, he did not rule out that a resultant effect of the decision is an imminent reduction in the budgetary allotment for the various government ministries and agencies.
He has since expressed the fear that budgetary appropriations (in the 2013/2014 fiscal budget currently being formulated) for the various ministries and agencies could possibly be reduced.
The Finance Minister pointed out that the 2013/2014 budget will be a domestic based-budget; meaning the budget will be wholly funded by revenues generated by government’s entities as well as taxes and royalties collected from businesses and concessional companies.
Budgetary appropriations of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will be sliced and added to that of the Ministry of Education, the Minister disclosed.
On a bright note, the Finance Minister told scores of deputy ministers, procurement directors and comptrollers that the Budget Committee has resolved to invest in ministries and corporations that could generate incomes to support the budget.
He named the Liberia National Fire Service, the Liberia National Police, and the Ministry of Transport as potential entities are expected to generate revenue for the government.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Konneh has admonished governmental institutions to have an effective procurement section internally in order to be able to follow the PPCC’s law.
He said the inability of the procurement sections to abide by the PPCC law, mostly cause the delay for the release of funds by the Finance Ministry.
On September 5, 2012, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed into law the National Budget of US$672,050,415 million for fiscal year 2012/2013. The budget was signed after it was concurred with by the National Legislature on August 28, 2012, after months of debate and scrutiny.