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‘Robust Scrutiny’ On Budget Begins At Capitol

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MONROVIA: The Joint Budget Committee of the 54th National Legislature has vowed to robustly scrutinize the fiscal year 2023 National Budget which amounts to US$777.94m.

The Committee said, the scrutiny will be done in the best interest of the Liberian people and the country.

Montserrado County District #5 Representative, Thomas P. Fallah, who is also Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee of the 54th National Legislature, disclosed that members of the Committee are poised to implement their constitutional mandate by reviewing the National Development Envelope (budget).

Rep. Fallah made the remarks on Monday during the kickoff of the 2023 Budget Hearings.

He urged his colleagues to “look into” the proposal by allocating US$6m for increment over 15,000 civil servants’ salaries.

The increment will be for civil servants who are making below US$150.00 in minimum wage.

The Joint Budget Committee comprises Committees on Ways, Means and Development Planning and the Public Accounts & Expenditure from the House of Representatives and Senate.

He explained that the hearings on the 2023 Draft National Budget will begin with the revenue component which will be done in Executive Session (closed door).

He added that Expenditure Hearings will be done in opened session in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature.

Mr. Gabriel Montgomery, Deputy Commissioner General for Technical Services of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), in his presentation during the commencement of the 2023 National Draft Budget hearing said, each year, more than US$300M is lost to tax waiver and incentive programs.

“We believe that incentives can be good if they are targeted towards investment and growth promotion, and that specific requirements for qualification such as local content requirements, and employment are met. There is a need to revisit our incentive policies and monitoring frameworks to safeguard our revenues,” he stated.

“As we all know, Mr. Chairman, domestic revenue mobilization is the lifeblood of our country’s development. As donor support is drying up, we will continue to increase our reliance on the LRA to meet even more ambitious targets,” he stressed.

Mr. Samora P. Z. Wolokolie, Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) disclosed that the total resource envelope for the Fiscal Year 2023 is US$777, 943, 212.50 (US Seven hundred Seventy-Seven Million, Nine hundred forty three thousands, two hundred twelve dollars, fifty cents).

Of this amount, 16% or (LRD 20.1 billion) is domestic currency, and $656.6 million or 84% is actual United States Dollars. He narrated that the projected exchange rate by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) is US$1:165.31 LRD.

Deputy Minister Wolokollie further disclosed that the total projected revenue from Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) is US$667.9 million or 86%, while External Resources account for US$110 million or 14%.

According to him, the revenue assumptions are supported by the following macro-economic and tax policy assumptions: “Real GDP (in dollar terms) for 2022 is estimated at US$3.51 billion and is expected to reach US$4.9 billion in 2023.

He stressed that “the statistics speak to the good health of the economy under our stewardship.”

“For FY2023, there are no new tax policy measures underpinning this budget, however, we intend to further strengthen current tax policies that are already in effect and to present a draft amendment to the Revenue Code of Liberia to replace the goods and services tax (GST) with Value Added Tax (VAT) as well as other amendments to strengthen tax administration,” Deputy Minister Wolokollie further stated.

Meanwhile, hearings on the revenue component of the 2023 budget began yesterday, February 1, 2023, with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the National Port Authority (NPA).

Day-two, Wednesday, February 1, 2023, will bring together six agencies. They include Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Ministry of Mines and Energy (LME), Ministry of Transport (MOT), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), The Liberian National Police (LNP) and the Liberia Immigration Services (LIS).

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