Minister Tweah, who has been appearing before the Liberian Senate in recent days to explain to Plenary the economic condition of the country and for clarity on the proposed National Budget for fiscal year 2019/2020, admitted that the country has been hit by serious economic shocks, fearing that the reported drawdown of major investors could further compound the situation.
Plenary is the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate.
Speaking specifically on the pronounced closure of Sime Darby, he hinted that this decision is going to take several persons from jobs thus increasing more suffering.
However, in a bid to revert the decision, he said key officials of the Liberian government, including President George Manneh Weah have met with the hierarchy of the company, but stated that it appears that the actual need of the company, which is more lands, is belated and cannot be solved by this government.
“When we met with them we asked them: why if we give you the remaining 25,000 hectares that you need and their response to us was that it should have been five years ago. And from what we have gathered, the major quest of this company for which it wants to sell out to another company is the issue of land and that has been the case with other companies all over,” the Finance Minister stated.
“For this reason, if it causes us to break even all our land laws we will do it to protect our investments for the benefit of our people,” he stated.
According to him, the country is facing serious economic shocks, but the government has outlined plans and programs in addressing these shocks.
“We are at the stage of paying back all what the government owes, especially to commercial banks to boost liquidity. We are also indebted to other members of the private sectors and we are going to start paying all our domestic debts and that will promote private sector growth. Remember, this government met a debt of US$65M that it has to settle. So what we are going through is structural adjustment and pretty soon we will get along,” the Minister intoned.
Answering to question on the most contentious salary harmonization, the MFDP Minister as usual, asserted that the exercise will bring about equity within government.
However, he was quick to explain that the exercise will not affect the judicial branch of the Liberian government, thus making Senators furious.
The Minister cited Article 72 (a) and (b) as reasons provided under the Constitution why the harmonization will not affect members of this branch of government.
Article 72 (a) of the Liberian Constitution states that: “The Justices of the Supreme Court and all other judges shall receive such salaries, allowances and benefits as shall be established by law. Such salaries shall be subject to taxes as defined by law, provided that they shall not otherwise be diminished. Allowances and benefits paid to Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts may by law be increased but may not be diminished except under a national program enacted by the Legislature; nor shall such allowances and benefits be subject to taxation.”
Article (b) also points out that: “The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age of seventy; provided, however, that a justice or judge who has attained that age may continue in office for as long as may be necessary to enable him to render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings entertained by him before he attained that age.”
Following the lengthy explanation of several economic issues, a motion was made by Grand Gedeh County Senator, Alphonso Gaye, for the Minister to be discharged to allow Plenary make further analysis into his testimonies.
The motion was endorsed by majority members of that august body through a “yea” vote and the Minister was discharged for the day.