Monday, June 8, 2009

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

US$ 347 M Budget Under Scrutiny
Morlu, Ngafuan, Tarpeh and Others Face House Tomorrow

The much awaited Public hearings of the over US$300 million draft national budget submitted to the National Legislature would begin tomorrow with John S. Morlu III, Auditor General of Liberia and head of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) ; Professor Wilson K. Tarperh, Liberia’s former representative to the African Development Bank (ADB); Finance Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan and other leading financial experts appearing before the legislature.
The Draft National Budget for fiscal year 2009/2010 was submitted to the august assembly by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on May 19, 2009.
The hearings which would be held in the conference room of the Lower House would begin at 12 P.M.
other cream of experts who are slated to participate in the hearings include the Chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Liberia(UL), Professor Geegbae A. Geegbae as well as representatives of Liberian Civil Society organizations.
They are expected to critically scrutinize the budget and advance informed recommendations to the national legislature in the best interest of the country.
The deliberations would lead to what one analyst called a complete scrutiny of the various allocations for various ministries and autonomous agencies of government as enshrined in the draft budget with the intent to carry out adjustments where necessary.
The discussants are also expected to focus on the revenue component of the 2009/2010 draft budget.
The director for Press of the House of Representatives, Isaac Redd quoting the Chairman of House Committee on Ways, Means, Margibi County District #1 Rep. Emmanuel Nuquay, told legislative reporters yesterday that the committee has decided to look at the proposed budgetary allotments to state institutions including National Port Authority (NPA), National Oil Company, Ministry of Post & Telecommunication, Ministry of Labor, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company(LPRC), Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Ministries of Transport, Foreign Affairs among others.
According to Mr. Redd, phase two of the public hearing would begin on Monday June 8, 2009 with focus on the allotments for the Ministry of Commerce, Robert International Airport (RIA), Ministries of Health & Social Welfare; Lands Mines & Energy as well as Civil Aviation Authority, among others.
The Press Director further indicated that the passage of the budget by the House of Representatives would take place on June 16, 2009.
The total draft national budget as submitted to the National Legislature by President Sirleaf is in the tune of US$347,035,687Million.

EDUCATION

Zion University College Finally Gets Student Leadership

Following years of suspension and marginalization on university intellectual discussion and gathering, the A.M.E. Zion University College has gotten a student leadership that will liaise between students and administration from henceforth.
On June 5, 2009, students impatiently stood in a long cue from 12 mid-day to 6:10 pm to elect their leaders; election in which Mr. Deamie Stewart triumphantly ascended as president leaving down his opponent James Ngafua.
According to results released by the special election commission, J. Deami Stewart had 419 votes against James Ngafua whose total votes came up to 259.
Others who won with Stewart include, Mensue Mendee, vice president, Peter Wisdom Fayiah, secretary, Joseph B. Smith, student representative, Yallah P. Moibah, financial secretary, Hannah Watson, Champlain, Peter Karngbay, senior class president, H. Wede Wallace, vice president for senior class, Blessing Reynolds, junior class president and Ishmael Russell, freshman class president. views solicited from voters earlier suggested that they were not considering how much money a candidate has to carry on merry making, but were looking at how well the incoming leader can articulate to fully represent the college in intellectual discussion.
This indicates that instead of voters considering what one may have to offer as being customarily practiced, people are taking different dimension in choosing a leader.
According to a lot of them on the eve of their election, they could go in the camp of Ngafua to amuse themselves through merry making at an entertainment center since he felt he could win through sharing drinks.
In a brief interview president-elect Deami Stewart, he said his ascendancy to the position is not only a victory but a challenge.

He said after sometimes of retrogression, it was time that student participation in the affairs of the college be prioritized if true Democracy can be said to exist.
Special Election Commissioner Abu Ansumana Kromah in an interview said the election was fair, free and transparent that since it ended on Friday June 5, there has been no protest filed in.
He noted that there were more invalid votes; an indication he says can be attributed to students failure to follow instruction.
The current leadership is under the banner of student union government. According to a close source to the administration, this was done to limit students policital activities so that condition that caused the suspension of student politics on the campus cannot reoccur.

LABOR MATTERS

Job Creation

The Core of Economic Independence

The greatest problem any nation can face that can cause that nation to become insecure even from within for that nation to be overwhelmed with unemployment. Finding solution to the problem of unemployment may be elusive ever so long if the unemployed themselves are not involved in the process of finding the solution. So it is safe to say the problem of unemployment cannot be solved without the involvement of the individual job seeker.
We have suffered for more than 160 years finding solution to the problem of unemployment in this country. For the most part, our efforts have produced pseudo results that were so paradoxical that they perplexed us. We thought we were at target until the hour came when things fell apart.
Today in post war Liberia, job creation is ringing tone in every political sermon around the country, with government shouting at peak pitch when a single concession agreement is signed. This illusionary myopia has compelled the Daily Observer Labor Column to somewhat delve into little bit of the nitty-gritty of this matter that has turned itself into a monster.
One may wonder whether the job seeker can be directly involved in creating a job in the establishment he or she wants to work; or be a part of setting up the office a man or woman would love to sit in and proudly say “I am at work.”
We do disagree that multimillion dollar companies provide jobs for hundreds of workers and the granting of more concessions adds value to the job market. But the capacity of companies and their ability to maintain and sustain a certain size of workforce and yet create more jobs for more workers at the same time is inconceivable.
However, job creation cannot be the sole prerogative of government when individuals who have the ability to impart the knowledge and the technical know how to job seekers to be able to create employment for them sit idle and wait for someone to give them the help they are able to provide even to others.
The Money Market
Have you ever stopped for while to ask: how did the money market open so fast in Liberia that today almost everyone is busy buying and selling money? Where did it begin literally for the common man? What was the economic power of the pioneers of this money market in Liberia?
The money market growth in the latter 1970s could not be forecast from looking t the people who were engaged in the business as means of employment. There was first the alien who exchanged the US dollar that was then the larger circulating currency in the country with other currencies for traders, since the Liberian dollar coins were on par with the US dollar. The business then was between these money exchangers and traders who had to go to neighboring countries to do cross border trading.
But most importantly it was the group commonly called the ‘95 boys’ who traded directly in the Liberian dollar in money market. This group comprising mainly early teenagers usually offered 95 Liberian cents for one dollar, US dollar or Liberian dollar. This enabled petty traders to sell to locals and house wives who needed change coins to buy in the local markets; and drivers of taxi cabs found it a blessing, because commuters who wanted to evade paying their car fares always gave drivers dollar coins for a twenty-five cents distance to embarrass the driver.
So, the 95 boys traded and made five cents profit on every dollar as means of creating jobs for themselves while the graduates of our then only university and college went hunting for job heedlessly. What we are driving home is the fact that jobs can be created by the job seeker in most areas of human need to yield capital, since capital accumulation is the utmost purpose of seeking job. One wonders then whether there are areas in our economic sector people could explore in the quest for job creation.
In spite of the lofty aspiration of this noble endeavor, problem soon entered the trade when older boys got involved in the money market. The 95 cents soon came down to 85 and 90 cents to dupe their customers, especially when the taxi drivers were in haste or ready to pull up in the traffic. But the trade continued until it has now developed into a major market today creating job for many people. Many job seekers who were applying for job in many establishments are now self-employed today in the money market; and some of them have hired people to work for them, thereby turning the job seeker into an employer.
Cobblers
Shoe mending in Liberia was a very serious problem because of the lack of skilled shoe repairers in the country. Many pairs of shoes were disposed of that could the owners much longer it they were repaired or mended.
When the Liberian civil war reached a turning point, the lull in violence allowed for disarmament that brought many fighters to peaceful civilian life. The question then was how to transform fighters into skill and productive citizens. So, shoe mending and production was one of the several options to some politicians and the West African Economic Group (ECOMOG) peace keeping force on the ground started to work in conjunction with some agencies of the United Nations to devise modalities derive at appropriate solutions for the problem.
And so, some former combatants were trained to mend shoes as a way of helping those ex-fighters create jobs for them to avoid falling into the trap of unemployment that could turn into instruments of violence. A good number of those trained later engaged into shoe making that eventually also turned some of them into employers when their shops developed. Howbeit, there are but few cobblers visible at street corners today. The rest have narrowed down to mending slippers and polishing shoes. They have otherwise turned into shoe-shine boys.
Sadly, however, most cobblers in the country today are of the alien Fula ethnic group that continues to migrate into Liberia in search of greener pasture. Similarly, the money market is substantially in the hands of the very Fula ethnic group. They are the ones who have ideal and respected money exchange centers or booths; while most of the Liberians engaged in the trade as employment sit along the street or in corners that customers fear.
And so, it is about time for us to understand that we consider job creation in terms getting the job seekers involved in the venture and not only rely upon concessions coming in or investors who only want to maximize profit to come and absorb our workforce. No one can do for us what we are able to do for ourselves.

DISCREPANCY

LEITI Reports “Discrepancy”

By Bill E. Diggs

The level of discrepancies experienced in the Liberian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) first report has prompted the need for a revise in the revenue reporting template.
LEITI in its 2007/2008 fiscal year report indicated some discrepancy among the reporting templates submitted by various oil, mining, forestry companies as well as the Government Ministry Agencies (GMA).
The discrepancies were based on the delinquency of 24 out of the 54 companies operating within the various sectors of revenue generation in Liberia to file in their yearly report.
Out of the 30 companies which submitted their reports, 20 reports had stipulated figures that did not correspond with the government agencies’ report.
Hence, LEITI report indicated that the combine total of US$ 29,454,662 was paid by the 30 companies as taxes, royalties; land/surface rental, administrative fees, and other communities/county contributions and donations made, but the revenue data submitted by the four Government Ministry Agencies approved of 29,447,339 thus yielding at least US$7,323 net aggregate discrepancy.
On Friday, June 5, 2009, LEITI held a one day workshop to discuss the revised reporting template that will be used to disclose all payments made to and revenue received by the Government over the reporting period.
Speaking during the opening session at the workshop, Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner said that the essence of EITI reports is based on the observation that countries rich with natural resources become poorer.
He further said that revising the reporting template will help avoid discrepancy among reports submitted to LEITI by the companies and Government Ministry Agencies as well.
Com. Oliver N. Roger, who presided over the business section at the workshop, attributed the discrepancy to the inclusion of taxes that was paid before and after the reporting period.
Besides, he said that the discrepancy could be attributed to payment of funds that did not enter the government revenue’s stream.
According to LEITI February 9th report, discrepancies that were not material in relation to the total aggregated receipts and payments reported remained unresolved on number of companies, mainly because difficulties were encountered in obtaining supporting data, or obtaining it on timely basis.
LEITI has worked to resolve all reported discrepancy contained in its first report by pass April 24, 2009 and is working to resolved all unresolved discrepancy and to avoid further discrepancy in the 2008/2009 fiscal year report.
However, of the 20 reported discrepancies, 14 were resolved leaving out six among which an alleged US$104,288 withholding income tax reported by Amlib was inclusive, but the government categorically denied receiving such payment.
At the end of the workshop, LEITI listed some items of the reporting template which reporting stakeholders identified as the same field under different names. Such items included business registration and corporate registration fees.
Its is not certain of what punitive action that would be taking against companies that failed to file in their reports n companies that did not turn up to resolved their discrepancies.
Hence, Cllr. Warner called on the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME), and National Oil Company of Liberia to put down a control to deal with delinquent companies.
He urged that LEITI’s reports be use as tool not to issue grants of operation to these delinquent companies.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

DEVELOPMENT

Lawmakers Inspect CEMECO

Members of the House’s Standing Committee on, June 1, 2009, inspected the Liberia Cement Corporation (CEMNCO) to ascertain the total weight of each of the bags.
However, during the inspection exercise, Cemenco management assured the public that its cement bag is 50kg net.
The clarification became necessary following public speculations that Cemeco products are under weight.
The confirmation came as a result of an unexpected and thorough weighing inspection conducted by the House’s standing committee on commerce.
The committee comprised Reps. Haja F. Siryon, Mohammed A. Ware, Charles K. Bardyl and Kai Farley.
According to the committee, they had to conduct the inspection as a result of complaints reaching them that bags of cements from the corporation are under weight.
The committee together with journalists including a reporter from the Daily Observer with some staff of Cemeco toured the some of the facilities of the corporation and weighed several bags of cement.
During the weighing exercise, both locally manufactured and imported cement were weighed.
Though all did not weigh exactly 50kg, the Works Manager, Thomasson Borje explained that, the computerized scale being a machine, will not always be accurate, and therefore, some of the bags may be a little bit more than 50kg.
“But being programmed at 50kg, the machine will never weigh less than 50kg,” he said.
He also told journalists that the cement is carefully screened before bagging to get rid of foreign materials.
Mr. James Doe Gibson, the General Service Manager, told the Daily Observer that though no one has been caught in the act, it could be possible that the boys, who delivered the cement to the company’s dealers could be responsible for reducing the cement by tempering with the bags before delivery for their own gains.
He again advised the public to only buy cement only from Cemeco recognized dealers.
He further disclosed that Cemeco products sell at US$ 8.95 at wholesale, while dealers are to sell at US$ 9.50. The US$9.50 is the Government’s approved regulated price.
The committee’s chairperson Rep Haja F. Siryon told journalists that though Cemeco cements weigh standard weight, the committee will continue investigation to check the quality of cement produced by the corporation. She further stated that the committee wants to ensure that the right quality of cement is produced or imported into the country to ensure that sub-standard cement will not be on the Liberian market.

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