Foreign Ministry Requests Adequate Budgetary Support
Amb. Grigsby and other senior Foreign Ministry officials at the budget hearing
Monrovia, Friday, August 10, 2012: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it requires adequate support for robust engagement with Liberia’s bilateral and multilateral partners.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ambassador Sylvester M. Grigsby, leading a high-powered Foreign Ministry representation, told the National Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance that as a ministry which represents the face of Liberia to the world, it needs all the support including budgetary support in pursuing the country’s foreign policy thrust in economic and development diplomacy.
“The impression it makes and the quality of representation strongly influence our interaction with our bilateral and multilateral partners”, the Deputy Foreign Minister told the Committee during a defense of the Ministry’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013.
The Ministry’s allotment in the Draft Budget is put at US$16 million for the new fiscal year out of which the Ministry intends to allot US$4.9 million for its home office, US$7.1 million for foreign missions and US$2.5 million on projects.
Ambassador Grigsby listed bilateral assistance secured by the Ministry including China’s contributions of more than US$15 million grant in 2010-2011, a recent donation of US$6 million worth of custom scanners and approximately US$50 pending for construction of a ministerial complex as the Ministry’s contribution to the National Budget which he said can play a pivotal role in sourcing outside funding for development assistance.
He then spoke of the need for the country to tap into US$20 billion for Africa being allotted by China as a result of the recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
The Deputy Foreign Minister who was acting for Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan who accompanied President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to attend the late Ghanaian President’s funeral in Accra said such contributions can help ease the country’s budgetary constraints through fungible arrangements.
He also named other bilateral assistance packages secured during the past years including Japan’s more than US$25 million in food aid and non project grant aid (NPGA) and India’s contribution of 25 buses for mass transit, among others.
The Deputy Foreign Minister further projected as revenues the amount of US$6.7 million from passports and consular fees over the next 3 years and more scholarships and trainings from the friendly nations of China, Egypt, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, among others.
On challenges, Deputy Minister Grigsby listed constraints being faced by both home office and foreign missions.
“Almost all embassies need repairs, we need to meet up to municipal standards of those countries in which our foreign missions are located”, the Deputy Foreign Minister told the public hearing during Thursday’s budget hearing.
He lamented the poor representation of Liberian diplomats’ vehicles with no utility vehicles and staffing of missions and remuneration including the Beijing Mission which only has three diplomatic officers for a massive country like China and one of Liberia’s major aid donors. The same goes for the Tokyo Mission with only three diplomatic staff. Japan is a very important development partner for Liberia. The Ambassador also lamented benefit and immunity concerns of foreign mission staffers including insurance, medical, educational allowances, and others.
For challenges at its home office, the Acting Minister named staffing and staff retention, the hiring of professionals and compensation, an automated data storage system to preserve treaties and archives, document tracking system including Legislative Acts , in-house printing equipment and the Ministry’s future electricity and renovation challenges with the anticipated relocation soon of the Presidency.
Quizzed on why Liberian embassies such as the one in Freetown, Sierra Leone, are in deplorable states, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Administration Eudora Blay-Pritchard blamed it on the budgetary constraints being faced by the Ministry.
“That is why we are here today, asking for budgetary support to solve these problems”, she stated.
The Ministry’s last proposed budget of US$13 million was adjusted to US$12.88 million of which 97% was spent and 2.7% was unspent due to pending ratifications at the time which stalled the scheduled establishment of the Mission in Brazil.
By Horatio Bobby Willie