Budget cuts cause down-scale in tourism ministry

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BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

DEVELOPMENT budget and other charges being reduced to $10 million for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism give them no option but to down scale priorities for this year.

Permanent Secretary (PS) for the tourism ministry Mr Andrew Nihopara, during the recent Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) enquiry, said the reduction for development priority programmes has forced them to reprioritise and differ some of their programmes to 2019.

Going into the bid for 2018, the PS said the 2018 expenditure submission was done in two different sets.

The first one was done in September 2017 with the recurrent budget payroll plus other charges totalling 32.2 million and a development budget and other costs of 52.2 million that was the initial budget submission bid.

However, the reallocated budget that was done in February 2018 still maintained the 32.2 million recurrent budget bid but the development budget and other charges was reduced to 10 million.

“Just by looking at the reduction of the budgets that we got in 2017, it is important for the committee (PAC) to note down that significant reductions in some of the Divisional Budget Heads and the relocation of budgeted funds for development to other projects by the ministry is due to the reprioritising exercise we are taking to ensure that we execute some of our priority programs within the budget given,” said Nihopara.

A committee is now understood to be set up as the tourism ministry is looking at constantly readjusting their planned programs to fit in with the budget they have available.

In thanking the MP for Aoke/Langalanga Hon Mathew Wale for his sympathy over their situation, Nihopara expressed that they are sorry for themselves as they thought the industry plan would have a roll out of activities and projects that would help build the tourism sector.

“In the event that we do not get the budget, we will have to do things within our means,” said Nihopara.

One of the ministry’s main priorities to execute this year is the upcoming Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival to be hosted in the country.

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