BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
SEVEN million dollar budget for the upcoming Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival (MACFest) to be hosted in the country this year is only captured in the tourism ministry’s own budget.
$12million bid for the festival, being one of the new bids the ministry has in the recurrent budget, is unsuccessful.
Member of Parliament for Aoke Langalanga Hon Mathew Wale during the recent Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) enquiry to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism questioned the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the ministry if there is the possibility to still successfully host the MACFest.
In response, PS Andrew Nihopara said because of the development budget and other charges cut of only $10 Million by the National Government for the ministry, it gives them no option but to down scale priorities for this year.
“We will be doing scaling down of the money if it has to go down to the mode of just hosting the MACFest,” said Nihopara.
“As the founding member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), that obligation is upon us to deliver on.
“This is why our ministry feels strongly to find some money within our budget through reprioritising our projects despite our bid did not go through.
“We have set up a committee and we are looking at constantly readjusting our planned programmes so that it fits in with the budget we have available.”
Having said that, the PS said they are also seeking assistance from the business community.
“We will be talking to them and also we will take a proposal to our development partners as well to see where they could assist in which we are identifying the key areas for that one,” said Nihopara.
Given the budget that they have now, PS Nihopara however assured that they will not bow down to it to affect their plans.
Calculations of around 150 thousand air visitors this year by the ministry would be putting the revenue generating capacity and capability of the tourism industry up above with other industry sectors.
Something the PS said they want to aspire is to develop the plan to get up there. Though the airlines, Visitors Bureau and the private sector are their key partners, most importantly they need the government drive in this.
“Just by looking at the reduction of the budget 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 programmes within the budget given,” said Nihopara.
“That translates into the priorities this year on what we want to do as a Ministry in terms of our work plans, so hosting the sixth Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival is a priority that we have as a Ministry.”