BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
RENNELL and Bellona province is keeping its head up high in a year which many describe as ‘tough’.
Faced with a cut in its provincial capacity development fund (PCDF) from the national government and the anticipated drawdown in logging revenues, Renbel province is choosing to be optimistic and daring.
At $12million, Renbel province’s budget is ‘just enough’ to maintain services to its people and possibly continue to try and stimulate economic development in all sectors.
Although the province has a three-year development plan 2016-18, ad hoc and piecemeal spending based on political expediency continues to alienate annual budgets with this plan.
Thus, this year’s budget tries to combine addressing development issues, which are based on the millennium development goals (MDGs) contained in the national government’s national development strategies (NDS), and realistic situations on the ground.
And, with a projected tough year for provincial governments, Renbel is adamant that it can pull through with its 2018-19 objectives.
Passed during the final week of March, the 2018-19 budget focusses on undertaking reforms to provide financial stability and keep the provincial government on track while undertaking social and economic investments to create service.
The expected outputs of this year’s development budget include; staff house renovations of the Premier, PS and treasurer in the province’s capital – Tigoa; staff houses for medical and the Kagua primary school; rural aid post for ward 3; boys dormitory for New Place PSS; furniture for the Kanava community hall; Tegano clinic construction; ward 7 kindergarten; and Niupani water tanks.
Renbel’s budget assumptions include political stability throughout 2018-19, projected increase in the rates of business licences, prices of goods and services remain high, and a reduction in the number of forestry/logging licence holders.
Understandably, for Solomon Islands’ demographically smallest province, the current slash in the national budget to the Ministry of provincial government (MPGIS) is an enormous setback for Renbel.
This has forced the provincial government to lean back on its internal revenues.
From the $12,564,452 2018-19 budget, an estimated revenue of $5,748,000 is expected from ‘own source revenue’. This stands at 46 percent of the total budget.
The PCDF is second with an estimated injection of $5,361,376 (43 percent of the total budget).
The SIG covers for the majority of the remainder at $1,405.076 (11 percent of total budget).
Events, operations, capital and development investments account for 90 percent of expenditures.
In the budget breakdown, it is interesting to note a significant amount of investment on sports and women’s development. This is understandable with the province being host to this year’s Solomon Games and Renbel’s push for gender equality in its development visions for its people.
Development planning, works and development, education and health also receive their fair share.
Critics on the other hand believe that tourism remains to be highlighted, with a mere $60,000 allocated for it.
Premier Collin Singamoana explains that while tourism is a huge potential that is yet to be tapped, situational analysis does not favour heavy investment at this point in time.
But, Mr Singamoana stresses that this does not mean that Renbel is turning its back on tourism.
“In the near future, tourism will play an integral role in Renbel’s economy, however for the time being it is not. Renbel is recovering and realistic statistics do not favour tourism in Renbel as yet, however we are patient and optimistic that Renbel will one day soon reach a point where its tourism potential can be tapped and realised.”
Speaking during the budget meeting late last month, Singamoana, who is also the province’s finance minister, said that this year’s commerce, lands, agriculture, fisheries, transport and communications investments will undoubtedly stimulate some tourism growth.
On the overall, Singamoana says the fair allocation of Renbel’s limited resources to the various sectors shows his government’s commitment to ensure that service delivery is maintained and improved in the long run.
“This shows that we are committed to provide the basic services that we have been mandated to deliver for the benefit of our people.”