2018 Budget likely to weaken ministries

By Gary Hatigeva

The Public Accounts Committee Chairman and Member of Parliament for East Honiara, Douglas Ete

THE Public Accounts Committee Chairman and Member of Parliament for East Honiara, Douglas Ete has shared concerns over the distress signals emanating from all line ministries over the vicious 2018 Budget allocations.

Contributing to debates of the Appropriation Bill 2018, Mr Ete stressed that it is a worry to hear expressions of disappointments and frustrations from all line ministries who are the actual implementers of the budget programmes.

Ete said during the two-week hearing, the committee has noted concerns raised by permanent secretaries and directors of ministries on what they think and feel about the budget when they appear before PAC.

“Let me tell you that many of them are distressed over the decrease of the size of government expenditures regarding their ministries and their ministries’ activities for 2018 fiscal year,” he said.

Meanwhile, in their earlier budget speeches, the Minister of Finance, Manasseh Sogavare and the Minister of Development Planning and Aid Coordination, Jeremiah Manele urged for the reprioritisation and scale-down of implementation programmes in all line ministries due to a tight budget.

“But after listening carefully to the speech by the Minister of Finance and Treasury, I think he (Sogavare) created a bit of history, because this is the first budget in the last four years to have alienated major programmes under different sectors of the entire ministries of government,” Ete said.

He then supported that by cutting the budget for this year, all ministries might not participate effectively in any implementations and it will just be business as usual.

He however pointed out that current Finance Minister was Prime Minister for the last three years until November of 2017, who during his term put in one of the largest budget this country ever had.

“Unfortunately,” he said. “Little was felt or seen in the implementation prospects of major programmes in Solomon Islands.”

And this according to Ete continues to see increased negativity in the economic and social aspects of this country.

Based on the 2018 Budget theme, “Ensuring a prudent and stable budget”, Ete suggested that what the finance minister highlighted can only be seen as government’s clear intention to remove all government programmes except for the Tina Hydro and the Undersea Cable project.

He said while that is established, every other establishment of government will be business as usual or no business at all for 2018.

However, the East Honiara MP revealed that based on hearing outcomes, it is clear the bipartition attitude of this government is one that is based on two different ideologies and platforms, which is believed to be one of the factors contributing to the cut, and this really came out clear when PAC met in the last two weeks.

“As chair of PAC in the recent examination of ministerial estimates collated by the range of policies attached to heads and subheads items, PSs and Directors were showing signs of staleness and uneasiness in the implementation of major projects under the establishment because of the fact that policies of the former regime and the new regime came head to head.

“But to a certain degree on some very important projects of the government, where one thought about taking one direction, while the other think something else,” Ete further stressed.

This he added will obviously lead to a marginal slow down or delays in any form of implementation activities and programs, which will not serve the purpose for the establishment of a budget that continued to be regarded as credible and responsible because the 80 percent in the total population will not feel the impacts as boasted.

Meanwhile, he further suggested for any contractionary fiscal policy, fiscal measures must be controlled because in this approach, ministries will stop performing or leap in their performances.

“And the people of this country will continue to feel the burden of high cost of living and high tax adjustments and subsequently stop buying and we could eventually see a fall in consumption, which is a crisis.”

Ete however pointed out that with all the worries and distresses being expressed, the buck stops at the table of the Prime Minister and he must bear the full responsibility for policy directions and research by his cabinet.

He added that the Prime Minister has around 10 months to commit himself to ensure his government implements the major programmes under this budget and at least take on some of the series of recommendations given.

“This is because despite so many recommendations made in the past years, the government is seemingly taking a deaf ear and turning a blind eye on them, putting more pressure on the current situation, which is understood to have forced the major cut in budget.”

The 2018 Budget under an Appropriation Bill 2018 is now before parliament and is currently being debated in its second reading.

Debates continue on Tuesday April 3, 2018.

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