By Gary Hatigeva
AFTER three days of in-depth debate and scrutiny, Parliament’s Committee of Supply yesterday concluded all proceedings and passed the much anticipated 2018 Budget with an overwhelming support of votes from members of the government, opposition and the independent group.
The 2018 national total budget is $3,735,114,004 [3.7 billion] for the services of the Government in respect of the year 2018.
This was after almost three weeks of deliberation in both parliament debates and the committee of supply, on both the recurrent and development estimates and the Bill was passed following its third reading without amendments.
Contributions were made in regards to the budget including in-depth questions and answers with recommendations made on areas members of Parliament see very vital to the development programmes of various sectors in the country.
Parliament has authorised a total of $2,809,309,040 for the recurrent expenditure, a total of $224,825,632 for budget support expenditure and a total of $700,979,332 for Development budget, which also includes the total Donor funded Development estimates of $80,000,000.
The Bill had also sought to authorise the Government to borrow a total funding of $461,800,000 from both internal and external sources of Solomon Islands.
A total of $311,800,000 was borrowed for the Tina Hydro Project, while a total of $150 Million under Section 71(3) and 60(2) of the Public Financial Management Act 2013, being borrowed for other high priority infrastructure and development initiatives earmarked to start this year.
The two borrowings are sourced by the country’s multilateral and bilateral development partners, including domestic financial institutions.
Provisions relating to the issue by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury of Advance Warrants and Contingencies Warrants during 2018 is also included, with a total of $26 Million.
The Contingencies Warrants according the Minister of Finance and Treasury, and Deputy Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, will go towards meeting any unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the course of this year, but might not have been included in the budget.
Included in the budget is a total of $224,825,632, which are projected under the Budget Support section, anchored by mostly donor partners, for certain segments and programmes under five government ministries.
The Bill however revealed that from the total expenditures of $700,979,332 under the development budget, the Ministry of Women, Youths, Children and Family Affairs was allocated with the lowest development funds of only $500,000.
The Ministry of Rural Development on the other hand received almost half of the total expenditure with $320 Million.
Meanwhile, the Bill revealed that under section 69(2) of the Public Financial Management Act 2013, a 0.57 percentage of the government’s domestically sourced revenue earned in the financial year ending December 31, 2018, to be transferred into the debt service account for the purpose of discharging statutory debt.
“In addition to the amount authorised by this Act, a further $88.6 Million is forecasted to be expended through statutory charges on the Consolidated Fund, including $77.8 Million to be expended on National Debt Repayments,” it is explained in the Bill.
Following the passage of the budget, parliament resumed with debates based on the budget lead by the Prime Minister, Rick Hounipwela who made his concluding speech on the budget, where he defended and gave justifications to all the programmes and activities in it (budget).
He also defended and thanked all those that have been involved in both the formulation and funding of the budget, which includes all relevant government ministries, agencies and donor partners.
Hou also acknowledged both the opposition and independent groups including cabinet ministers for the overwhelming support into all debates an proceedings of the budget since it was introduced over two and a half weeks ago.
The Prime Minister later adjourned Parliament through a special adjournment motion he moved for all sessions to resume on Wednesday July 18, 2018.