$2million reduction in budget for Provincial elections will upset program activities

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By Gary Hatigeva

IT has been revealed that a total of $10.9 million allocation was approved for the Provincial Elections set to be held for seven provinces next year.

This comes as part of the major projects and programs of the Ministry for Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening (MPGIS). This makes up part of the recurrent budget allocation for 2019.

Explaining this before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Permanent Secretary, Stanley Pirione said they have originally submitted a total of $13million, but stressfully shared that it was unfortunately reduced, with a cut of $2.1million.

The approved figure is however said to be insufficient for the Ministry to fully execute its election programs for the provinces whose terms lapse next year plus other election related activities.

Pirione said the reductions will likely affect some of the Ministry’s preparation programs for the Provincial Elections.

“Provincial elections will be held next year but this excludes Western and Choiseul Provinces, which have already held their election in the middle of this year. We hope that the list in which the SI Electoral Commission is working on, if finalised, should give us time to carry out elections for our provinces except for Western and Choiseul”, Pirione said.

When questioned on the expected timeframe for elections to take place, Pirione explained that discussions are currently underway between the Ministry and the Office of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.

He noted that the Ministry has considered options to allow for the national elections to go ahead first and the formation of a government before the provincial elections are carried out.

“And because of this intention, the Ministry is looking at June of 2019 to hold provincial elections. Except for the Western and Choiseul Provinces, as they have already held their elections in the middle of this year,” Pirione adds.

Not all seven provinces are expected to hold their elections within the same period. Makira Ulawa Province, has a late dissolution to its Assembly around September and October of 2019.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is seeking legal advice on the possibility for them to do carry out the provincial elections around the same time towards the end of the year.