‘Can the ministries do it in 8 months?’

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OPPOSITION Leader, Matthew Wale has questioned the capacity of all government ministries to implement the $4 billion budget in the remaining eight months.

Delivering his budget speech in Parliament last Friday, Wale said all ministries are confident in their capacity to implement their budgets.

“However, it is important to note the historic low execution rates recorded by some ministries and see if this is due to capacity constraints and whether any such constraints have been addressed,” he said.

Wale reflected on agriculture from 2016 to 2020 which had an average execution rate for recurrent expenditure is 65%, and Development budget is 35%.

“And in 2019 and 2020, Ministry of Agriculture recorded the highest number of virements (totalling 3.6m in 2019 & 4.4m in 2020).

“A look at the virements is a reflection of the robustness of the budgeting process and budget execution capacity.” he said.

Wale said Forestry – 2016-2020: average execution rate: Recurrent 68%; Development:32%; Virements are also an issue.

He said Fisheries – 2016-2020: Budget execution rates, Recurrent 67%, Development 33%; Virements are heading in the wrong direction.

Wale said the historical evidence is clear that government’s budget implementation is a very real challenge.

“Of course, there are any number of issues that may contribute to this problem.

“Government’s announced reduction of the size of the public service must take this serious matter into consideration, to ensure an already weak budget execution capacity is not further eroded,” he said.

“Have the constraints to budget execution been addressed? This is not clear from the budget documents themselves.

“However, the ministries, by and large, have confirmed there has been no real change to their capacities to implement the budget,” he said.

Wale said in light of this, therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that “we are to expect similar budget execution rates in 2021 or perhaps even worse, and given only another eight months remaining for this budget, we are to expect that some budget outcomes may not be delivered as stated.”

Debate on the budget continues today.