By Alfred Sasako
THE controversial $300 million-plus a year Constituency Development Fund (CDF) grants, once the pride of Members of the 10th Parliament, is now turning into a nightmare for politicians, analysts say.
Co-funded by Solomon Islands and Taiwanese taxpayers, the grants were intended to address micro economic activities (small cash-earning businesses) in all 50 Constituencies.
Annual contribution by Taiwanese taxpayers accounts for about 20 percent or $60 million of the total CDF grants.
The Solomon Islands Government shoulders the balance or 80 percent ($240 million) of total funding.
But many MPs have turned the funding, estimated at up to $7 million a year for each Constituency, into discretionary spendings without retirement of their expenditures – something which has irked the Taiwanese government, resulting in slow disbursements of Taipei’s support for the CDF.
Government officials have confirmed that Taiwan’s funding accounts for 20 percent of the CDF while the Solomon Islands Government shoulders 80 percent of the funding.
Analysts say there is no doubt the CDF – its use and misuse – will decide the 2019 National General Election (NGE) due next March in terms of MPs retaining their seats.
They point to a number of incidents in the past few weeks, including closures of Constituency Offices in Honiara, supporters going home without being given anything after waiting for months, as indications that CDF grants has run its full course.
“These are the things that will be used against MPs. Many have asked their voters to come to Honiara only to be told there’s no money left for buying items as promised.
“There is a lot of disappointed and disgruntled voters out there. The CDF grants, suspected of being used by MPs to accumulate their overnight wealth, is now going to turn against them,” one analyst said.
“I won’t be surprised to see some making their way into courtrooms and eventually ending up at Rove. Many deserve it,” the analyst said.