Finance minister Sogavare details government’s stinger budget

By Alfred Sasako

FINANCE Minister Manasseh Sogavare has delivered his first and probably his last budget – a $4-billion outlay designed to demonstrate the “Government’s commitment to delivering on some of its most critical policy priorities for 2018”.

In it, Mr Sogavare gave details of Government Revenue estimate for 2018 which he said is projected to be $4.068 billion.

Of this, $138 million will be ring-fenced to address outstanding arrears from last year, $26 million will be reserved as a ‘contingency warrant’ provision or as a buffer for revenue shortfalls, $150 million was raised by the Government last year as a Development Bond issued to NPF and $375 million is estimated Budget Support.

“The total Solomon Island Government Recurrent Revenue estimate for 2018 is projected to be $3.543 billion, an increase from 2017 revenue actuals of $3,391 million by $152 million or 4 percent, and $12 million or 0.3 percent below the 2017 original revenue estimates.

“This estimate is based on 2017 actuals for the year and is what the Government can reliably secure in terms of tax and non-tax receipts given the current revenue measures designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of collections.

“The Government’s national total expenditure estimate for 2018 will be $4.004 billion. The total SIG expenditure estimate is $3.379 billion, an overall decrease from 2017 levels by $368 million or 10 percent.”

Payroll will account for $1.07 billion, an increase of one percent or $13 million, based on the current SIG establishment.

“The total Other Charges estimate of $1.82 billion provides an increase in available resources for operational expenditure by $146 million or 8 percent from 2017 actuals, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to delivering on some of its most critical policy priorities for 2018.

“The Other Charges budget has increased slightly from the original 2018 estimate by $39 million or 2 percent due to the inclusion of certain new and one-off initiatives such as the preparations for the 2019 Elections, but has also faced a reduction in debt servicing of $9.7 million or 0.5 percent.

“The Development Budget will have a total expenditure estimate of $481 million for the 2018 budget – a decrease of 52 percent or $386 million from the 2017 budget actuals. $481 million will be SIG funded while the remaining $150 million will be donor funded.

“An additional $150 million has been issued as a Development Bond to finance the recapitalisation of Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands (ICSI) as part of the Under Sea Cable Project.

“The projected decrease in Development Budget is to ensure that the Government adequately resources its fixed and basic costs for 2018 so that all Government Ministries remain operational and certain new initiatives can be funded that were unavoidable for 2018,” Sogavare said.

“The Development Budget allocation will be refocused to cover only the most pressing priorities of Government and those projects with contractual commitments already in place.

“The Government remains committed to ensuring fiscal stability and restoring macro fiscal discipline so as to avoid unplanned or planned deficits without securing revenues to fund those deficits.

“Therefore, in order to reprioritise and refocus the Government’s core business for 2018 to actual delivery of services, the Development Budget has been significantly reduced.”

Sogavare said the outlook for the Solomon Islands economy is anticipated to grow at an average of 3.5 percent per annum over the medium term.

Inflation rate for 2018 is forecast at around 2 percent, a moderate increase from 2017, he said

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