By Alfred Sasako
THE nation’s nine premiers have descended on Honiara, demanding assurance from the national government that the 2018 budget would be passed on time.
At the same time they have expressed concern that the national government continues to slash their allocations, which they say is painting a gloomy outlook for service delivery in the provinces in 2018.
“We have been told that our service grants have been halved,” one Premier told Island Sun yesterday.
In the case of Malaita Province, its service grants have reportedly been reduced to just $7million for this year. Last year, it received $14 million.
“Our PCDF grants have also been slashed by as much as 90 percent,” the Premier said.
“We have been told that all provincial governments will receive just a million dollars each in the PCDF grants this year, if the national budget is passed on time, that is,” the Premier said.
“Last year the nine provincial governments shared $38 million in PCDF grants. This year it’s been reduced to just $1 million each. We hope that is wrong because what can you do with that kind of money?
“It is as good as not giving us the money at all in the first place. Our health services, education and other social sector programs will suffer.
“We are staring disaster in the face,” the Premier said.
The Premiers were yesterday meeting the Prime Minister, Ricky Houenipwela, but no official announcement was made on the outcome of their meeting.
The Premiers are also concerned that the delay in passing the national budget is pushing the nation closer to the brink of a constitutional crisis. The national government has until March 31 – only two and half weeks away – to avoid plunging the nation into a constitutional crisis.
“As Provinces, we also wait on the national budget to be passed before we debate our own budget. Everything we do is based on the sort of allocations we receive from the national government. Until we know what we get from the national budget, we cannot move.
“This year we have been pushed closer and closer to a financial crisis, which would bring everything to a standstill,” the Premier said.