By Gary Hatigeva
PARLIAMENT yesterday adjourned for Wednesday March 28, deferring any debates into the Appropriation Bill 2018 due to unavailability of the report from the public accounts committee (PAC) for deliberation.
Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela when moving the motion for special adjournment, explained that following discussions with the PAC Chairman, it is highlighted that the committee needed a little more time to finalise its report into the budget as hearings of all cases from line ministries into the $4 Billion Budget only completed last Friday.
The Prime Minister who confirmed agreeing to the request added that allowing a space of one day will give time for the committee to ensure the required report is ready, while at the same time, appropriate for all members of the house to thoroughly go through the Budget Speech and prepare themselves to debate the Appropriation Bill.
When questioned, Mr Houenipwela stressed that with the space of time given, it will be enough even for members to prepare themselves to participate in the debates, something he described as healthy, for the government and the budget, especially when all members share and discuss it.
But before the motion of special adjournment was tabled and passed, Parliament went through a series of questions which were directed at the Prime Minister and his Health Minister, Dr Tautai Agikimua Kaituu who was not present at that time to respond to the questions.
Following the Q&A session, Parliament then received the Appropriation Bill 2018, which was put in for its second reading and later heard a lengthy Budget Speech from the Minister of Finance and Treasury, Manasseh Sogavare where he outlined all programmes involved in the budget.
Mr Sogavare took up almost an hour of parliament to deliver on the budget, which he also highlighted the government’s economic outlook, expenditure and revenue projections that would be impacted from the budget.
Sogavare also covered key priority areas of focus for implementation under the budget, something he stressed needed sacrifices and commitments from all involved.
He pointed out that the budget is a fulfilment of commitments and promises from the Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change Government (SIDCCG) when taking over in November 2017.
Reflecting on PM Hounipwela’s inaugural speech after being elected new leader of the coalition, Sogavare said his predecessor was right to highlight what he said, because the budget is a reflection of that speech.
He said the SIDCCG as promised, is looking to stabilise the country’s ailing fiscal situation, improve fiscal discipline and restore its reserves to agreeable levels as a mitigation strategy against any macroeconomic shocks or risks that may be encountered in the course of implementation.
Being his first ever as Finance Minister under the new SIDCC Government, the East Choisuel MP said he was humbled and privileged to present the final budget of the 10th Parliament House, which he stressed is a credible one, fully funded and balanced, fiscally responsible and grounded with the policy priority of major fiscal discipline of the government finances.
Before going to its adjournment, Sogavare also reminded the house of its needed support and cooperation while at the same time assured the country that the government will deliver fully on the budget.
Meanwhile, as has always been the case in the last three weeks, both the Independent and Opposition groups, most of whom make up the PAC, thanked the PM for the additional time and supported the motion of special adjournment, and promised to have the report ready before the next sitting day.
Parliament resumes tomorrow and the house is expected to receive the Appropriation Bill 2018, where according to the Prime Minister, should be put up for its third reading before it is debated in anticipates its passing by Thursday.