THE government has just passed the budget and what a budget it is.
A budget that pays very little or no attention at all to issues, and concerns of national interest, and the social-economic development and growth needs of the country.
Growing the economy of the country, providing improved social services, access to legal services and justice system, the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle threatening the coconut industry etc have been sidelined and heavily hit by the so-called austerity measures.
These are measures to address the cash flows crisis problem the government finds itself in as a result of not properly managing public funds or managing it for the benefit of a privileged few.
What is saddest is the fact that 47 members of parliament represent the rural, or provincial constituents, and are supposed to be their voice in decision-making but we see very little of that.
Transparency Solomon Islands applauds those members of Parliament that do and those few that are doing something tangible at the constituency level.
The parliament is the decision-making mechanism for the 50 members of parliament to be the voice for their constituencies, to debate government policies that it being budgeted for here and ensure it does truly address their concerns and situation.
Alas, some members of Parliament hardly uttered any words at all during debate so one asks why they campaigned to ask people vote them in.
We know the answer – access to Constituency Development Fund and other emoluments that they have make sure is legalised by passing these relevant legislations (PER).
It is sad that year in and year out the budget is not focused on issues of national interests and concern be it social or economic development and an equitable share of the benefits raised from its natural resources, providing better social services, growing the economy, the business or private sector to provide increased paid employment to its growing population.
It turns a blind eye to the fact that the accrued benefits of the exploitation of our natural resources logging for example, benefit the loggers than the country.
The environmental damage, community social structure destruction and the cost to people, community and environment that these extractive industries leave behind in the country are huge.
Government is no longer innovative in its policies and programmes and budget even though there are tools available to better inform its decision making.
For example, green accounting to properly inform its policies and plans and its decision making.
Year in and year out regardless of which government it is, the explanatory notes or speech that goes with the budget when tabled in parliament continue to sing the same rhetoric but the budget figures, the revenue, the actual expenditure tells us a different story, a story that proves what they say wrong for example, collection shortfall, no project implemented and the list goes on.
Transparency Solomon Islands welcomes the application of fiscal strictness or austerity to this year’s budget.
The most sensible thing to do is to apply these measure to CDF, National Transport Fund, Scholarship, Discretionary Fund budget lines etc.
These allocations have not brought about the desired outcome year in and year out. All it did was enrich the privileged few. But alas this is not the case.
The austerity are being applied to areas that did not cause this cash flow crisis in the first place in our view such as agriculture for example a sector that could grow the country’s economy and provide income for people, in health so that people are healthy and can be productive, and engaged in economic activities, contributing to programmes of national interest and concern etc and not to budget lines that put government or tax-payers money, directly into the hands a group of privileged people that do not pay taxes.
Skimming through the budget Transparency Solomon Islands believes that the cuts are applied to the wrong budget lines and sectors.
We ask, why apply these strict measures to services, sectors that are important to our people.
Are they doing it to make up for their irresponsible managing of the public funds resulting in the cashflow crisis that they talk about.
How disgraceful, when one knows that most budget lines that are in the name of people.
But the majority of the people who voted for different candidates do not benefit from, CDF etc.
They do nothing but sweep under the floor the recovering of the millions [$26.3 million] disbursed in transport funds.
There are no ships, machines to show for these disbursed funds, tax-payers money that they ensure are paid to bogus projects, proposals of their cronies and themselves in the name of the Constituencies and its development.
The Auditor Generals report shows this and what evidence more are they waiting for.
Ministry of Finance continues to be influenced by politicians and their cronies resulting in mismanagement of Public funds for unbudgeted for expenditure the resulting in the cash flow crisis. Many service providers have not been paid.
Day in day out year in, year out the revenue collection of the government has been quite good but where these millions are spent is still a mystery.
We also know that the economy is doing relatively and consistently well or should be given the rate of logging that is going on around the country.
It is now a new practice that loggers land in peoples’ backyard and tribal land in the absence of any Timber Right or Licence.
The Lawyers continue to delay people’s instruction to them for Injunctive Orders, etc and the list goes on.
Almost all government institutions, facilities and processes are being used against resources owners, so why is the government doing so badly and end up with cash flow crises or are the loggers and the Ministry of Forestry misinforming you about what is going on in our country extracting the countries resources fixing the prices and stealing from the people and from government at their will and quim?.
It is the view of Transparency Solomon Islands that the 2018 budget is clear evidence of the quality or that lack of it in government’s decision making.
The government has assured the people of Solomon Islands of its intention to pass the Anti-Corruption Bill into Law, but have they provided for it in the budget adequately.
Government needs to acknowledge that corruption is real and is affecting everyone including the appropriation budget for 2018 just as per previous years.
Solomon Islanders need to acknowledge that we now have evidence of poor decision making by the leadership, the leadership that we the people are responsible in putting them there in the first place through our votes.
So much too has been said about logging and Transparency Solomon Islands released articles on the corrupt practices in the sector.
Whilst this is the case and looking through the budget and in support of Hon. Mathew Wale’s input in the budget discussion.
The budget indeed does not have anything to show and here we like to emphasise “the so called people’s government” does not have any evidence at all to show that it is advancing, protecting and defending the criminal interests of the loggers against the interest of its people and is not ashamed to do so.
There are resource owners who are fighting a losing battle against these injustices and using the legal processes established by our Constitution to do so, but the Public Solicitors Office is very poorly resourced and there is only one lawyer there.
Resource owners who paid private lawyers are being let down by their lawyers most times. They [lawyers the first place of] do not attend hearing, they do not file Injunctive Orders for their clients until all forest is gone, and to get an Injunctive Order takes six months for them to file, and the list goes on.
The failure of government to look after its people are flashpoints for disturbance of peace.
Again the budget is littered with political projects, projects that will never be economically viable. Each Province has already got a growth centre, the provincial capitals which should be upgraded, improved.
Funds should be expended on linking the communities to these provincial centres. No growth centre can be economically viable if there is no industry to sustain it.
There is no allocation for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation. The government has consistently in underfunding healthcare and health sector, and there is nothing in the 2018 budget to stimulate growth in agriculture sector.
Of much more concern is the reduction in the PGSP PCDF. In our travels covering 40 Constituencies, this is the only fund that one can see evidence of making a difference in the lives of our people living in the provinces, within constituencies and wards compared to the CDF and the many other funds that are channelled through the Members of Parliament.
The provincial government, provinces have always suffered neglect but 2018 is the worst year with a significant cut in the PGSP PCDF funding.
As an effective funding tool for provincial governments it should have been spared any cuts as a commitment to decentralised decision making and building foundation for the Federal System that so much funds have been spent on, and we can go on.
We the people of Solomon Islanders cannot allow our national leaders to continue to wreak havoc on the resources of the people, our lives and our public funds. Transparency Solomon Islands believes that the power is in our hands to hold leaders accountable and to exercise our right, speak up.
We can do so by electing into Parliament politicians with the insight, courage and skills to govern wisely and effectively. Stand up and be counted.
Transparency Solomon Islands commends Hon Mathew Wale for his contribution to the budget debate.
It is enlightening to know that not all are unconcerned about our situation, and our needs. Good work Hon Wale.
Tell us what you think of this issue at Hyundai Room 226, ph:28319