Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti’s maiden budget of $894 million tabled in Parliament yesterday promises responsibility and fairness.
In the absence of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi who was attending a meeting in Papua New Guinea yesterday, the new Minister of Finance laid down the law in terms of how the country’s finances will look in the next 12 months.
“A budget has to do many things,” Sili told Parliament.“It has to ensure that the Government has the resources it needs year by year to provide the services and infrastructure our people need.
“It has to ask everyone in the community to pay their fair share in contributing to the revenue that is needed, and it has to ensure that the benefits of government- provided services are likewise shared equitably.
“But it also has to contribute to building a strong foundation for the future. This won’t happen if the budget is not responsible. Government cannot tax its way to future prosperity, nor can it spend its way to prosperity with money it does not have or cannot afford.”
According to the Minister of Finance, the budget can be summed up as “responsible; fair and visionary.”
“This budget is responsible. It recognizes that we have work to do to consolidate our public finances, and keeping expenditure under control is a key feature,” he said.
“It is fair. The Government has maintained a strong focus on education and health, ensuring that we continue to provide the best possible access to quality essential services across our nation.
“It is visionary because it plans for the future, The Government is determined to continue to build the enabling environment needed to support sustainable economic growth. That is why the theme of the next Strategy for the Development of Samoa will be Accelerating Sustainable Development and Creating Opportunities for All. This budget contributes through its commitment to sound and responsible economic and financial management.”
Education is a key part of the way forward and the Minister has allocated $91.2million for the sector.
A sum of $71.7million from education will go towards the Ministry’s normal operations inclusive of the third and final phase of the reclassification of the Teacher’s Salary.
Compared to 2015/2016 budget, there’s been an increase of $12.2million where the sector was only given a $79.07million.
Next on the priority list is the Health sector with a slice of $86.8million representing 17.6% of total expenditure programs.
From that amount $70.7million grant is provided for the national health services hospital operations.
The allocated fund is an additional $7.5million compared to the previous budget.
According to the Minister of Finance, the increase from the budget is attributed to an estimated 47.3percent rise in development programs and infrastructure projects that will commence in 2016/2017.
Moving on to Infrastructure, $28.2million is set aside for the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure.
It includes $11.3million grant to the E.P.C. for VAGST payments and community service obligations.
From the $28.2milion an estimate of $13million grant will go towards the Samoa Water Authority to meet community service obligations and support key investment under the European Union budget support.
Another $18.3million is for the Lands and Transport Authority to support its operation.
According to the budget statement, $8.1million has been allocated to the telecommunications sector comprising $4.87million for the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and $3.2million funding for the Office of the Regulator.
The Ministry of Agriculture on the other hand gets $13.3milion – a drop of $0.3million from last year’s budget.
As for the Trade, Commerce and Manufacturing, $6.8million will assist the Ministry of Commerce and its operation and only $9million for the Samoa Tourism Authority.
Another $450,000 is put aside to support the Small Business Enterprise Center and $200,000 for general support to the private sector.
A provision of $14.8million tala has been provided to cover unforeseen expenditures that may arise during the course of the next fiscal year.
In conclusion, the Minister said the budget continues the work of recent years and sets our course for the years ahead.
“It recognises what the government needs to do now, and in the years ahead,” he said.
“But it also recognises what the government should not try to do. We need to continue to build strong partnership between government, the private sector, and the wider community as well as with our development partners whose support is essential and for which we are grateful…it is a budget which reaffirms the government’s commitment to building for the future.”
Deputy Leader of the Tautua Samoa, AeauPeniaminaLeavaiseeta commends the Minister for his budget.
Aeau said he trusts in the Minister’s pros and cons highlighted in the budget.
“I’m confident with his budget that he can answer any questions that we have and would not be brushed aside,” said the Veteran M.P.
“I’m looking at a positive prospective for this parliamentary term and it’s a positive start. But there are a lot of questions that needs to be answered and I can say that the Minister can give us a satisfying answer.”
Parliament has been adjourned until 22nd June.