The Tautua Samoa Party’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, has slammed the government’s inability to collect all taxes owed to the government.
He said this insufficiency has resulted in a budget shortfall the government has had to fix with the Supplementary Appropriation Bill (No1) 2015/2016, tabled in Parliament this week.
Speaking during the Tautua Samoa weekly press conference, Afualo said the recorded $432,952 in V.A.G.S.T collected from ministries and corporations was not good enough.
He questioned where revenue for taxes on goods and services had gone.
“It doesn’t seem like the collection of tax is in line with policies and regulations,” said Afualo.
“If there is one country that has so many taxes, it’s Samoa…about 50 percent of revenue comes from goods and services tax and the rest is from income tax."
“We feel that the revenue collected is not in line with the government spending and chances are they will raise tax by 20 percent next year if we continue on like this.”
The M.P for Salega criticised the Supplementary Appropriation Budget, saying its expenditure was a lot more than its revenue.
He explained that if the theme for the budget this year was living within our means, “then the Prime Minister is not keeping to those words.
“We have an appropriation budget that is $9.1 million and revenue is only $8.5million - an excess of $477,000.”
The budget was no different from a blouse that used more material than what was available, he added.
According to Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the excess in expenditure was funded from savings identified under the Parliamentary Pension Scheme and the Ministry of Revenue.
While Afualo was hesitant the details of the budget, since it has been referred to the Parliament Committee for consideration, he said the dividends noted in it could be better.
For the first time, there are records of additional revenue from dividends received of $2.83 million from the state-owned enterprises.
Afualo acknowledged the establishment of the Ministry of Public Enterprises that made that possible but pointed out it should’ve been done a long time ago.
“It’s great to see the dividends paid and it’s how it should be,” said Afualo. “But there is a lot more that needs to be paid in by these S.O.Es as they have the majority of government assets.”
According to the supplementary bill, other than revenue from S.O.Es and V.A.G.S.T, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment noted profit of $217,396 and $1million from the Office of the Regulator.
An additional $4 million was also sourced from the Samoa International Finance Authority.
In support, Tautua Samoa Leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II, agreed.
He compared the supplementary bill to a situation where the government was bankrupt, and said there shouldn’t have been any supplementary appropriation budget.
Although he was pleased that government has taken into account their previous advice not to take out loans in order for them to make up for the insufficiency of the country’s finances.
He questioned $70,000 being put aside to pay for overdue bills from the Commonwealth Youth Games.
According to Palusalue, revenue from the event should’ve been allocated to pay for the overdue bills owed to the Electric Power Corporation.
The estimates were referred to the Finance and Expenditure Committee for consideration and to report their findings to the house in not less than 14 days pursuant to standing orders.