Member of Parliament for Salega, Olo Fiti Vaai, has questioned the accuracy of revenues forecasted in the Government’s budget.
Olo raised the questions in relation to the Ministry of Revenue when Parliament convened to discuss and pass Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti’s budget for 2018/19.
“This is not the revenues we should have, we should double this revenue, away from overseas aid and loans,” he said.
According to Olo, the revenues generated from taxes, duties and other wharf-related fees should be a lot higher.
“When we look at the amount collected from duty, taxes for incoming goods and the like, the figures are pretty standard.
“There is not much difference between the figures for every year.”
Olo said this does not make sense.
“My point is that when we look at the rise in the number of businesses in the country, these numbers don’t make sense,” he said.
The Member of Parliament said the revenues should be a lot higher if the Government was doing its job in making sure all revenues are collected.
“So these revenue figures don’t stack up against the growth of new businesses, especially the rapid growth of Chinese businesses in Samoa,” he said.
Olo suggested that the figures would only make sense if a number of containers coming into the country are not being billed for taxes and duties.
“Unless the containers belonging to these companies are just washed into the country by the ocean currents, or if they are coming through the wharf with the duties not being paid, that’s the only way these figures can be accurate.”
The Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, objected to Olo’s comments. He said the figures on the budget are only estimates. He also defended his Ministry saying the employees are doing their jobs to collect fees and charges the companies owe.
Olo for years has been critical of the Ministry of Revenue’s Green Lane policy, which allows the fast tracking of containers out of the wharf compound. He said this policy opens the door to goods that are not taxed at the point of entry, which means the country loses much needed revenue.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi discredited Olo’s claims.
He reminded that he should pay attention more to what is being said when Cabinet Ministers explain their reports.
“You should listen to the statements,” Tuilaepa said. “You see, sometimes when I look across you are reading and other times, you are falling asleep.”
As a veteran Member of Parliament, Tuilaepa said Olo should know better by now and he should not be asking stupid questions.
Back on the floor, Olo said he is only raising the issue because he knows the Government needs the money.
As for Tuilaepa’s accusation that he falls asleep during Parliament, Olo replied:
“We’re the same, we pretend to sleep but we keep an ear out for what people are talking about.”
Parliament continues today.