Economist calls on Govt. to explain budget to ordinary people

The Government's $913.6million budget for 2019/2020 might have been passed by Parliament on Tuesday but an Economics Professor wants the Ministry of Finance to explain their work to the average person.

Tamaleta Taimang Jensen, a former Ministry of Finance public servant and current Economics Lecturer at the National University of Samoa, said people should be encouraged to learn how national budget planning affects them.

“In every developing country, I think the people don’t care about the budget, especially because we don’t have any social security or benefits,” said Tamaleta.

“In developing countries they have benefits so people are really concerned with how much they are going to get in order to survive. But we don’t have that and when we don’t, people don’t really care.”

Not enough people listen to Parliament debate the budget either in the House or on the radio, so government should be reaching out to them to explain their work, he said.

“It’s important for people to know what is going on, but then most people don’t care about the budget because they don’t understand what is going on.”

Most importantly, government should “spell out” the incentives they offer private sector to encourage it to help grow the economy, Tamaleta said. 

For his part, Tamaleta said he sees the budget as evidence the government is trying to grow the economy by increasing spending, hence a need to operate at a deficit.

“When they spend on normal operations that means they are spending on payroll, and that is how they increase that portion of [gross domestic product].

“Then a lot of people will spend their money and pay a lot of V.A.G.S.T. and that ends up in government, so they can increase government spending on projects and that money circulates in the economy.”

And while that is sustainable in the short term, Tamaleta wants to know when government plans to stop operating at a loss and begin saving again. 

Just like a person who loans to buy a house and car and then spends the subsequent years saving every penny to repay their loan, so too Samoa has to begin working to pay off loans, he said.

“We are managing to pay it but it keeps on climbing every day. There is a time that it needs to come down a bit. 

“And I know they are trying to increase G.D.P. by spending, but then there should be a time where you save and repay your debts to bring it down to a more comfortable level we can afford,” he said.

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