Supplementary budget passes

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 24 January 2020, 8:55PM

Parliament has approved $23.6 million Supplementary Budget for the 2019-2020 Financial Year, including plans for additional work to the national prison, a fund to eradicate measles and a campaign designed to revive tourism. 

The budget's passage comes after four days of deliberations including evening sessions at Parliament house in Mulinu’u. 

The bulk of the concerns from Members of Parliament focused on funding relating to road infrastructure, digital television, the measles response, coronavirus preparedness, and funding for healthcare, education and basic utilities such as water. 

Other concerns related to the potential abuse of social media and new technologies. 

The budget revealed that economic assessments of the measles epidemic suggest it may have dented Samoa's economy by $22 million, the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, revealed during his Ministerial speech.

"What is certain is that the Government will revisit all its existing policies and frameworks to secure the nation from any future epidemics,” the Minister said.  

Sili was not available for comment after Parliament's Friday session, but last month said the budget's key priorities included: ensuring the recovery and ongoing health of the nation; reviving the tourism industry; and increasing scholarship opportunities for students and measures to combat the effects of climate change. 

The main changes announced in the budget include a request for overall additional expenditure of $23.6 million to be financed by additional receipts of more than $13 million tala. 

That extra revenue partly stems from the Ministry of Public Enterprises ($3,801,186) which the Minister said represented dividends from the operation of Government corporations, and the conclusion of the Samoa and Virgin Australia joint venture, 

Receipts from the  Pacific Games to the value of more than $5.6 million, derived from sponsorship packages and payments from participating countries of $1.8 million also contributed to Government coffers 

The the sale of Japan International Cooperation Agency buses and an additional $1.1 million from the fuel levy raked in by the Ministry of Finance also helped boost the Government's bottom line. 

The Government has also included in its revised Government income a catastrophe donation from the World Bank worth $8.8 million tala; reshuffled expenditure from the delay of planned Government initiatives including a community legal centre under the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration; and $9 million in miscellaneous grants. 

On the expenditure side, the Government will outlay a further $4.3 million tala on the new Tanumalala prison, comprising additional workers, staff quarters and a "climb proof" fence. The prison expenditure follows the breakout of two prisoners in October from the newly built prison.

Other significant expenditure includes an additional more than $8 million for a disaster recovery fund to assist in the eradication of measles and $250,000 for an advertising campaign to help offset done to Samoa's reputation to travelers arising from the recent measles crisis. 

Recent figures from the Central Bank showed that tourism was the fastest growing sector of the economy and the main driver of economic growth which last year reached 5.7 per cent in nominal terms.

But the Samoa Tourism Authority last week sounded the alarm that the measles epidemic had hit revenue from tourism by up to $10 million. 

By Joyetter Feagaimaali'i 24 January 2020, 8:55PM

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