Budget deficit ignites heated exchange in Parliament

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has set the record straight to say that just because the Budget for the Financial Year 2020-2021 has a $107 million deficit does not mean the Government is being run at a loss.

Tuilaepa made the point in Parliament on Wednesday, when he objected to questions raised by Members of Parliament, including Laaulialemalietoa Leuaatea Schmidt, about the deficit in the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, last month.

Tuilaepa refuted claims that the deficit pointed to a Government that is in trouble financially. He rebuked La'auli and told all Members of Parliament to understand the figures in the budget before they make such unfounded claims.

The Prime Minister explained that the deficit represented in the budget are the excess in Government's outflows (spending) relative to its anticipated available inflows (revenues) within the 12month financial year.

It also represents the amount the Government will seek to finance through other resourcing options outside of its normal inflow avenues.

“That’s the meaning of deficit," he said. "These are funds on top of the $838 million budget." 

Tuilaepa said La'auli did not understand this when he spoke about the budget deficit on Tuesday. 

“The $107 million is not a shortfall," Tuilaepa said. "They are grants from overseas partners that trust Samoa to carry out our developments using these funds.

“And these projects are carried and overseen by the Chief Executive Officers and they are highly intelligent, one should stop mocking these projects. Again these funds are not a shortfall but they are grants.

“Our overseas partners see the government’s keenness in collecting taxes from everyone and it is never right that while others are paying taxes, some are not.”

But Laauli objected to the Prime Minister's explanation. He said Tuilaepa's comments makes it sound like he doesn't understand what a deficit is.  

“The meaning of the word deficit is loss,” said Laauli.

But Prime Minister wouldn't budget saying Laauli's claim is stupid. 

"The $107 million deficit is not a loss, they are grants," Tuilaepa fired back.

“Mr Speaker, this is what I am trying to explain, this explanation is directed to you (Laauli). You have been a Cabinet Member for a long time and yet you still don’t understand.”

La'auli fired back. 

“Yes I have been sitting in Cabinet while you make all the decisions.”

Tuilaepa rejected this.

“I don’t make the decisions on my own," Tuilaepa said. "Decisions are made unanimously."

The Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali'i Niko Lee Hang, defended the Prime Minister's explanation of the Government's deficit.

Another Cabinet Minister, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'i, also took the floor to object to claims that Tuilaepa makes the decisions by himself. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology said decisions are thoroughly discussed and debated in Cabinet.

He said claims that Tuilaepa controls the decision making are wrong.

In response, La'auli said Afamasaga is only a newbie who had just arrived "yesterday."

Parliament continues. 


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