Govt. finances need microscope: Fiame

Leader of the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, says she intends to put Government finances under the microscope as the end of the fiscal year draws near.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Samoan conducted before the Head of State cancelled next Monday's planned sitting of Parliament and what was widely expected as her time to become Samoa's leader, Fiame said the Government's finances were not transparent. 

“We have to take stock what the actual [financial] situation [versus what’s on paper] and it's always sensible to work from a realistic based,” said Fiame. 

The leader of Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi said the budget for the new Financial Year 2021-2022 is at the top of her agenda, once she achieves her goal of knocking back the Head of State's refusal to swear in Parliament as promised on Monday. 

“The budget is [our priority] and because it is a very small window [we have] until the end of June," she said. 

“We are a new administration, we’re going to have to spend some time to orientate the new team and meet with the public [servants] and outline [the budget]. 

“After all the public servants are the implementers of government policies and they are also administrators for Government. 

“We haven’t had a government transition for a very long time and we probably need to pay a lot of attention to in-house [finances]."

Financial Years end on 30 June. 

The Government’s total budget for the Financial Year of 2020-2021 was composed of $838 million in revenue and $965 million in expenditure, widening the national deficit of $116 million after “soft term borrowing” was accounted for. 

Now caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, introduced two supplementary budgets this Financial Year, most recently last December when the Government issued debt relief and redirected spending to the sum of $24 million. 

Fiame said given the small window of the budget, if she takes Government her administration will try and find “leeway to try and introduce some of our priorities or whether we just move to use the same template from the previous  to ensure the operation of Government continues, including the payment of salaries for Government staff [and] essential services etc."

Fiame said a F.A.S.T. administration would look at their policy priorities to see what the Government's coffers allowed them to enact. But she also said she believed there hs been a missed opportunity to stir up economic activity. 

“So with the budget, there is the main budget and the supplementary and those are the opportunities for [a] new administration to consider [its] priorities," she said. 

 "We have to get [...] on top of the COVID-19; given the vaccinations, programme has been rolled out already. 

“[We also need to] get [in depth] on just how much COVID-19 has impacted the economy and what we need to do as a priority to meet some of the implications for COVID-19.

“And [we should consider] looking at the issues of where we are in terms of being able to open borders, perhaps with American Samoa."

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