Caretaker Govt.'s billion tala budget "fake": Olo

The caretaker Government’s revelation of a billion-plus talā budget for the next financial year has been dubbed “fake” by Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) M.P. elect, Olo Fiti Vaai. 

Olo said the revelation of a more-than-billion-talā budget, including an allocation of $3 million for benefits for people with disabilities is a way for caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi to get back into the people’s good graces. 

“But too bad; too late,” said Olo on Monday in an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

Last week, Tuilaepa revealed that the new fiscal year budget totals more than a billion talā, for the first time in history which includes a third stimulus package. 

The budget will also earmark another first in Samoa with an amount put aside for benefits for people with disabilities, plus a review for a possible pension increase. 

Tuilaepa said the budget has been prepared and figures reveal that the 2021-2022 Financial Year includes a budgeted $1,680 million in expenditures with a total of $842.6 million in current expenditures. 

“That’s fake,” Olo said. “Where is he supposed to get a billion?” 

Olo said the budget laid out by the caretaker Prime Minister is from his own imagination.

“Just to mislead the view of the people; that is from his own mind, because the question is, where will he get a billion to cover that budget?

“Where is he going to get that amount from? Right now overseas grants are being withheld due to the instability of our Government.

“Budget supports are also being withheld because a Government has not been settled. An overseas government cannot release grants or budget supports unless they see there is a Government to hand it over to.”

Olo reminded that as long as Parliament has not convened, there is no budget.

“We are the winning team and we are the Government of the day,” he said.

“We have not seen a budget and it has not been tabled in Parliament which is the only congress that can approve a budget.

“He cannot do that, as a caretaker, he cannot do such a thing. Everything he is talking about is fake.

“[Tuilaepa] is trying to draw the nation’s attention to him and his plans but none of that was in their manifesto.

“He is doing it so that people will think he’s good, but why are they only doing it now? If they have planned to do that all along, why didn’t it do it earlier? 

“It was only until F.A.S.T. started to raise it that they have wanted to do it now. All of that, he cannot make a budget; under the constitution, only the Parliament can pass it but we don’t have a Parliament yet.” 

Currently, both the caretaker Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and newcomers, F.A.S.T. party are claiming they are the official Government of the nation following the swearing-in of Samoa’s first elected woman Prime Minister, Fiame, outside Parliament last month under a tent, and Tuilaepa’s refusal to relinquish power insisting the ceremony was illegal. 

The matter will be called again for the hearing next Monday to determine its legitimacy. 

“After the matter that has been postponed next week Monday, which is the hearing, we will then come to look at a budget,” Olo continued. 

Asked if the F.A.S.T. is confident the case will fall in their favour, he said “yes.” 

“Yes of course we are very confident, but it depends on the decision of the Court,” he said. 

“We respect the decision of the Court whatever it may be. But in terms of swearing-in using the doctrine of necessity, many countries have used it.” 

He cited the application of the doctrine of necessity to legitimise new governments in Pakistan in 1954, Grenada in 1985, Fiji in 2009, and Nigeria in 2010. 

The convening of the XVII Legislative Assembly continues to be a contentious issue for both the F.A.S.T. party and the H.R.P.P. with its leaders, Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa and caretaker P.M. Tuilaepa failing to reach a compromise following negotiations last week. 

Nonetheless, it appears to be business-as-usual for Tuilaepa, who told the Radio 2AP that he projected that the current expenditure in the budget for the next fiscal year is $842 million. 

He also said the Government leaders are prepared to operate smoothly despite the ongoing political standoff.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.), Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, “essential services” would be unaffected if any new budget is not approved by Parliament.

“There are provisions under the law we can use to assure the operation of essential services or only certain services,” said Leasiosio during a brief interview with the Samoa Observer over the phone on Wednesday, 9 June.

But the C.E.O. declined to provide specific information about the Government’s plans.

“We intend to make a public announcement before the end of the week maybe by Friday and it will be widely distributed to the media, our preparations [when it does come to that].”

Asked whether the Government’s emergency plan will impact Government staff salaries, Leasiosio declined to answer other than referring to the upcoming “public announcement”.

No announcement has been made as of Monday, 14 June.

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