Finance Minister queried over $51 million election promise
Members of Parliament and Associate Ministers have queried the Finance Minister to explain a shortfall in their own Government's promise to grant each constituency $1 million for development projects.
The Minister of Finance, Mulipola Anarosa Ale-Molio'o had been questioned by her fellow party members, who requested a full explanation of when it will be allocated and how.
The questions raised by the Members were in response to the Government’s $982 million main budget for the 2021-2022 financial year – which is an increase in expenditure of $16.7 million compared to the previous financial plan over the same period – as the new administration brings in new priorities.
The Finance Minister tabled the budget in the Parliament on Tuesday guided by the theme “Recovery, building resilience and shared prosperity for all the people of Samoa”.
The Appropriation Bill 2021/2022 was tabled under a certificate of urgency and is currently being deliberated in parliament after its second reading last Tuesday.
The first M.P. to raise the question was the Associate Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure and M.P. for Vaisigano No.1 Niuava Eti Malolo.
The Associate Minister for the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour and Palauli No.3 Member, Laga'aia Ti'aituau Tufuga, also expressed similar concerns in a question directed at the Minister.
"Honorable Minister of Finance, when are we getting the $1 million tala grant? When are you distributing out the fund?"
Another M.P. from Savai'i representing the Salega No.1. constituency, Fepulea'i Faimata Fa'asavalu raised the same concerns in the Parliament.
"This is what everyone is talking about," said Fepuleai, who is also the Associate Minister of Police. "Honorable Minister of Finance, that is not the tune we sang when we traveled around the country for our roadshow prior to the elections.
"Where is the $40 million? Bring it up; we promised $51 million not $11 million."
Fepuleai also asked Mulipola to explain how and where they will get the $51 million funding, especially with the country already recording a debt of $1 billion tala.
"Please, your Honorable, explain and elaborate how and where we will get this money and when it will be delivered."
The $51 million grant – which would see $1 million being given to each constituency – was outlined in the party's manifesto under 'community development section' to advance development of communities that provide regular economic support for individuals and families.
The party's goal is to establish district councils to plan and manage the socio-economic development of each district with the bulk of their funding coming from the $51 million grant.
In the budget under the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development a total of $11 million has been allocated for District and Community Programming and Scoping.
Last month Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa confirmed that a portion of the $1 million tala election promise for each constituency by the F.A.S.T. Government is a component of the 2021/2022 national budget.