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The Samoan Government's WST$913.6 million (US$348.2 million) budget for 2019-2020 has been passed by Parliament.
Tabled by the Minister for Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti in May with the theme "A shared vision for prosperity," the budget received the nod of approval on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had moved a motion to extend the session until the budget was passed.
The approval followed seven days of budget debate where MPs addressed the Government on the needs and wants of their respective constituencies.
On the fifth day, Cabinet Ministers addressed the concerns raised by Members of Parliament in relation to developments in roads, water and electricity needs within their constituencies.
“There is optimism and that things are going to get better and we have allocated resources to the different Ministries; and programs depending on our understanding of where we want to invest, to ensure that we grow the economy and that we need to provide for our people," said Sili.
“Also, there is need to invest more in the education and health."
According to the budget, the Ministries of Health gets $112.1 million (US$42.7 million) while the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture receives $109.5 million (US$41.6 million).
“These are the most essential sectors the government needs to invest in as we cannot grow the economy to the level where we want to be if our people are not well educated or sick because we take the wrong food.
“We have to continue investing in our human capital as such,” said Sili.
According to the Minister, there is a growing need to continue investments in agriculture, which contributes more than 30 per cent of the GDP.
“Many of the local business are investing in egg farms, plantations and that is going to help, and I’m optimistic and we need to make sure that we monitor what we are doing to make sure if there are challenges then we address it as soon as possible.
“Also, the Government will not hesitate to redirect our investments to areas where we know we can make an impact for our people.”
Going forward, the Minister told the Samoa Observer the Government is looking at a funding scheme to help students who cannot afford to pay for their tuition at the NUS.
“It is a shame if the government sits idle and let this happen. Our long-term goal is to afford these students the opportunity to complete their degrees and return to contribute to the economy,” said Sili.
However, the risk which can’t be avoided is the impact of climate change.
“But we can counter that by investing in a Samoa Government insurance to enable us to respond very quickly. We also have similar arrangements with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
“We can only plan and only God knows our future and so our people need to continue praying for our protection and God will help us and get us where we want to be,” said Sili.
According to the budget, $583.7 million (US$221.7 million) has been allocated to expenditure programmes, while the statutory expenditure is $145.6 million (US$55.3 million).
The unforeseen expenditure is $17.5 million (US$6.6 million) while the development projects are $166.8 million (US$63.4 million with the overall deficit budget of $87 million (US$33.1 million).
Despite revised growth projections for this financial year, the Minister said expectations are high for the current 2018-2019 fiscal year as Government’s investments divert to preparations to host the Pacific Games in July, as well as the construction and completion of Apia's waterfront development and much needed road works.
“In addition to this, the current financial year also saw Samoa host the Pacific Judicial Conference, the Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as well as the SAMOA Pathway review. On the monetary side, commercial bank’s average liquidity continued to improve in light of strong external inflows while commercial bank interest rates remained relatively stable.”
The key components of the 2019-2020 budget are that the main estimates are expected to record an overall fiscal deficit of approximately $87.0 million (US$33.1 million).
“Accounting for Government to Government revenues and expenditures further narrows this deficit to $28.5 million (US$10.8 million) as illustrated within the Forward Estimates Statement that accompanies this budget ultimately establishing the estimated 1 percent of GDP Budget Deficit for the new fiscal year.
“Total Domestic Revenue is expected to increase by $18.4 million (US$7 million) or 2.9 percent in the new fiscal year to be driven primarily by projected increases in tax collections in line with the anticipated economic activity generated by the hosting of the Pacific Games and other meetings as previously mentioned.”
The budget underscores a Government committed to forward planning through its ability to evaluate priorities and identify the right mix of policies to solidify a prosperous future for our people.
“It emphasises that the Government will remain vigilant in ensuring a resilient socio-economic and financial system that will support the continuous development of its nation without compromising the quality of life of its citizens.
“It further realises the need for longer term consistent planning that will not only raise efficiency of service provision but also promote investment and employment creation within the country, said the finance minister.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
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