VANUATU PARLIAMENT'S REGULATIONS MAY NEED

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TO BE SUSPENDED

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (March 25, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu's new Parliament may be forced to suspend regulations in order to immediately consider a 1998 appropriation bill.

If it does not, pay to government workers will need to be suspended beginning April 1.

Senior government officials, PACNEWS reports, are hoping the new Parliament will treat the need to have a government budget for 1998 with urgency, as the Department of Finance has no authority to authorize payments after March 31.

Officials say unless Parliament's standing orders are suspended, the 1998 budget must first be introduced in Parliament and then remain available for study for one month before it can be debated.

Another challenge facing the incoming legislators are the tough financial decisions that must be made regarding the government's 500 million vatu ($US 3 million) deficit and an additional 200 million vatu ($US 1.6 million) worth of payment in arrears.

Finance department officials say the government's options to resolve the deficit are to increase revenues, reduce expenditures, or a combination of both.

To complicate Parliament matters further, independent candidates in the March 6 general election have petitioned the Supreme Court to call a by-election in the Port Vila constituency.

Coordinator of the group, Shem Rarua, says he has clear evidence of fraudulent voting involving some political parties.

Meantime, four parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cooperate.

They are the Union of Moderate Parties, the Melanesian Progressive Party, the John Frum Movement and the Vanuatu Republiken Pati. The group's MP numbers total 21.

Earlier, the Vanua'aku Pati and the National United Party, with 31 MPs, agreed to cooperate in forming a Vanuatu coalition government.

A simple majority in the new 52-member Parliament will require affirmative votes by 27 MPs.

The new Parliament is scheduled to convene March 30 to begin deliberations, including electing a Speaker and a Prime Minister.

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