WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Nov. 11) - Solomon Islands Undersecretary Of Finance Colin Johnson says the country’s 2003 budget was well off track due to extortion by police and overspending by several departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry, earlier in the year.

Mr Johnson, who is in Honiara as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, or RAMSI, is also the leader of the budget stabilization team.

He said the Solomons government will make health and education top priorities in its budget plan for the December quarter of this year.

Johnson said revenue is increasing, with100 million Solomon Island dollars, or US$13.5 million to spend this quarter.

"Health, which of course is a very, very important area of the budget has a fair share of that," he said. "It's about 15.2 million and education is about 18.7 million, although really on top of that we need to add that 15 million that New Zealand is providing. In addition to that there are funds available for debt servicing, too."

Mr Johnson says managing the government’s debts is the most serious problem now as it owes 1.7 billion Solomon Island dollars.

He compared the debt level as similar to the situation Argentina is in.

November 12, 2003

Radio New Zealand International:


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