Samoa Opposition Slams Budget’s Increased Service Fees

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Anticipated expenditures noted in budget hit $356.4 million

By Lagi Keresoma and Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, June 18, 2013) – Better to increase taxes than increase service fees, the Opposition said in an attack of the 2013/14 budget before it comes up for debate in Samoa’s Parliament today.

In tabling the budget two weeks ago, Minister of Finance Faumuina Tiatia Liuga said he was happy taxes and tariffs won’t be increased.

Instead fees and charges for services provided by selected Ministries and Stated Owned Enterprises are to increase "to reflect the true cost of providing that service," Faumuina said.

Today Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II said "It’s better to raise taxes but keep service fees where they are.

"Because if services (fees) are increased it affects the cost of living," Palusalue said.

Increased taxes affect only wage earners, he said.

Increased service fees affect everyone, including the poor and the jobless, the Opposition leader said.

Palusalue criticized especially the budget proposal to boost medical fees by huge amounts.

He listed medical services targeted and their proposed increases in percentage:

In total the budget proposes to raise certain fees charged by Civil Aviation, Maritime, Asset Management Services – all under Ministry of Works, Transport and Industry; Management of Warrant & Bailiff Services, Censoring Services, Management Criminal and Civil Courts (Apia and Tuasivi) at Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration; Births, Deaths and Marriages; Land Management, Land Technical Services, Environment Services, Forestry Management, Planning & Research Services, Meteorological, Hydrological, Geology & Geophysics Services, Planning & Urban Management Services, Sustainable Water Resources Management – all under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; Lease of Wharf Facilities, Petroleum Levy, Stamp Duties – all under Ministry of Finance; and the medical health services mentioned which are under National Health Services.

These increases are to take effect on 1 July and hoped to earn Government WST$5.3 million [US$2.2 million].

Shadow Finance Minister, Afualo Wood Salele, criticized the absence of assistance for NGOs, which he said was one of the engines that generates income for Government.

"Government needs to put oil into that engine," Afualo said.

Faumuina’s budget aims to stimulate and rebuild the economy after Cyclone Evan damage suffered December last year.

With the theme of "Rebuilding Our Economy," the budget lists Expenditures totaling WST$841,240,564 [US$356.4 million].

The Budget states revenue at WST$760,393,859 [US$322.2].

The deficit is to be filled with a WST$120 million [US$50.8 million] soft term loan.

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