Samoa Parliament Passes $367 Million Budget For 2017-18

Applause breaks out at successful vote

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 28, 2017) – A round of applause was echoed during Parliament at Tuanaimato when the budget for the financial year 2017/2018 was passed on Monday night.

The budget amount of $933.2million [US$367.2 million] was approved during the third and final reading.

This was after four days of discussion where the majority of Members of Parliament praised the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti’s budget.

Expenditures totaled $934million, which is an increase of 4.4% from the previous year of $894million.

[PIR editor's note: On June 28, 2017 as per Oanda currency convert ST$1 = US$0.39346]

There were slight changes to the budget with the removing of $1.93million from the Ministry of Finance. 

The proposal was made by the Chair of the Parliamentary Financial Committee who explained the money was allocated for a government loan. 

“Yet this loan had since been paid off during financial year 2016-2017 in July, 2016.” 

When Samoa was affected by the  Global Financial Crisis,  a total of 31 businesses and 18 hotels were fortunate to receive assistance from the government after they were unable to repay their debts to the Development Bank. 

In doing so, the Cabinet approved $3.9million to pay back this loan. 

The government started paying this loan in financial year 2014/2015; 2016/2016 for $1.93million annually. The loan was paid off in July 2016. 

“However the committee uncovered that these funds were allocated for the same purpose to repay the loan for financial year 2017-2018,” said Chair of Parliamentary Financial Committee.  

Another change was the reduction of unforeseen expenditures which was initially $15.35million. This has been reduced to $15.29million. 

Minister Sili's Budget for 2017/2018 estimated revenues of $852.3million and total expenditures of a Deficit $89.9m is forecasted. 

The Total Expenditures for 2017/18 is expected to be $934,244,759 which is 4.4% higher than the current financial year. In his address when the 2017/2018 Financial budget was introduced for approval back in May, Sili pointed out the increase in expenditure results from continuing efforts by Government to develop key priority areas which I will now highlight: 

EDUCATION 

The total budget allocation for Education is approximately $100.3million and is equivalent to 19.6% of total Government expenditure programs for the financial year 2017/18. 

This is allocated as follows: $80.7million is allocated to the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture which includes financing for key items that include: financing to continue towards the School Fee Grant Scheme for Primary Schools and Secondary School classes Years 9 to Year 11; re-instatement of School Review Officers; appropriations for teacher upgrade scholarships; $12.6million allocated for the National University of Samoa; $5.3million for the Samoa Qualifications Authority; $1.7million for the operations of the Samoa Sports Facility Authority; Additionally, there are also development projects for the sector funded by development partners amounting to $2.4million. 

HEALTH 

$88.5million has been allocated to the Health Sector which represents approximately 17.3% of the total expenditure programs of Government and is allocated as follows: $69.3million has been allocated to the National Health Services which include the following: $6million for the Overseas Medical Treatment Scheme; $4million allocated for the procurement of pharmaceutical drugs; $3.9million for the procurement of pathology lab re-agents and consumables; $1.6million for catering services for the hospital; $1.5million for procurement of medical consumables required for the hospital. $12.2million for the Ministry of Health which includes $3.3million for the orientation program of new nursing and doctor graduates as well as $1million for continuing the nurses scholarship program; $6.9million for National Kidney Foundation which includes $2.5million for medical supplies as well as $300,000 to assist in the renovations and extension of the existing buildings. 

The Health Sector also has proposed development programs to be implemented with the assistance of development partners and these amount to approximately $5.5million. 

INFRASTRUCTURE 

The total appropriation for Infrastructure is $46.99million which accounts for 9.18% of Government's total expenditure programs and includes the following. 

Transport and Infrastructure 

$26.7million has been allocated to the Transport and Infrastructure sectors and has been allocated as follows: $5.5million has been allocated to the operations and administration of the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure; $21.2million is appropriated for the Land Transport Authority for routine maintenance and construction of roads and bridges planned for the country. It is anticipated that the LTA will be collecting up to $14.5million in revenues from their operations which will also contribute to these key road works. 

There are also a number of infrastructural projects; ongoing and pipeline funded by development partners to the value of $58.4million in grants and $52.0 million in concessional financing. 

ELECTRICITY 

$2million has been allocated for Community Service Obligations of the Electric Power Corporation to supplement the cost of ensuring rural areas have access to electricity as well as to assist families who cannot afford connection costs. Additional resources collected by the EPC will be used to finance its usual operations to the general public. The Electricity Sector also has projects to the value of $4million in grants and $31.8million in loans provided through the cooperation of Government and its partners; 

WATER 

$2million has been appropriated for Community Service Obligations of the Samoa Water Services Authority to ensure access to water in rural communities. As per usual, the SWA will also be collecting resources from their services to assist in other areas which need financing. 

An additional $8.6million has also been provided for the Samoa Water Authority through budget support from the EU. 

COMMUNICATIONS 

$7.7million has been allocated to the communications sector and is allocated as follows: $5.9million for the operation of the Ministry for Communications and Technology which include co-location, electricity and spectrum fees for the Samoa National Broadband Highway; 

$1.75million has been allocated for the normal operations of the Office of the Regulator. 

It is anticipated that the Tui Samoa Cable will be commissioned towards the end of this year. This has been made possible through funding from the ADB, World Bank and the Australian Government. It is expected that a total of approximately $50million in grant assistance is appropriated for the new financial year. 

INTEGRATED FLOOD MANAGEMENT 

It is worth noting that the Green Climate Fund has approved Samoa’s project proposal worth US$57m intended to reduce the impact of recurrent flood related impacts in the Vaisigano river catchment. The project has three interlinked project components as follows: Capacities and mechanisms in place for an integrated approach to reduce vulnerability towards flood-related risks; Strengthened adaptive capacity and reduced exposure to climate risks of vulnerable communities, livelihoods and infrastructure in the Vaisigano Catchment; and Upgraded drainage in downstream areas for increased regulations and rapid discharge of water flows. Implementation is expected to commence around the end of 2018 when all the contractual arrangements have been finalized. 

TOURISM

$11.4million has been allocated to the Samoa Tourism Authority for the implementation of its planned activities which includes the marketing and promotion of Samoa as a tourist destination. $2.0 million is earmarked for the marketing of Samoa in the New Zealand and Australian markets which have the greatest potential for increased tourists to visit Samoa as well as easy airline connections to Samoa. The more tourists that visit our shores means good business for our hotels, provide the much needed employment opportunities as well as providing a market for our local produce and handicrafts. The New Zealand Government will work with the Samoa Tourism Authority in promoting Samoa in NZ and Australia and will contribute $4.5m in 2017/18 to assist with that work. The Apia Waterfront Development project is expected to commence construction next year and the New Zealand government is contributing $3.56 m towards that project. 

COMMERCE 

$7.7million has been allocated to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour which include a contribution to the private sector of $200,000. 

$4.25million will also be made available from the UNOP for the sector under the Enhanced Integrated Framework. 

AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES 

An appropriation of $14.1 million has been allocated to the Ministry of the Agriculture and Fisheries for their normal operations. 

$3.2million has been appropriated for the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa to support their continuing research efforts. 

$6.5million in grants and $6.5million in loans will also be made available from the World Bank in conclusion of the SACEP Project for the Agriculture Sector while $4.3million will be sourced from the ADB and the Australian Government to continue the AgriBusiness Project. 

UNFORESEEN EXPENDITURES

The total estimated appropriation for Unforeseen expenditures based on the total 

expenditure programs of Government for 2017/18 is $15.29million.

Samoa Observer
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