The government’s budget with the theme of ‘Building Resilience through Reforms’ is referred to PAC

Minister of Finance Hon. Crossley Tatui

The government intends to spend $53.9 million dollars and generate $45.1 million in the new financial year. Minister of Finance Hon. Crossley Tatui yesterday presented to the Fono Ekepule the Appropriations Bill 2023 for the government’s budget estimates for the financial year 2023/2024. 

In his budget speech Minister Tatui said that this budget shows the economic vulnerability confronting the government with an operational deficit of $8.7 million dollars. 

He said that “There should be no surprise with the current risky position we are facing due to the historic policies and decisions being implemented, aid dependence, our remoteness, high cost structure, small population base, the Covid-19 pandemic impacts, and the external economic shocks caused by geopolitical conflicts”

Minister of Finance explained that the reforms of the public finance legal framework which was recommended by a peer review of 2011 and finally initiated in the last Assembly will soon be tabled in Cabinet before presenting the bill to the Fono Ekepule later this year. 

“The Bill provides for fiscal responsibility, the annual budget-estimates and appropriation, the control and management of public finances, including the use of government account, borrowing, lending and investment, accounting, reporting for the government entities, sanctions and other matters”, said Minister Tatui.

The Minister of Finance said that “The budget deficit reminds us that some of our policies are not sustainable”.

He cautioned on un-appropriated expenditure saying “The deficit position summons us to rethink and revisit the way we do things. How hard it is to to set and keep policies, spend more than the cash available to us.

“There should be no new positions and initiatives without Cabinet approval. These are unappropriated expenditure that adds to unauthorized costs and needs to be addressed”, said Tatui.

Most of the members of the Fono responded positively to the budget, recognising the challenges facing the government with a large deficit but also appreciating the commitment of the government not to impose austerity measures. 

Member for Alofi North Mr. Tutuli Heka said that despite the large deficit, he is grateful to the Minister and Cabinet for not imposing austerity measures to reduce government spending on salaries and welfare payments.

These sentiments echoed by Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Esa Mona Ainuu who said that everyone is aware of the circumstances facing the government in the current economic conditions, the government remains committed to keeping the health and education subsidies in place, in spite of the $8.7 million dollar deficit.

Common roll member Sinahemana Hekau supported the budget and what the government is intending to do but she also spoke about the need to review and update the laws that guide the financial management of public funds, an exercise that was started in the 17th Assembly. 

Ms Hekau also pushed for a boost in the population and supported the move by the government to bring in more workers from overseas to resolve the ever-growing capacity issues confronting its workforce.

All members of the Fono Ekepule were present and commented on the budget except for Minister Sonya Talagi who is off-island on duty travel overseas.

After the first and second reading the bill was referred to the Public Accounts committee, made up of the following members, Ms Rhonda Tiakia Tomailuga of Lakepa, Tutuli Heka of Alofi North, Ritchie Mautama of Hakupu, Logopati Seumanu of Liku, Hon. Dion Taufitu of Toi and Hon. O’love Jacobsen of the Common Roll. The Committee will have two weeks to discuss the budget estimates with the heads of government agencies, before the Bill is returned to the Fono Ekepule for its final reading. 

BCN News will provide regular analysis of the the budget in the coming bulletins right up until the Appropriations Bill 2023 is passed by the Niue Assembly. 

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