SHORTAGE of funds to pay for the Government’s Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) is putting “considerable pressure” on Customs and the Inland Revenue Division (IRD) of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to raise the necessary capital, it was revealed Tuesday.
“There is considerable pressure being applied on Customs and IRD to go after everyone – individuals and corporate entities to pay up. There are a lot of companies out there that have not kept up with paying their taxes and they are on the IRD radar,” sources familiar with the situation told Solomon Star.
The revelation comes as the government went on the defense, denying media reports the ESP has run out of money.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Monday media reports that the ESP had run out of money “is not true.”
The Ministry of Finance and Treasury said the ESP account still has $100 million, which Mr. Sogavare said would be disbursed this week.
But those who are aware of the true situation said they were not buying the government’s denial.
“The truth of the matter is there are no ESP funds left. Someone is lying through their teeth about the true status of the ESP funding. The simple truth is the government does not have the money despite their claim to the contrary,” sources said.
“And because of that, the IRD, in particular, is being put under considerable pressure to raise sufficient capital in order to pay for the ESP,” the sources said.
The sources said one of the reasons the ESP funding has hit rock bottom is because no new funds were coming into the government coffers as was the intention of the ESP.
“ESP funding largely was given to entities which least support the Government’s recurrent budget. As a result, no new money is coming through the government coffers,” the sources said.
The sources said the operation by IRD has forced many roadside shops at Ranadi and Lunga to close their doors.
“There is only one line of business that is flourishing in town today – hardware shops owned by foreigners. These are outlets politicians empty much of their RCDF grants in. The reason they are flourishing today is that they are being funded by politicians.
Meanwhile, outspoken community leader, Charles Karaori, said he stood by his challenge to the government to publish the list of ESP recipients.
“It is the only way to prove the ESP account still has funds. Failure to do so gives the public the wrong signal,” Mr. Karaori said.
Mr. Karaori said he was surprised why the government has steadfastly refused to publish the list.
“One can only assume the government does not want to give out names of their cronies who received the ESP grants without putting anything back into the economy.”
By Alfred Sasako