Over its ESP approach and payout
By Alfred Sasako
THE tax-payer-funded $320 million Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) is nothing more than a ‘slush fund’ for politicians and their cronies, is the latest blasting of the Government by social media commentators.
The accusation comes as the first ‘unofficial’ list of recipients began circulating on social media this week.
“The current ESP is nothing more than a SLASH FUND of the MPs,” one commentator puts it.
And he claims the delays in payments could only mean one thing … THE FUNDS HAVE DRIED (UP). As an analogy, if a private company is delaying its disbursements with excuses then for sure the company has no liquid funds, the man, a qualified account, said.
“… I can only pray to God that our MPs see the light of day as far as what their true roles are in the reviving of our Solomon Islands’ economy.
“As I write this brief commentary, I just could not stop thinking of the fact that our MPs, instead of being only legislators, are now deep into becoming financial abusers and financial miss-managers … the ingredients of leading our economy into serving and enriching only a few at the expense of pushing the general populace into poverty.”
ESP Chairman and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, McKinnie Dentana was quick to deny the list was genuine, adding it never came from the Government.
“First, I am not aware of the list or have the opportunity to see any of the lists but heard that many lists are going around,” Mr. Dentana told the weekly talk-back show over the national radio on Sunday afternoon.
According to the latest figures shown on the list, politicians might have actually received $1 million or more each in ESP funding, instead of the recently published amount of $600, 000 per Constituency that the public was led to believe.
In some instances, payments of varying amounts were made on separate occasions, using the same bank account number, according to details on the list.
The list shows that all except two MPs received $600, 000 each. The two Constituencies received a $1 million each. The shortfalls in payments to other Constituencies were later made up in installments of $200, 000 apiece, the list show.
Payments to Constituencies in ESP assistance totaled $41, 900, 000, according to the list. This included some $12.9 million, which according to notes on the list, was ‘double payment.’
On the list of double payments, five Constituencies were allocated a total $6.5 million in ESP funding in addition to the $600, 000 each had received.
Of the five, one Constituency was allocated $2.5 million, the rest were allocated a $1 million each.
It is not clear whether or not the 22 Constituencies in the ‘double payments’ list had received the additional funding.
Meanwhile, the individual whose posting has drawn widespread support has explained what an ESP should have been all about.
“My fellow Solomon Islanders, in any modern national economy, during times of economic downturn or crisis, any ESP that is drawn up as a stimulus catalyst to recover, revive and reverse the nose-diving national economy, must be done in a manner that the government’s “FISCAL POLICIES” mechanisms are right at the centre of the whole ESP.
“After all, it is the government that is spending the millions and millions of $$$$$$. Therefore, as a national government, and in order for it to keep on with its service delivery and capital projects implementations, as the ESP unfolds, it is important that the revenue earning FISCAL POLICIES mechanisms must be part of the ESP.
“In short, when the government spends big, the ESP must also make sure that the government must also earn big.
“The currently implemented SIG ESP will NEVER EVER revive the nose-dived economy of Solomon Islands … neither in the short term nor in the long term. This is a fact of life unfolding before my eyes,” he said.
“I have read through the booklet titled “SIG ESP TO ADDRESS THE IMPACTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC” and it contains the wrong approach to reviving our nose-dived economy. Yes, the wrong approach.”
In his view, the SIG ESP should have been a restricted “closed book” affair. The SIG ESP should have been prepared/drawn up to contain at least two major levels of implementations, one preceding the other, representing the two important major economic commercial sectors of our national economy .. URBAN Commercial (Secondary) Sector and the RURAL Commercial (Primary) Sector.
“The SIG ESP, as a closed book affair, should have been restricted to the current stakeholders and current active participants serving the two major economic commercial sectors of our national economy, especially the ones greatly intertwined in our revenue earning SIG FISCAL POLICIES.
“The entire ESP programme should not have been headquartered in the highly volatile political-ridden PMO but in the Ministry of Finance and Treasury. There never should have been any call for applications from the general public.
“Submissions should have been requested from incorporated companies and registered business names operating across the two Commercial Sectors, especially from legal entities with proven records of being subjected to the revenue earning SIG FISCAL POLICIES mechanisms.
“The submissions should have been grouped according to the two Commercial Sectors … URBAN and RURAL,” he said.
“REMEMBER – ONLY THE COMMERCIAL SECTORS ARE TO BE ADDRESSED (his emphasis). Not the Constituencies, Not the Churches, Not the Youths, Not the Associations, Not the Women’s Groups, Not the etc, etc, etc … because the most important and pertinent question is: WHO OR WHAT ORGANISATION IS PAYING THE BIGGEST TAX TO THE SIG through the spectrum of taxes as revenue earning FISCAL POLICIES mechanisms,” he said.
“With the ESP emphasis on the Urban and Rural Commercial Sectors of our economy, our SIG should have definitely been poised not to have experienced any cash flow problems at the MoFT Treasury.”
Meanwhile, Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) has also raised concern over the allocation of the ESP payout to MPs. It has also provided a list of the media.