The Minister of Finance and Treasury Harry Kuma has launched the 2020 budget process on Monday.
At the same time he called for wide-ranging support from development partners, the private sector, NGOs and ordinary people to support the Government in this endeavor.
This is the first National Budget since the formation of the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA) which was launched on the theme “Together, Towards Growing Our Economy”.
Minister Kuma explained that the theme calls for togetherness, including our development partners, non-government organizations, private sector and our ordinary people to support the government in this endeavor.
Minister Kuma strongly emphasized that the Solomon Islands is facing a different phase in its development challenges after 41 years of independence since 1978.
“The DCGA described the progress to-date as, ‘40 years in the development wilderness’ embedded with the culture of increasing dependency on government interventions, subsidies and rural development initiatives.
“The major challenges facing the nation remains eminent despite our progress as an independent nation, which includes; poor economic growth, poor governance at all levels and political instability,” said Minister Kuma.
The Minister also issued a stern warning that to effectively move forward with any changes, the country need to abandon the inefficient and ineffective practice and shift from doing business as usual approach.
This according to Minister Kuma its means moving away from the dependency syndrome or poverty mentality and be proactive and productive, moving away from wanting more resources and doing more with less and moving away from dependency on logging and broaden investment in productive and resources sectors.
“Maintaining the status quo will mean failure, this is why the budget 2020 is a critical budget for the nation,” said Minister Kuma.
The stern warning came about as the domestic economy now at the cross-road of economic challenges, with economic growth in 2020 is expected to grow below 2.5 per cent.
Permanent Secretary of Finance and Treasury Mckinnie Dentana also confirmed the status of the domestic economy.
“We cannot sit and watch our economy continue sliding backward while the population is growing at the same rate, this will lead this country and our people into catastrophe and poverty,” the secretary strongly emphasized.
He further challenged senior policy officers within the government to think strategically to support the government meeting its objectives.
In terms of the 2020 fiscal framework it has been revealed that the government has set a balance budget of $3.675 billion dollars.
Minister Kuma revealed that in 2020 key priority projects that will be progressed include; the Tina River Hydro Development project (TRHDP), the Submarine Cable project, Bina Harbor seaport and fisheries projects, Munda international airport project, tar sealing of Seghe, Taro and other key domestic airports and Henderson international airport upgrade project, the Honiara and Auki road projects which are critical to stimulate growth at all levels.
Minister Kuma also revealed that agriculture will be one of the key focuses in 2020.
“In agriculture, the government will ensure to facilitate and support the development of commercial agriculture and prioritized key targeted investments including noni, cocoa, coconut and cassava.
“Large scale commercial agriculture includes, work with GPPOL for Guadalcanal Palm Oil expansion project, RIPEL and CEMA roles in the industry will be enhanced,” he said.
On the other hand, as part of the revenue strategy, the Minister also revealed key non-tax revenue measures which include, the review of fees and charges and land rents, implementation of sugar, sweat beverage policy, enforcement of a 15 % gaming tax, benchmarking of Bauxite price to international standard, environmental levy on plastics, containers and electronic equipment and the review of fisheries licensing regime on locally flagged fishing vessels.
Preparation for the 2020 budget has now commenced, with the aim to present the budget to Parliament in early November.
– Govt Com Unit