MPs to get nearly $7million each in RCDF grants this year, leaked budget papers show
AS it prepares to table the 2021 national budget estimates early next month, Solomon Star can reveal what the government intends to spend the more than $930 million in development budget on over the next nine months.
Rural development receives top billing in the amount earmarked for this year. A prominent feature of the development budget is the return of the controversial Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) grants, according to leaked budget papers obtained by the Solomon Star.
The leaked papers show $342 million has been allocated for rural development in the estimates this year – an increase of $102 million over last year’s appropriation.
This means that Members of Parliament (MP) will each receive nearly $7 million in RCDF grants on behalf of their constituencies over the next nine months.
The leaked documents also show budgetary allocation to the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been beefed up to nearly $202 million – an increase of more than $75 million over last year’s expenditures, the Summary of Appropriated Expenditure, shows.
It is understood the increased funding reflects is to cater for a number of infrastructure projects, such as the 2023 Pacific Games, the expansion of Huawei towers in the Constituencies as well as the relocation of the National Referral Hospital (NRH).
The cabinet is believed to have approved the expansion of telecommunications towers to be built in the rural areas, although no one seems to know an exact number.
But the Minister of Communication and Aviation last year told Parliament about 200 towers are being proposed.
In the leaked budget papers, the third item with a large funding increase in the Development Budget is Infrastructure Development. Its proposed expenditure for this year is $100 million – an increase of $18.1 million over last year’s allocation.
It is unclear whether the rural development budget of $342 million would be co-funded. The figure shows this is an increase of $102 million over the 2020 revised estimates.
In the case of the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the amount being allocated in the estimate is $201, 400, 000 – an increase of $75, 336, 000 over last year’s figure.
The leaked papers show the budget for Infrastructure Development has also gone up by $18.1 million this year over last year’s estimates.
Parliament is due to reconvene next Monday.
Informed sources told Solomon Star last night that timing would be pretty tight for the Minister of Finance and Treasury to bring down the budget next week.
This is because the Public Accounts Committee is continuing next week as well as the debate in Parliament on the extension of the State of Public Emergency.
“In terms of the Budget being brought down, you would be looking at the week after next,” the sources said.
By Alfred Sasako