RURAL Development and Infrastructure are to be the prized items in the Democratic Coalition for Change (DCC) Government’s 2015 Budget this year.
Finance and Treasury Minister, Snyder Rini, will bring down the $4.1 billion budget, the nation’s historic budget, when the 10th Parliament resumes later this morning.
Dubbed the People’s Budget, the DCC Government, led by Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare has committed nearly $460 million to spend on Rural Development and Infrastructure this year.
“This budget is designed to address the lot of the rural population which accounts for some 85 per cent of the nation’s population,” Mr Rini said.
“It is in recognition of their efforts during the dark days of 2000 when they literally held the nation together, when others abandoned us,” he said last week.
“Sadly we have overlooked them. Well, not anymore. This Budget is the people’s budget,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the 2015 Budget is going to be a trial run for rural development.
“The DCC Government is not leaving a stone unturned as it summons the muscles of government ministries and agencies to deliver services to the rural area,” he said.
The budget is also seen as a tool intended to unleash areservoir of human resources in terms of semi-skilled and skilled workers that have been denied employment opportunities.
“Just imagine what 85 per cent of the population can do to change the dynamic and economic landscape here once the rural people are empowered to participate fully in the nation’s economic activities.
“It’s going to be an avalanche of economic activities,” Minister Rini said last week.
To ensure timely delivery of services, staffing level at key Ministries would be beefed up. An additional 12 professional staff would be added to the Ministry of Rural Development which will administer the Rural Development Budget of $333 million.
The new staff will help Members of Parliament prepare project submissions for funding under the rural development allocation, Minister Rini said.
Funding will be project-based rather than being handled by MPs as was the case in the past. This new arrangement is necessary to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of public funds.
“Rural people will benefit from this budget and they will,” the Minister said.
Some six additional engineers would be deployed to help the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, which will administer the $125 million Infrastructure Budget this year.
The move is seen as an effort by the DCC Government to open up the rural areas for investment and development.
“The way to do it is to build more roads and bridges to connect the rural areas,” Minister Rini said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said this week that new legislation is being drafted to create free economic zones in strategic locations around the country.
Incentives to attract foreign investment will be packaged so that the proposed free economic zones become a one-stop shop for investment in the country.
By ALFRED SASAKO