AN allocation of funds for natural disasters should be allocated each year under the national budget, a prominent MP suggests.
East Choiseul MP Manasseh Sogavare said this is important to allow the national government responds swiftly to natural disasters.
He was contributing to the debate on the ‘2014 Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2014’ in parliament yesterday.
Finance minister Rick Hou was seeking parliament’s approval of $74, 373,008.00 from the Consolidated Fund by way of Contingency Warrants and Advance warrants to be applied to the services of the year ending 31st December 2014.
This will be in addition to the provisions requested by Mr Hou under the 2014 Appropriation Act of $3.67 Billion.
The bill also seeks to reinstate the amounts utilized under Contingencies by increasing the provision of $18 million for the Recurrent Budget and $10 million for the Development Budget.
Mr Sogavare said whilst the ‘kind’ response by development partners to natural disasters in the country were appreciated, he believed Solomon Islands must come out of the attitude of depending on its donor partners for 70 percent of first response actions to disasters.
“I believe we have come through a number of disasters now to learn how to be effective in our first response,” Mr Sogavare said.
“Depending on Contingency Warrants to address our first response to disasters can hardly be considered as an effective way of funding the programme.
“It just demonstrates the lack of foresight and at worst, irresponsibility by the Government.”
The Opposition MP said the Government used to have the ‘National Disaster Fund’ which was established under the National Disaster Council Act 1989 to facilitate its first response to national disasters but the ‘current’ status of that fund was unclear.
He said with the occurrence of disasters every year at varying scales, “the most sensible thing for Parliament to do every year is to appropriate resources to this Fund through the Appropriation Act as a standing expenditure instead of resorting to the Contingencies Warrants.”
Mr Sogavare said the concern of the Ministry of Finance about locking up funds in accounts that could be used elsewhere was valid and in keeping with the structure and implementation strategy of the budgetary system where requests for additional drawings from the Consolidated Funds are made through Supplementary Appropriations by way of regularizing legal drawings.
Nevertheless, he said the occurrence of natural disasters in Solomon Islands was almost predictable and Parliament could be certain that despite all the best efforts that it could put in place to lessen the risk associated with natural disasters, some parts of the country would still experience disaster every year and the Government must be able to act swiftly without the need to call Parliament to pass Supplementary Appropriations.
Mr Sogavare, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Bills and Legislation Committee, said Solomon Islands now has one of the best Disaster Response Plan in the Pacific region.
He said the plan called the ‘Solomon Islands Government National Disaster Risk Management Plan 2009’ is quite clear about the series of actions that the National Disaster Council needs to take in addressing national disasters.
Mr Sogavare said the challenge is whether Solomon Islands is effectively and strategically implementing this plan.