OPPOSITION Leader Hon Matthew Wale says the 2023 budget represents missed opportunities in agriculture, tourism, forestry and fisheries.
Speaking during his Budget Debate speech in Parliament on Monday this week, Hon Wale said the current allocations within these sectors would not have the effect needed.
He said the 2023 budget is a patchwork of allocations without an overall strategic vision & direction – lists of election campaign allocations undermine budget credibility.
The Opposition Leader said the 2023 high budget deficit is funded by borrowing and risks its execution being held to ransom by tight cash flow.
Thus, he said Treasury would continue to be the tail that wags the dog on budget execution.
“Debt to GDP ratio is misleading in a context of perennial consistent tight cash flows and high expenditure budgets, mild increases in debt repayments will in turn increase the pressure on an already tight government cash flow,” he said.
Hon Wale said government must tame its appetite for more borrowing and actively plan for budget repair.
He said the 2023 budget is a mixed bag that will deliver the Games, but forego being a catalyst for many other economic opportunities outside Honiara.
“The 2023 budget is a record deficit budget for a history-making year, financed by record debt that is of arguable quality expenditure,” he added.
Hon Wale said the 2023 budget, like so many before it, is kicking the can down the road on many important issues for our economy.
However, he said for the short-term goal of delivering on the games, the House is duty bound to approve it.
“I agree with the description of the global economic challenges – covid-19, Russian war on Ukraine drive high food and fuel prices and recession in the global economy. I partially agree with the diagnosis of the domestic economy – the Solomon Islands economy is suffering the effects of the global recession, no doubt,” he said.
But, Hon Wale said long-term consistent government neglect in natural resource management has not cushioned the economy and made it more resilient.
Worse, he said natural resource theft and mismanagement of the worst kind over so long is bearing fruit in the current economy and its bleak projections.
“I disagree with the prescriptions for the domestic economy – sustainable economic growth is possible with significant and targeted investments in processing/manufacturing. But a shift to that economy requires significant investments beyond rhetoric, and supported by an enabling fiscal policy environment,” the Opposition Leader said.