Shadow treasurer claims little achieved in last eight years
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
TREASURY and Finance Minister Peter O’Neill has declared 2011 as the “year of implementation” as parliament last night unanimously passed the record K9.3 billion money plan for next year, The National reports.
The budget, which had the support of almost all MPs from both sides of the house, was debated for six hours before being passed on voices.
The integrity law required parliament to vote on the budget along party lines, with parties submitting to the speaker a resolution of the decision of their caucus which way they would vote.
But, the government and the speaker decided that, since much of the integrity law was struck down by the Supreme Court, this voting requirement no longer applied.
O’Neill, who generally received warm reviews from parliament and the private sector on his first budget as treasurer, said implementation was a top priority if the government wanted to achieve targets and development goals and improve indicators.
“If we work within the budget framework, the targets set by the MTDP and the MDG will be achieved; the social and health indicators will improve.
“Public servants must roll up their sleeves and work with the private sector, with politicians leading from the front.”
O’Neill stressed that the monthly reviews of the budget he promised would be a crucial part of the government’s strategy in implementing the budget.
During debate, however, the budget took a hammering from shadow treasurer Bart Philemon.
Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta was overlooked by Speaker Jeffery Nape when he tried to present his comments of the budget, with Nape arguing that Sir Mekere had passed up his opportunity to speak by allowing Philemon to deliver the budget reply.
Sir Mekere left the chamber without speaking, and later released the text of his speech to the media.
Philemon said in his speech the government had achieved little despite eight years of stability and economic prosperity.
He said the government had spent K55 billion in eight years to achieve very little with corruption rising, the public service bloated and unproductive and eating K2 billion of the recurrent budget, and failure to broaden revenue base beyond mining and oil and gas sector.
Senior opposition MP and member for Abau Sir Puka Temu said the overall 2011 money plan was good news for the country.
He commended the treasurer and government for packaging a very good budget but the challenge was on implementation.
O’Neill said he was disappointed with the opposition’s reply, which lacked new initiative and substance.
“To tell you the truth, I am a bit disappointed given the experience in the opposition.
“We need constructive debate on the budget.
“I am happy that many people accepted the budget and the challenge is for us to implement on a timely basis,” O’Neill said outside parliament.