Finance Minister Rick Hou. Photo credit: Courtesy of Pacific Policy.

Finance Minister Rick Hou. Photo credit: Courtesy of Pacific Policy.

Care-taker Finance and Treasury Minister, Rick Hou has over the past week, provided an unprecedented level of information relating to public finances to the public, as part of the release of the first ever Mid-Year Budget Review.

The Government Communication Unit reports, by providing the review to Parliament two weeks ago, Minister Hou was keen to point out that the implications on the economy and government finances caused by the April floods and the suspension of production at the Gold Ridge Mine are significant.

He explains since the original estimates were released in the 2014 Budget, domestic revenues are now forecast to be around $150 million lower in 2014.

The review also highlights the current budget position for 2014 is a forecast deficit of around $164 million.

However, Minister Hou is confident this will be fully financed by a mixture of careful management of payments and under spending in some expenditure items.

Meanwhile, the Mid-Year Budget Review also reveals that Donor Partners have made some significant additional contributions this year, with both Australia and Papua New Guinea providing $36 million and $48 million respectively to support flood recovery efforts.

The Government is also expecting a further $20 million in 2014 revenue due to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement – a fishing licence price increase.

Minister Hou also acknowledged the generous support of other donors, including ROC and New Zealand, in supporting the flood recovery efforts and responses, as well as many other important partners in the country.

Minister Hou noted that the “Government has secured funds from the Asian Development Bank and is in discussions with the World Bank about other financing, including access to grants and loans. This funds can be used to rebuild public infrastructure destroyed by the April floods.

The publication of the 2014 Mid-Year Budget Review is the second significant document to be released by the Solomon Islands Government in 2014 as part of a range of reforms designed to increase transparency of Government through the Public Financial Management Act 2013.

Meanwhile, former Politician Alfred Sasako has called on the care taker minister of Finance and Treasury Mr Rick Hou to stop insulting the people of Solomon Islands.

Mr Sasako made the comment following the announcement by Mr Hou this week in the media regarding more funding coming in to assist the government fulfil its work under the 2014 budget.

He says while it is good news on the surface, the public has been led to believe that the government has run out of money and is surviving on outside assistance.

“I’m appealing to the Minister to stop what he is doing because it boils down to insult to the intelligence of the people of Solomon Islands. Any thinking Solomon Islander would take this as an insult because they know the reality. It’s one more in my view a demonstrations of the little knowledge that Ministers have for the reality that our people are going through right now. I am just hoping and praying that the people of Solomon Islands will realise their mistakes.”

He adds the care taker minister does not reflect the reality on the ground saying there are outstanding bills yet to be addressed by the current administration.

Mr Sasako also calls on the care taker minister and his officials to produce a template for public viewing.

“I want to ask the Minister and his officials to support what they are saying to the public and that will give them a good image and that is to produce a template that shows where those monies are going to be spent, what sectors, how much and when?”

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