THE 2019 Budget was passed by voice in Parliament yesterday despite a hiccup caused by security officers over allowances a few hours earlier.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill supported the Budget but he was disappointed that Shadow Treasury and Finance Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey did not provide alternatives in his budget response yesterday.
“It is quite disappointing that the shadow treasurer’s response did not include any alternative policies whatsoever,” O’Neill said yestrday. “This is a budget reply that should be clearly highlighting the Opposition’s plans, what are they going to do in education, health, growing the economy, building infrastructure.”
During his speech, the prime minister was interrupted by Sinasina-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua about district services improvement programme (DSIP) allocations for this year and the previous year.
According to Kua, politicians on the Opposition side received only K5 million while those on the other side of the House received K7 million to date. Kua said that he was still owed DSIP funds from the previous year (2017).
O’Neill responded: “In respect to the DSIP this year, K10 million will be paid. This week we are going to raise another K2 million to pay the DSIP. For Madang, I will spend it for you (MP Bryan Kramer). I will build the roads in Madang for you.”
On the budget, O’Neill said the Government was working on reducing the deficit levels because of international financial community’s confidence in the country’s economy.
Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch foresaw that as poor accounting and lack of fiscal discipline, the 2019 Budget is likely to suffer a major blowout that could entail additional borrowing, he said.
Pruaitch recommended three immediate actions in Parliament yesterday. They are:
- A detailed audit of Apec expenditures;
- a detailed examination be made of the blowout in the public services wages, including doubling between 2012 and 2018 and the blowout in the current year; and,
- A concerted effort to cut the recurrent budget by at least 20 per cent to trim off the excesses in recent years and to reduce reliance on debt.
Parliament will resume on January 22.