House of Parliament continues the debate on the 2021 National Budget

Lifestyle News

Issue No. 14/2020 – Wednesday, 23 December 2020 (Kitiona Tausi)

One of the Members of Parliament from Nukufetau, Hon Faatoga Talama was the next speaker to contribute to the 2021 National Budget Speech.

Hon Talama firstly commented on the economic review that explained that global economy has been hit by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the IMF has projected an overall contraction by 4.4% in 2020. He was worried about the enormity of the budget against the global contraction of the economy.

He thanked all those who have been involved in the production of “Te Kete” but commented on the very little time taken to produce the Plan as it took only about two and a half days. He questioned as to why island leaders from the outer islands have not been brought in to participate in the consultation. He wanted to know the difference between “Te Kete” with the three previous Kakeega 1-3.

Regarding the issue on the Chief Justice, “we have heard that an appointment is yet to me made. In the previous Parliament session, there were discussions about the Chief Justice and we have already expected the outcome because he had made his judgements with justice.

On Education, Hon Talama said that he has learned during the recent production of the National Strategy for Susatainable Development about the low passing rates of students at the Motufoua Secondary in the science subjects since 2003. This year, it is 17 years now since that time and so far nothing has been done to improve the situation.

On te Falekaupule Development, he supported the allocation but for the distribution to each Falekaupule he does not support it saying that it is not equitable per capita. It is allocation to each Members of Parliament is equitable and to Falekaupule it is not fair. It is not proportional and he suggested that a distirbution formula should be formulated or devised to ensure an equitable distribution.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s 2020 Independence Speech with the theme “Pathway to unity”, he raised a question as to whether this distribution to Falekaupule is fair and equitable compared to the population on the island of Nukulaelae, “I don.t think so. It is also with this view that I also questioned the new rates for governmment leased lands,” said Hon. Talama.

On the issue regarding the new domestic airline service initiative, he said his island community, Nukufetau supported the initiative but he was reluctant to support because of our capacity to operate and maintain such operation. “With our shipping service, we have witnessed that we were not able to maintain our boats.

Hon Talama was pleased to hear the news of a new landing barge that would soon be arriving.

Onthe new trading hours regulation that prohibits trading on Sundays, he said it is against the freedom of the individual. The public did not envisaged that Government would create such a regulation as this kind of requirements in the regulation could only be applicable to small communities and even in families. He said “this regulation undermines the freedom of the invidual as well as of religion, even businesses.

Hon Talama did not support the 2021 National Budget.

Hon Prime Minister, Kausea Natano then made a contribution to the debate on the 2021 National Budget Speech that was delivered by the Minister of Finance, Hon Seve Paeniu.

Before he made his contribution to the budget debate, Hon Natano thanked all the islands and Falekaupules for a very warm welcome they put up during his tour of all the islands. He was really satisfied with the reception that was accorded to him and his wife and all the other members of his touring party.

The Prime Minister’s tour of all the islands including Funafuti has been completed.

The Prime Minister also extended his thanks and gratitude to our development partners for their assistance to Tuvalu, religious bodies for their prayers as from the beginning of this year up to today.

Hon Kausea reflected on last year’s Christmas season when Government honored the senior citizens by presenting Christmas gifts to them for their many years of services to the development of the nation especially those who have worked in Ocean Island, Nauru and Tarawa and of course Tuvalu seafarers who have been serving on overseas boats.

Tuvalu Paradise News learned that citizens who have reached 70 years would continue to receive the social benefit amounting to $100 a month and those citizens who have reched 80 years were to receive an extra bonus of $3,000 one-off payment in addition to the normal social benefiti of $100 a month and those reaching 90 years received $5,000 also a one-off payment also in addition to the normal social benefit Of $100 a month. Those who may reached 100 years will be paid a bonus of $10,000 one off payment.

For this 2020 Christmas, Prime Minister Natano said, “the nation now honors the assistance of our Heavenly Father through our national motto, “Tuvalu mo te Atua”. He then proceeded to cite the message that was delivered by Rev Alefaio Honolulu in a devotion that morning that opened the Parliament Session.

The message was about King Nebuchanezzar of Babylon who built Babylon to become a mighty nation and he took pride in himself and in his might and power and at the same time defying God. As a resut of his pride, he was punished by God and was removed from power and was sent to live in the jungle with the animals for 7 years. His downfall was a direct result of his pride, defiance and disrespecting God.

On the new trading hours regulation prohibiting trading on Sundays, Hon Kausea said, in his many years in Parliament, there had been public demand to have the Sundays honored and respected. “My island community would no longer tolerate the opening of businesses on Sundays as they wanted fully to respect and honor Sundays.

He even suggested that we might need to have a refrendum on each island to find out the wish of the communities.

Hon Natano responed to earlier comments about his 2019 Independence Speech when he mentioned about his government’s pathway to unity. Then, he was interrupted by Rt Hon Enele S. Sopoaga raising a point of clarification  saying that the issue on the trading hour regulation was only the wish of his own community, Funafuti.

Hon Natano responded and said, “this issue has been raised many times in the past and it was also raised during my first term in Parliament and it was not approved then. As for my Government, this is our strategy – 6 days in a week week for shopping.”

On the domestic air-service, Hon Natano confirmed that Government has everything organized and ready for this project like pilots, engineers and etc.

On the 2020 supplementary budget, Hon Natano said this is the first year for Government to ensure that its expenditures is within the budget including supplementaries, and as a result, there is a surplus of $10+ million. This 2020’s supplememtary budget of about $5.2 million is out of the surplus of this years budget.

“We all know that in any year’s budget, there is always a surplus,” so our concern on the enormity of the budget, our money will be repaid,” said Hon Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Enele S. Sopoaga raised a point of clarification and he wanted to know if all the activities in the the two budgets are all contained in the National Budget. Hon Natano explained that the $5.2 million has been committed for the 2020 Budget and activities in the 2021 budget will all be implemented next year 2021. Rt. Hon Enele S. Sopoaga questioned as to why it also appears in the 2021 budget.

Minisiter of Finance, Hon Seve Paeniu responded saying that it is not appropriated in the 2021 budget becasue the activities should be iplemented this year, 2020.

MP Dr Puakena Botreham raised a point fo clarification wanting to know as to how the supplementafry bugdet of $5.2 million will be financed and he also questioned as to why the activitivies in the previous supplementary budget had not been implemented.

Hon Paeniu explained that the supplementary budget is $5.2 million and Government did receive additional revenues of $6 millon from the Fisheries. Prime Minister, Hon Natano further explained that the previous supplememtary budget was only for theCOVID-19 activities.

On the new land rates for Government leased land, Hon Natano said there is still a confusion and explained that the rates are all the same for all the islands – rural and urban for commercial and non-commercial, but in the case of Funafuti, Government has more land leased here than in any other of the outer islands.

On the issue of the sale of Tuvalu Passports, Hon Natano explained that these are properties that are to be sold and it is important that we do a fully audit analysis of this intiatives.

About the comment for an equitable distribution of grants to Falekaupule, Hon Natano agreed and suggested that it is something that we should take another look at it.

On the issue of very high cargo boat freight charges, Hon Natano encouraed competition saying there should be another shipping company to come in and this will force freight charges to come down.

On the 2012 National Budget, Hon Natano mentioned two new initiatives: the domestic air-service and the international sir-service. He mentioned that that there is a plan for a second international airport to be built on the island of Nanumea in the north.

In other issues, Hon Natano said the Minister of Fnance is working on the possibility of introducing visa cards into the country. Government is now working on a plan regarding the operation of the new landing barge that will soon be arriving from Indonesia. On Food Machines, Government will look at the impacts of these mchines in Tuvalu.

On the issue of the appointment of a new Governor-General, Hon Natano confirmed to Parliament that the first candidate that was nominated by the former Government is not supported by this Government and Government has informed the Palace in London abou this.

Rt Hon Enele S. Sopoaga indicated that this Governor-General issue is a very important issue for the nation and it is vital to have this issue solved indicating that the new Constitution has not been passed. Prime Minister Natano responded by saying that what we now know is that the Governor General is appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with Members of Parliament.

In summing up his support of the 2021 National Budget, Hon Prime Minister, said the National Budget is for the upgrading of the wellbeing of all citizens of the nation.

Regarding “Te Kete”, Hon Kiritome wanted to know the difference between “Te Kete” and “Te Kakeega”. He a questioned the Strategic Priority Area, Enabling Environment as to what means. “What I am seeing now it the introductions of some regulations that ban trading on Sundays for 24 hours and the fifteen minutes curfew ever evening for family devotions.”

In other comments: Hon Kiriitome did not believe that the 2021 Budget is a balanced budget. He also requested payment of allowances for nurses who were recruited from Kiribati. In regard to Tuvalu’s overseas mission, Hon Kiritome supported the opening a new mission in Abu Dhabi, Dubai but wanted to retain the Brussel mission. Regarding the international air service, Hon Kiritome requested Government to reconsider continuing the international airport here on Funafuti. He thanked Government for the additional injection of $1 million into the Tuvalu Survival Fund. On the new land lease rates, Hon Kiritome like the Rt Hon Enele Sopoaga, he rejected the zoning system but supported a one rate only.

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