Niue Government Budget 2019/20
After a postponement for one week, the government’s budget for 2019-2020 was finally introduced to the Assembly at its sitting on Wednesday morning. Given that this was to be last Budget before the island goes to the polls early next year, there was some expectation that there would be something in there, whatever that might be – perhaps the introduction of a new policy, may be a new direction in social development, even the fine tuning of an existing policy, that would consolidate the government’s position.
An early indication that perhaps something was not quite right, was when Speaker Togiavalu Pihigia, as is the custom, announced to the House the names of members who were absent for one reason or another. Included in the list was the Minister of Finance and Premier Sir Toke Talagi. The Speaker said that regrettably the Premier was not well enough to attend the sitting but that Minister Billy Talagi will introduce the Budget and to present a statement from the Premier.
If there is one event in the calendar of the Niue Assembly, guaranteed to grab the attention of the small nation, it is the statement from the Minister of Finance on where he and his government are planning to take country in the coming twelve months.
What actually transpired at the sitting on Wednesday was something of a non-event. Despite the best effort of Hon Billy Talagi in presenting the Premier’s statement there was little in the message to inspire confidence in the current leadership. This is to be regretted because while the government has its fair share of detractors, there is a great deal of support for its effort to wean the island away from the ‘a-d-dependence mentality’ and in its effort to improve public utilities.
What the electorate got was this, taken directly from the national radio:
Mr Speaker, budget speeches in the past have focused on technical policies and finance and the economy. I will sometimes refer to the importance to our environment, taoga and social services and include in the Appendix the economic and financial information for your perusal, the GDP and the sectorial divisions, CPI and growth rate per annum.
In the end though, all these goals had but one vision and one vision only, Niue ke Monuina, a Prosperous Niue. It is about all of us, not just a few. All of us. And this is something not just for the government to do, it is for all of us to help achieve.
There are some who feel they are not responsible, if they damage government property, but the cost and impact of that act of carelessness affects the person directly too. We must all work together. We must all accept responsibility for our country and well being and economic and financial requirements.
I estimate we have two million either not being collected or just ignored. I can say though, that two million can give everyone pay and pensions increases. This is not fantasy, it is real. In 2012 we managed to achieve $2m revenue via the initial transformation revenue. There is a belief that we will continue to get pay increases and new salary adjustments because public servants work hard and are under-paid. This is the expectation that is not based on reality of what we see daily.
On a daily basis some of us damage and wreck our machines and our equipment. Some of us essentially damage our infrastructure. In fact some of us don’t agree or don’t care. After all, our actions will not be punished, but we still expect to get pay increases. It is our right after all.
I am often baffled by this attitude. There are some though who work hard and try their best. Thank you to those people. They should get pay increases. I see how people work just by driving around the work places.
Finally Mr Speaker, let me say this to all our critics in the media, in public and in the Assembly. This government will govern and manage our rich resources well. We may make mistakes but that’s part of governance.
Kia fakamonuina mai he Atua e fatifatiaga tupe nai.
The total government budget for 2019-20 financial year is $28.7m. The island may have to wait until Sir Toke is well enough to attend the next sitting, when the Budget returns to the House for its second and final reading, to find out how this is to be divided for the competing interests.