Opposition claims Government budget is window dressing
Every year around this time the approval of the government budget for the preceding year cannot be done without much debate. But this time the debate on the 2017 budget was more tense and heated than usual partly because the wounds of the last presidential election are still fresh and partly because the copra subsidy has struck a record figure of $25.1m ever in the history of the copra industry following the unprecedented $2 a kilo price paid to copra cutters, about double or more the average world copra price in the last twelve months.
Not only that. The budget had struck a record spending figure of $157.96 million a year compared to previous budgets (not counting supplementary supplies). The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Titabu Tabane, representing the island of Tabiteuea South in the Southern Kiribati and a former Attorney General, opened up the debate on the budget speech of the Minister for Finance, a long standing protocol of the House, by denouncing the budget as window dressing and expressing his side’s total disapproval of it. The Opposition’s claim of window dressing was based mainly if not entirely on their concern for copra cutters who, they claimed, would suffer another repeat of shortage of copra funding as currently experienced during the recent shortage of the copra budget alleging copra budget of $21.5 million was far from adequate. They wanted the copra budget to be raised to no less than $34 million based on the copra production figure of 17,000 tons traded at $2 a kilo they had obtained from the Kiribati Coconut Development company Ltd (KCDL), an amalgam of the two entities, the Kiribati Copra Mill Company (KCMC) and the Kiribati Copra Co-operative Society (KCCS). President Maamau dismissed the claim of window dressing as just another show of bad sportsmanship for the disgruntled Opposition who did not succeed on their offer of $1.50 a kilo for copra cutters. The President made it clear that the budget could never be absolutely precise as it was made up of estimates which could be modified during the course of the budget year. He said the copra budget estimate in next year’s budget was calculated on the basis of the estimated copra production for next year. Despite the heavy punches from the Opposition against the budget, the division at the end of the debate saw 30 members supporting and 10 opposing and 4 absent