Mr Sogavare was speaking during the Ministry of Finance & Treasury (MoFT) 2017 Christmas party held on Friday 8 December at the Pacific Casino Hotel in Honiara.
“…we must move beyond business as usual and make deliberate policy choices if we are to make any progress. There is enormous potential in this country of ours, but this will remain untapped if we do not take the initiative to convert the potential into tangible wealth that will improve our economic standing and the living standards of our citizens.
“Our area of strength is in our bountiful natural resources, rich and diverse cultures, beautiful beaches, potential attractive tourist sites and activities, acres of arable agricultural lands that are basically lying idol, and willing people to work if given employment opportunities, to mention a few.
“We cannot continue to depend on logging and must make deliberate policy choices to develop our other areas of strength that are considered more sustainable. Of course while we are doing that we must not forget that it is not too late to review and adopt policies that will maximise the benefits accruing to the country, on the development of our forestry and mining sectors,”
Minister Sogavare said.
Meanwhile, on the preparation of the 2018 budget Mr Sogavare said the country must be strategic in the way it raise and allocate resources to achieve its strategic economic objective.
He stated that the following policy direction and activities must get due attention in 2018:
- The Government is in a precarious situation in terms of the implementation of the 2017 Budget and more specifically on the low cash reserve position which increased the vulnerability of the economy to shocks. This position must be reversed immediately. Restoration of an adequate cash reserve must be an integral component of the structure of the 2018 Budget.
- The real problem area is the unrealistic level of expenditure estimates which over the last three years have been pegged unrealistically too high and on priority areas that contribute very little to economic growth. The expenditure is set at the level that is putting undue pressure on the revenue collection effort of the Government. This must be reversed and the 2018 budget brought in line with a realistic revenue projection.
- The tax compliance efforts must be pursued and made more effective as a matter of priority, and a strategy ought to be designed and implemented sooner, rather than later, to recover the mounting tax debts. We should progress the proposed review of the tax system – the system should be fairer, more efficient, simpler to use and administer, provide greater certainty to tax payers and Government and be more transparent. This must be done with an objective to broaden the country’s economic and tax base.
- On the proposed Revenue Measures to fund the 2018 Budget, increase in rates of taxes or reforms that has a leaning towards increasing revenue must not be done in isolation but premised on economic justification and public policy consideration; the consequential disincentive and administrative obstacle it could pose in the development of better business environment for the private sector.
- Our development partners must be brought on board and actively engage with us in our efforts to advance development, more particularly in our efforts to achieve the objectives of the Sustainable development goals. If there is a real need and in the interest of establishing a good working relationship with our development partners, I see no reason why we should take a negative approach to the engagement of the advisers they have been providing to us.
- In an effort to gain better economic efficiency and gain in our productive sector we must build working relationship and provide support to implementable reforms in other Ministries. The following activities must be given due attention:a) The reform of the forestry sector. The work on the new forestry Act must be given priority.
b) Support the Product Development Program of Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
c) Support the Land reform program and ongoing Fundamental reforms. Especially those that have nation building and consolidation of the peace process as their objectives.
d) Support Strategic Investment in the Agriculture Sector. In addition to large scale commercial investment in the sector, we have yet to capitalise on the natural strength of the country in this sector.
e) Support strategic investment in the Fisheries Sector. Both inshore and deep sea fisheries promises huge benefits to the country.
f) Support public investment in human development programs (Health, Education, vulnerable groups in our society)
g) Support strategic investment in Law & Order, Peace and security, and
h) Support public investment in the strengthening of Governance and our fight against the scourge of corruption.