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‘Amended 2020 budget needs to be treated with urgency,’ says finance minister | 01 April 2020

The Minister for Finance, Trade, Investment and Economic Planning Maurice Loustau-Lalanne is due to appear before the National Assembly again next Tuesday, April 7, to present the amended budget for 2020.

This comesafter the National Assembly yesterday voted against the motion to suspend the seven-day requirement before the second reading of the Appropriation (Amendment) Bill 2020.

During yesterday’s brief session, leader of the opposition Wavel Ramkalawan voiced out against the Amendment Bill and proposed that the Ministry of Finance forward a motion for a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, as per Article 154 of the Constitution. As pointed out by Speaker Nicholas Prea, Article 154 is silent on amendments and revised budgets, which is not to say that the ministry failed to adhere to the proper procedures. The assembly’s session was cut short as the motion to suspend the seven-day requirement was not approved with 15 votes against the motion, and 13 votes in favour.

“We have decided, in light of the assembly’s decision that we cannot suspend the second reading. As you know, the amendment is still on the order paper and we have decided to wait for the seven days before I return to the Assembly to deliver my budget address and debate on the budget we are presenting. It is unfortunate that it happened and as the Speaker of the National Assembly pointed out, we sought legal advice and followed the right procedures. For ten days we worked tirelessly to be ready to present the budget but we are willing to wait another seven days and we hope by next Tuesday, all will go well,” Minister Loustau-Lalanne said yesterday in a live press conference in which he urged for the budget to be treated with urgency, in light of the emergency at hand.

The amended 2020 budget for the sum of R10.4 billion is intended to address the savaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from which Seychelles has not been spared, and which has consequently resulted in a reconsideration and revision of the 2020 budget to meet the exigencies of the pandemic. It reflects the unforeseen increase in government expenditure as well as reductions in sums appropriated to different departments, as the pandemic intensifies and its economic toll becomes more evident.

“If you consider the amendment that we will be presenting, at a sum of R10.4 billion and this causes a deficit of 14 percent which means we are spending more, as compared to the revenue generated. For previous budgets that we presented, as of 2008, we were recording a fiscal surplus of about 2.5 percent annually so now we have moved from 2.5 percent to minus 14 percent. As per the Public Finance Management Regulations (2014), under S54 (ii) a supplementary which substantially changes the approved estimates cannot be presented,” principal secretary for finance Damien Thésée explained, asserting that the ministry is compliant with the law and procedures.

Despite the seven-day setback, Minister Loustau-Lalanne assured that the national assembly’s decision will not have any significant repercussions on account that there is the approved 2020 budget exceeding R9 billion which will continue to be utilised as per the law.

“We thought we had common ground because we had legal advice from both sides in fact and I was caught off-guard by the proposal tabled by the leader of the opposition but my team and I are willing and ready to work around the clock so that we conclude the business as soon as possible,” he concluded.

 

Laura Pillay

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