29 May 2024

CHOGM, cost of living adjustment in Samoa's budget

12:04 pm on 29 May 2024
Samoa Parliament

Samoa Parliament Photo: RNZ Pacific

Samoa Parliamentarians, civil servants, and judiciary are set to get a pay increase come July 1, 2024, after Minister of Finance Lautimu'ia Uelese Va'ai tabled a $1.15 billion tālā budget for financial year 2024-2025 in Parliament.

He revealed the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) government budget strategy with the theme "Sustaining Growth Pathways for the Social, Economic and Climate Resilience of our Common Wealth".

The minister told Parliament there are five focus areas for the budget strategy that include: the hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the $1 million tālā development grant he called a 'people-centered priority'; cost of living adjustment and human development, enhancement of public service efficiency, and implementing key development projects.

According to the Minister, the final phase of the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is set to be done in FY2024/25, with the goal of enhancing the purchasing power of public servants.

In this phase, he said salaries for all principal officers and below will be increased by three per cent.

Those earning above the principal officer level, up to the CEO level, will see a two per cent increase, while CEOs will receive a one per cent increase only.

The Remuneration Tribunal has also undertaken a comprehensive review and restructuring of the salary scales for the executive, parliament, and judiciary according to Lautimu'ia.

"They have recommended revised remunerations aimed at ensuring fair compensation and proper structuring of the salary scale," he said.

"In addition, the Parliamentary Pension Scheme will be increased based on the June 2020 Actuarial Review of the Parliamentary Pension scheme.

"These adjustments will also contribute to boosting purchasing power and are scheduled to take effect on 1st July 2024."

Cabinet ministers are currently paid close to $140,000 tālā, not including allowances of around $12,000 tālā.

Other parliamentarians are currently paid around $90,000 tālā per annum, not including other allowances received from parliament committee sittings.

But just how much more they will receive, Lautimu'ia did not reveal.

CHOGM has been allocated another $20 million tālā which will go towards catering, accommodation, accreditation, receptions, security, health, and other supporting services for the meeting.

It's the third year into the $1m tālā district grant and the government sees significant progress in the scheme.

"This fund has supported a wide range of initiatives including educational sponsorships, agricultural development, and health improvement," Lautimuia said.

The overseas medical scheme gets an increase to $6m tālā.

The deteriorating condition of the Moto'otua hospital has got the attention of the leaders, with $1m tālā allocated for its maintenance work.

Another major infrastructure development in the pipeline is the new courthouse for Savai'i, and an initial $5m tālā has been allocated to start the construction of the $17m tālā project.

Additionally, another key development project is the US$111.2m Alaoa Multipurpose Dam Project, which will commence in the upcoming fiscal year, aimed to benefit the energy, water and environment sectors.

The budget aggregates show receipts of $1.02billion tālā and expenditure is estimated at $1.15 tālā - anticipating a cash deficit of approximately $153.6m tālā; which is equivalent to 2.1 percent of GDP under the Government Finance Statistics format.

For the fiscal year 2024/2025, Lautimu'ia said the government is not introducing nor increasing any taxes, but will focus on improving tax compliance given the high level of forecasted economic activity.

Starting 1 July 2024, the government will introduce a new cost recovery measure associated with the Australia and New Zealand labour mobility schemes, contributing to non-tax revenue aggregates.

Lautimu'ia said the 2024/2025 expenditures are estimated at $1.16 billion tālā which includes development programs funded by development partners, reflecting a 4 per cent increase over the current year's estimates.

In terms of government ministries allocation, the Ministry of Health got the highest budget of $156m. The Ministry of Education and Culture received second highest allocation of $135m.

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