Members of Parliament presented more than fifty proposed amendments, including many which move less than 0.2% ($3 million) of the budget from one line to another. La'o Hamutuk has listed the proposed amendments in a table and scanned their Portuguese-language text in two files -- amendments to the Infrastructure Fund and other amendments.
Three of the amendments create new or drastically modify state institutions. A rushed, secret alternation of one year's state budget law is not the best way to do this, even though the first two appear to be well-intentioned:
- Amendment 9, from Pedro Costa and Paulino Monteiro, creates a Permanent Parliamentary Committee to monitor projects whose value is more than $50 million.
- Amendment 25, from Osorio Florindo, creates a Fund for Road Maintenance to providing funding and assurance for the maintenance of roads, bridges and related infrastructure.
- Amendments 54-59 from leaders of CNRT, Fretilin and Frente Mudansa, would dissolve the Infrastructure Fund (IF) as a Special Fund and reinvent it as an "autonomous fund" controlled by the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Planning and Public Works. The change removes the list of IF-financed projects from the Budget Law (as shown at right), compressing $377 million -- a quarter of the entire budget -- to a single line item.
Although the injury to specificity, transparency and accountability are obvious, other implications are unclear. It could eliminate Budget Book 6 in future years, removing valuable public information on major project implementation, plans and costs. We also do not know how this will affect fiscal management and procurement processes, as it has not been discussed publicly.
- Shift $8.0 million from ZEESM to build and rehabilitate school buildings
- Add $2.6m for PNTL uniforms and $0.3m for PNTL motorcycles
- Add $2.0m to the Food Security Fund to address effects of El Nino/Climate Change.
- Shift $2.0m from road infrastructure to build and rehabilitate local health centers
- Spend $1.8m to build the Sao Francisco Xavier parish church in Hatolia
- Add $1.4m for new contracts for foreign judges and judicial advisors
- Add $1.1m to finish building three district court buildings
- Spend $0.8m to clean drains and sewers in cities, and another $0.6m on road signs
- Allocate $0.5m for community tourism and $0.6m for a Touristic Information Center
- Move the Tour de Timor and similar activities to the Ministry of Tourism
- Build a $0.75m monument to commemorate the 12 November massacre, and $0.1m for a veterans' monument in Lautem
- Add $0.65m to support 26 families of long-term FALINTIL members
- Add $0.45m to support "Liga Amadora" football clubs
- Small additional funding for the Public Defender, CAC, PDHJ, Prosecutor General and Investigation police.
schedule, the Komisaun Eventual will finish its work this week and present a consensus report of all accepted amendments to the Parliamentary Plenary on Monday, 14 December. Parliament will vote specifically on each ministry and article in the Budget Law, and hopes to give final approval on 21 December.
None of the proposed amendments seriously address the fundamental fragility and non-sustainability of Timor-Leste's economy, cancel or delay the "white elephant" ZEESM and Tasi Mane projects, or invest enough in Timor-Leste's human resources for the future. Nevertheless, some of the suggested changes begin to get at these issues, and we are disappointed that they are not being discussed in public. Perhaps next year...
For more on the 2016 budget, see La'o Hamutuk's website or blogs Submission on proposed 2016 State Budget and 2016 budget proposal puts fantasies before people's needs.
Update, 15 December. The Komisaun Eventual presented its consensus report to Parliament on 15 December. They accepted the redesign of the Infrastructure Fund but rejected the other non-financial amendments. The total budget envelope is unchanged, but around $30 million has been moved to other lines, mostly from anticipate savings from lower generator fuel prices.