Third Time’s the Charm? Government Sets Timetable for Another 2020 Budget Debate

Third Time’s the Charm? Government Sets Timetable for Another 2020 Budget Debate

Parliament is expected to debate the 2020 General State Budget beginning July 30 (Image/David Robie)

DILI, 22 May 2020 (TATOLI) – Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak will set a timetable to reintroduce the 2020 General State Budget (OJE) bill, after two failed attempts.

The Minister for Economic Activities, Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhães said yesterday the Council of Ministers has agreed to discuss the bill on July 22.

It will then be presented to the National Parliament on July 30.

Minister Fidelis Magalhães. (Image/Antónia Gusmão

“Regarding the [OJE] calendar, we need to agree with the National Parliament. We must also see the whole agenda of Parliament, the commissions and when the plenary [debate] can be held,” he said in a press conference at the Ministry of Finance in Dili, yesterday.

Related news: Covid-19: Timor-Leste Economy Tipped to Shrink Five per cent in 2020 

The timeline locks in at least another two months of the duodecimal budget regime, which provides government with one-twelfth of the 2019 budget per month to maintain basic services.

Government departments have previously complained that such short-term financing limits how much of some vital goods, like medicine, can be bought.

PM: No use “Crying Over Spilt Milk”

The government’s first attempt to pass this year’s budget began in October. It withdrew the bill in December; a revised bill with 30 per cent less proposed spending was later rejected by parliament, with the help of CNRT party.

Xanana Gusmão’s party was in a formal coalition with the government at the time, and the vote split the AMP alliance. The bitter divisions continued this week, with police having to separate members during a fiery debate in parliament earlier this week, in which CNRT speaker Arão Amaral was ousted.

Related news: Police Called After Chaotic Scenes in Parliament, as New Leader Elected 

Despite this, the Prime Minister, Taur Matan Ruak, is optimistic the government can pass not just the 2020 budget, but the 2021 budget too.

Prime Minister, Taur Matan Ruak. (Image/Egas Cristovao)

“Speaking on behalf of the government, I want to congratulate the members of parliament for overcoming their differences. Unfortunately, there were some problems; but as we say, it’s no use crying over spilt milk, so now we have to keep moving forward,” the Prime Minister told President Francisco Guterres in their weekly meeting on Wednesday.

The government may have a better chance of passing the budget this time: the new partnership of PLP, FRETILIN and KHUNTO gives it the majority on the floor on parliament without the dissenting CNRT.

According to the president’s office, the Integrated Crisis Management Centre (CIGC) – set up to respond to COVID-19 – will today discuss whether to recommend extending the state of emergency.

Originally published on May 21 in Portuguese: Governo apresentará nova proposta de OGE de 2020 a PN. And also in Tetum:  Hakarak Lori Fila OJE 2020-2021, Taur Dezeja PN Funsiona Lalais

Journalist: Nelia Fernandes

Editors: Robert Baird, Maria Auxiliadora


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