Wednesday, 22 August 2007 7:49 AM

Government Increases Ministries to 24

Parliament has passed the Ministers Prescription Amendment Bill 2007. The Bill sought parliamentary approval to increase the number of ministers to 23 instead of the current 20.

The bill, once enacted, will allow the government to have 24 ministers including the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, remained adamant that there will be no additional expenses as allocations in the budget will be shifted to cater for the new ministries once it is created.

Member of Parliament for East Are' Are', Edward Huniehu, accused the government of 'building hedges', to ensure that they remain in power, using tax payers' money. Huniehu said that such an increase is unnecessary and wasteful, stating that at least SBD$6-million dollars will be needed to ensure that the ministries function effectively.

Mr Huniehu went on to say that the government, compared to other countries within the region, have systematically reduced the effectiveness of the legislature by increasing the 'grip' of the executive. Huniehu said that this was a dangerous path to follow since government could easily push through bills that are not in the best interest of Solomon Islanders.

But the Prime Minister, and the government bench, argued that the bill is necessary because of the changing time and the need to have separate ministries to better serve the people. Mr Sogavare also brushed aside concerns that the bill will make sure the government stays in power. He says there are 26 other MPs in the opposition and backbenchers who can decide on which side of the house they would support.