Wednesday 13 November, 2019

$774-b Budget; National Security, Finance, Education get lion’s share

Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

The Government expects to spend approximately $774 billion during the 2018/2019 fiscal year according to the Estimates of Expenditure tabled in the House of Representatives on Thursday by Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

The amount is $58.5 billion more than the $715.5 billion that was contained in the 2017/2018 estimates. It is still $31 billion short or 4 per cent less that the $805 billion that was approved in the revised estimates from last year.

Some $560 billion has been allocated for recurrent or house-keeping while $213.6 billion is set aside for capital projects.

As is customary, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has been allocated the lion’s share, with $240 billion for recurrent expenses and $155 billion for capital expenditure. Much of that amount will go towards paying down the country’s huge debt.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information gets the second-largest sum with $103 billion for recurrent expenses and $1.6 billion for capital spending.

And, in the face of the out of control crime problem, the Ministry of National Security has seen an increase in its budget to $66 billion on the recurrent side and $12.4 billion for capital projects.

The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation which is headed by the Prime Minister has received $12.7 billion for recurrent and $21 billion for capital expenditure.

With no new taxes, revenues have been marked down to $699 billion. However, the Government anticipates that this will be offset by an increase in tax revenues which are projected to come in some 8 per cent higher this year at $518 billion.

And there is a new feature in the estimates of expenditure. For the first time, estimates were also tabled for three additional years.

The Finance Minister told the House that the estimates now contain six years of budget information rather than the usual three years that were previously been presented.

In addition to the revised estimates for the current financial year (2017/2018), estimates for the upcoming fiscal year (2018/2019) as well as estimates for three additional fiscal years (2019/2020; 2020/2021; and 2021/2022 were also tabled.

Addressing a brief sitting of the House of Representatives Thursday afternoon, Shaw sought to explain the rationale behind the move. “The inclusion of the additional three years of projected spending in the estimates of expenditure will now become a permanent feature in the estimates and will shortly be extended to the revenue estimates. This is an effort to provide more information to the public about the government’s future spending intentions and this is in keeping with the administration’s commitment to greater fiscal transparency and accountability.”

The Standing Finance Committee which is made up of all 63 members of the House of Representatives is to meet over three days from February 27 to March 1 to peruse the estimates. Shaw will open the Budget Debate on Thursday, March 8.

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