Hyped on target
MINISTER OF FINANCE Chris Sinckler feels “very confident” Government can meet its 5.5 per cent deficit target as long as it stays the course outlined in the 2014 Estimates.
He was responding in the House of Assembly Wednesday night to Opposition concerns expressed during debate on the Appropriation Bill 2014 about the $1.4 billion deficit on projected spending of $3.873 billion and revenues that are expected to decline by $111.7 million to $2.47 billion, and how it would be financed.
Sinckler felt the Opposition spokespersons ought to have put their concerns in context, and submitted that Government knewexactly why the deficit was where it is.
“The reason for the deficit being as it is,” he said, “is that we sat down and discussed it and we said in order for us to ensure that in 2014/15 we get where we want to be, we need to know everything. Put everything in 2014, whatever it is, whoever you owe.
We asked all of the statutory agencies – ’cause that is where the problem really is – whoever you owe, whatever you owe them, get it, send the information.
“We are going to go to Parliament, we are going to pass the supplementaries required, we are going to find the resources to do it and I am going to come here and ask for those resources very shortly.
“We are going to get the resources, we are going to have those people paid, so that we ensure that the slate is clean. So that when we start to do our work in 2014-15 we can meet our targets without surprises in December or January with some big supplementary that you have to do.”
The minister said Government brought to book $332 million worth of arrears and other outstanding matters through accrual accounting, including $33 million for the National Housing Corporation salaries.
“We could have left that like Kensington Oval,” he suggested. “Kensington Oval is on the books of the Accountant General as a transfer from the Treasury [for] $150 million. Not the only one; there are others too.
I believe GEMS was an advance too. We are still waiting on an opinion from the Auditor General on that, but the Auditor General and the Accountant General had a conversation . . . and we brought it to book.
“So when you take that $332 million, which is roughly 3.7 per cent of GDP, if you were to subtract that from the 11.8 [per cent] that we are reporting in this Estimates for last year and then you subtract another 2.1 per cent of GDP in relation to the fall of revenue, which is around $147 million, you will see that our deficit will get back down to 6 per cent, just 0.5 per cent shy of the 5.5 per cent we said we were going to get. So that is how we ended up with the 11 [per cent], but that is the context.
“We know why we put it up there because we are saying that in this financial year that we are not going to go past the 6.9 per cent here and our eventual target is 5.5 per cent contingent on the asset sale and also on the additional measures which I introduced.
“And we feel very confident that we can stick to that because we have already factored in the three supplementaries that we say we are going to give: UWI, $40 million; QEH $25 million; and Transport Board $25 million.
“So we know now that this is going to work, has to work. If mid-term we see that some more adjustments have to be done, we will make the adjustments.” (AB)