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Government presents multi-billion dollar budget to Parliament


Government presents multi-billion dollar budget to Parliament

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KINGSTON – Finance Minister Audley Shaw will open the budget debate on March 9 after he presented a J$773 billion fiscal package to Parliament on Thursday.

Shaw noted that the Andrew Holness government intends to spend an estimated J$560 billion on recurrent expenses while J$213.6 billion has been set aside for capital projects during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Shaw said that the budget had been formulated in the premise that all the public sector trade unions would accept the proposed four-year, 16 per cent agreement in time to facilitate payments related to the first full year of the new wage agreement, which will be realised on March 31.

The negations are expected to be concluded by next Tuesday and Shaw told legislators that several of the unions — representing some two-thirds of the public sector — have already indicated their agreement with the proposed package of increases of five per cent, two per cent, four per cent, and five per cent respectively over the four years .

He said that, as a result of the imminent signing of the agreement, the government would be tabling a second supplementary estimates for 2017/18 to facilitate payment of the retroactive portion of the increase (April 2017 – March 2018) by the end of next month to the affected workers.

The Finance Minister also disclosed that the macroeconomic forecast for 2018/19 includes: real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.4 per cent, up from an estimated 0.9 per cent in 2017/18, with inflation at 4.3 per cent and oil prices averaging US$56.20 per barrel.

He said core imports should increase by 5.4 per cent relative to estimates for 2017/18.

According to the budget estimates, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has been allocated the largest sum, with J$240 billion for recurrent expenses and J$155 billion for capital expenditure.

A large portion of the sum will go towards meeting the country’s debt obligations, while large sums have also been allocated to several other ministries.

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

The Ministry of Health has been allocated J$64 billion for recurrent expenses and J$2.16 billion for capital projects, while the Ministry of National Security has received $66 billion for recurrent expenditure and J$12.4 billion for capital projects.

According to the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, the 2018/2019 budget is four per cent less than last year’s J$805 billion.

According to the figures presented to Parliament on Thursday, the he Estimates of Expenditure now contains six years of budget information, instead of the usual three.

The information encompasses provisional and audited actual expenditure for 2016-17, the approved and revised estimates for the current fiscal year 2017-18, estimates for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19, as well as projected estimates for 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 fiscal years.

“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,” Shaw said.

The Standing Finance Committee of Parliament is scheduled to meet over three days from February 27 to peruse the estimates. (CMC)