2015/16 Budget going for growth
With the 2015-2016 Budget being presented today at the ceremonial opening of Parliament, Financial Secretary Devon Rowe revealed the Budget will continue to focus on growth.
"Given the limited fiscal envelope that we have, we are seeking to keep focus on efficiency in public expenditure. We are also seeking to align expenditures in keeping with those areas that will contribute to growth," Rowe revealed to The Gleaner.
Rowe promised a Budget that is "consistent with the medium term fiscal arrangements".
"We are staying true to seeking to have the social sector protected so that the most vulnerable in the society are protected as best as we can. We are seeking to reduce debt [and] keep the public sector out of the market-place as far is possible, so that resources can remain there for private activity that can store economic growth and development," he said.
While the growth agenda is nothing new for the Government, Rowe admitted that the Ministry of Finance was working to improve those efforts this year. One such way is the use of the public-sector investment programme.
"That public-sector investment programme is driven by policy objectives. It gives us the opportunity to align more closely with the growth objective," Rowe said.
Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips last month announced plans to present the new Budget in February instead of April. This, he said, was part of the ministry's plan to have more meaningful discussions about how to finance the Budget.
Because of this timeline adjustment, the Budget call was sent out last September, which was earlier than usual. This, Rowe said, required multiple changes within the ministry, all aimed at meeting the new deadline.
One such change that is reflected in the new Budget is that estimates are being used instead of actual figures for the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. But Rowe said that the ministry was careful in representing those figures.
"We have to be relatively careful when we represent [these figures] because we don't want to be using estimates that could mislead anyone, one way or the other."
The financial secretary said discussions were still under way regarding public-sector wage increases, but said he could not comment further on the matter.