Budget to be tabled today
Jamaicans will know today how much revenue the Government will target for the upcoming fiscal year when the National Budget for the 2017-2018 financial year is tabled in the Parliament.
Today also marks the opening of the Parliament for the 2017-2018 legislative year. Governor General Sir Patrick Allen will deliver the Throne Speech, which will outline the legislative agenda for the year.
The current 2016-2017 financial year ends on March 31, but under a law passed in 2014, the Government must table the estimates of expenditure and revenue, the fiscal policy paper, and the debt-management strategy at the same time, in February. These must be approved before the April 1 start of the new financial year.
Last year, those time lines were missed because of the February 25 general election and the change of administration.
A $580 billion budget for this fiscal year was approved last May. That budget was revised in January as the Government increased spending by almost $13 billion to $593 billion.
Approximately $14 billion in taxes was imposed to cover Phase One of the income tax give-back. Phase Two is to be implemented on April 1 and is projected to cost $16 billion. That, along with $11.4 billion needed to maintain the primary surplus target, is expected to push the total additional revenue needed to at least $27.4 billion.
The $11.4 billion was being taken from the National Housing Trust (NHT) annually for the four-year period between 2013-2014 and 2016-2017 to support a four-year International Monetary Fund deal that was replaced last November.
Yesterday, The Gleaner reported that the Holness administration was considering keeping the NHT support to lessen the taxes needed to get the revenue.
Going to the NHT could be a political headache for Holness because while in opposition, he and Audley Shaw harshly criticised the Portia Simpson Miller administration for using the money.
The Budget will be presented today, but the debate will not start until March 9.