Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Opposition to highlight underfinanced areas of Budget

Published:Tuesday | February 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

Portfolio ministers in the Andrew Holness administration will, beginning today, face a barrage of questions from members of the parliamentary Opposition as they drill down into the Estimates of Expenditure and estimates of revenue to get details about government spending for the upcoming financial year.

The Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, comprising all 63 members of the Lower House, will begin combing through the voluminous Estimates of Expenditure that sets out the sums allocated for recurrent and capital spending for the ministries, departments and agencies of government for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Senior government technocrats and chief executive officers of executive agencies and public bodies will accompany their respective ministers to provide support in the sometimes gruelling and extensive deliberations. The Standing Finance Committee is expected to complete its work by Friday.

Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw will open the innings today and will face his Opposition counterpart, Dr Peter Phillips.

In a Gleaner interview, Phillips acknowledged that perhaps the best accomplishment of the Holness administration is that it has maintained the basic economic reform programme that was left by the previous government.

However, the opposition spokesman on finance argued that the Government had delivered some shocks to the economic reform programme with "its precipitous raising of the taxes to finance their electoral promise which has already been broken because they had promised no taxes.

"This extraordinary raising of the taxes has left the country with critical areas of need underfinanced and we want to look at the extent to which that is so and see what adjustment, if any, can be made," he said.

A review of the revenue estimates indicates that the Government intends to increase its tax intake by $62 billion this fiscal year.