Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Budget on the right PATH - CaPRI

Published:Tuesday | March 21, 2017 | 3:00 AMChristopher Serju
Dr Damien King

The claim by Finance Minister Audley Shaw that the 2017-18 Budget will provide an enhanced social safety net for the poor and vulnerable has been endorsed by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), which yesterday presented its in-depth analysis of the Government's $13.5-billion tax plan for the next fiscal year.

The finance minister served notice during his Budget presentation that there will be a review of the state-sponsored welfare programme to determine its efficiency and effectiveness, which will include an evaluation of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) to determine its impact on school attendance, as well as those participants who could be weaned off it.

Executive director of CaPRI, Dr Damien King, said the think tank had noted with interest that since 2014, there was quite a significant increase in real expenditure on social services, which was noteworthy.

"This is heart-warming to many of us, including at CaPRI, because in the context of an IMF (International Monetary Fund) programme that has been labelled as austerity, it's really comforting to see that we have managed to increase expenditure on social services and the social safety net throughout this entire time," he told journalists at The Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.

"The current Budget for 2017-2018 continues that trend with a small but real increase in spending on social services, amounting to approximately $8 billion. This includes a nearly 50 per cent increase in support to the PATH programme. So again, it's certainly something to make a note of."

... The poorer class will be affected differently

According to Dr Damien King, executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), under the Government's new tax reform, the poorer class would not all be affected in the same way.

"Some households will be better off because the increase in the PATH (Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education) programme is quite significant, but the vast majority of poor households are not on the programme, and so they are going to be paying more taxes by a small amount," he said at a press conference yesterday at The Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.

An additional $3.68 billion has been allocated under PATH for fiscal year 2017-18, bringing to $11.47 billion the total provision, an increase of 47 per cent over the previous year. A breakdown of the proposed increase shows $1.75 billion going to the School Feeding Programme, while $1.9 billion will be in cash grants.

A total of $4.75 billion has been allocated to facilitate expansion of the School Feeding Programme to five days per week, as well as an increase in the value and nutritional value of the meals.

Meanwhile, the $1.9 billion representing a 40 per cent increase in budgetary allowance will allow for a 30 per cent increase in the rates to PATH beneficiaries, starting Saturday, April 1.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com