Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Almost $1b allocated for early retirement payments to public sector workers in revised budget

Published:Wednesday | December 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Minister of Finance Audley Shaw.

The Government has underscored its commitment to begin the early retirement of some civil servants this fiscal year with the allocation of $983 million to cover this cost in the First Supplementary Estimate of Expenditure for the fiscal year.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness had announced in March that the early retirement scheme would be offered to public-sector workers over a one-year period as part of the administration's efforts to cut its oversize wage bill.

But with no money allocated to meet the retirement payments in Estimates of Expenditure for the fiscal year, there were questions about whether this would be done as it forms part of the administration's efforts to meet the projected wage to GDP of nine per cent by 2018-2019. The projection is a structural benchmark under Jamaica's standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

In the supplementary estimates tabled by Finance Minister Audley Shaw in Parliament yesterday the administration indicated that the early retirement payment would be part of the just under $90 billion more it intends to spend this year.

The bulk of the increased expenditure, $69 billion, is allocated to pay United States-dollar-denominated benchmark treasury notes.

The revised Budget for the fiscal year is $805.4 billion, up from $715.5 billion, an approximately 12 per cent increase.

This includes some $22 billion more for house-keeping or recurrent expenditure, which pushes the planned spending on areas such as salaries to $377.9 billion, up from $355.9 billion.

More spending money

for some ministries

Among the ministries that have been awarded more for housekeeping expenses in the First Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for this fiscal year is the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which gets an additional $2.6 billion.

That includes $1.3 billion more for the Tourism Enhancement Fund and $800 million for the Jamaica Tourist Board for overseas marketing.

The Ministry of Finance has been given $11 billion more for its recurrent expenses, with $12 billion going to Petrojam to ensure adequacy of working-capital financing, plus the allocation to cover the cost of the planned public servants' early retirement programme. The ministry has been docked just over $3 billion that had been set aside for contingencies.

There is also more money in the Supplementary Estimates for the housekeeping expenses of the Ministry of National Security ($1.3 billion), the police force (almost $500 million) and the Ministry of Health ($1.9 billion), among others.

The Robert Montague-led Ministry of National Security has also been allocated a further $1 billion for capital expenditure, including the purchase of vehicles ($585 million), implementation of new national security initiatives ($310 million) and $465 million for telecommunications equipment.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com