Thu | Nov 15, 2018

$31b cut in Budget - Security and roads get top priority after debt payments

Published:Friday | February 16, 2018 | 12:10 AMArthur Hall/Associate Editor
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) and Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips enter the chamber at the official opening of Parliament and tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure for 2018-2019 at Gordon House, yesterday.
From left: Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, Justice Carol Lawrence-Beswick, and acting Chief Justice Bryan Sykes at the official opening of Parliament and tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure for 2018-2019 at Gordon House, yesterday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and members of his Cabinet arrive for the official opening of Parliament and tabling of the Estimates of Expenditure for 2018-2019 at Gordon House, yesterday.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips (fourth left) and his members of parliament.
Lady Allen (left) and acting Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake.
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There are sizable increases for national security, education, tourism, the Office of the Prime Minister, and road repairs in the Government's Budget for the new fiscal year despite a $31 billion cut in the planned expenditure.

The Government is projecting to spend approximately $773.7 billion in the new fiscal year, which begins on April 1. This is $31.8 billion less than the $805.5 billion budgeted for this fiscal year.

Debt payments account for almost 40 per cent of planned expenditure, with $136.9 billion set aside for interest payments, and $152 billion allocated for amortisation.

On the recurrent or housekeeping side of the new Budget is $560 billion, up from $515 billion last year, while the capital budget is reduced from $290 billion to just under $214 billion.

The Ministry of Finance gets the biggest increase on the recurrent side of the Budget, including $35 billion in contingencies set aside for the repurchase of Venezuela's 49 per cent stake, but there are sharp decreases in other areas of the ministry's budget, including interest payments down $1 billion and grants and government subsidies, which is almost $13 billion lower.

 

BIG WINNERS

 

The Ministry of National Security has been allocated an additional $8 billion, with the police getting $2 billion of that amount for recurrent expenditure. The ministry's allocation includes a further $3 billion for the compensation of employees and $5 billion for defence forces services.

The police have been budgeted $1.3 billion more for general operations and a further $1 billion for investigations.

On the capital side of the Budget, the Robert Montague-led security ministry gets an additional $8 billion for the army and the police. This includes $1.7 billion for cyber security initiatives by the Jamaica Defence Force, a further $1.3 billion to purchase vehicles for the army, and $2.4 billion to purchase an aircraft.

There is also a provision of $1.1 billion for the purchase of motor vehicles by the police.

Other big winners include the Ministry of Tourism, which gets $2.8 billion more for its housekeeping expenses; the Ministry of Education, which sees its recurrent budget going up by some $4 billion, even as it suffered a small decline on the capital side; and the Ministry of Health, which is allocated almost $2 billion more for recurrent expenditure, with a slight hike in its capital budget.

 

SIX YEARS OF INFORMATION

 

The figures were presented in a new-look Estimates of Expenditure for the 2018-2019 fiscal year tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The new feature of the estimates is that it contains six years of budget information rather than the usual three years that were previously presented.

This year, the estimates include unaudited actual expenditure for 2016-2017, the approved and revised estimates for the current financial year, estimates for the upcoming fiscal year, plus the new feature of estimates for next three fiscal years ending in 2022.

But Finance Minister Audley Shaw noted that the projections for the three years are indicative of the level of spending that will be undertaken to continue the implementation of existing programmes and projects and maintain Government's operations at the current levels, given the forecasted resource envelop and the programmed fiscal objectives.

Shaw underscored that the projections would be revised each year to ensure alignment of expenditure with the forecasted resource envelope and Government's policy priorities.

Shaw added that despite the inclusion of the medium-term projections, the annual authorisation of expenditure would remain and the Parliament would continue, as it now does, to consider and vote only on the estimates for the new coming year.

The Standing Finance Committee is slated to examine the estimates on February 27 and 28, with Shaw scheduled to open the Budget Debate on March 8.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com