Wed | May 27, 2020

MORE CASH FOR CRIME - $2b jump for national security but capital spending falls

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:23 AMMcPherse Thompson and Steven Jackson/Business Reporters
A member of the Jamaica Defence Force straightens a medal for Sir Patrick Allen, Jamaica's governor general, ahead of the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Tuesday. Looking on is Lieutenant General Rocky Meade (right), chief of defence staff.
A member of the Jamaica Defence Force straightens a medal for Sir Patrick Allen, Jamaica's governor general, ahead of the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Tuesday. Looking on is Lieutenant General Rocky Meade (right), chief of defence staff.

The Jamaican Government will seek to table critical pieces of legislation that will enable improved security operations even as it carved out $1.7 billion more for the Ministry of National Security for fiscal year 2020-21 compared to the allocation the previous year, although capital spending will fall by $4 billion.

Violence remains a key concern for the Holness administration as it expands the reach of security crackdowns to rein in murders, shootings, and other major crimes.

The Government is projecting to spend approximately $852.67 billion in fiscal year 2020-21, which begins on April 1, about $6.4 billion less than its revised Budget of $859.07 billion, suggesting a comparatively flat Budget.

Debt-servicing payments account for about 17 per cent of the planned expenditure, with $136.25 billion set aside for interest payments and $155.18 billion allocated for amortisation, or debt maturity.

On the recurrent or housekeeping side of the new Budget is $778.47 billion, down from $786.96 billion last year, while the capital budget has been marginally increased to $74.2 billion, from $72.1 billion the previous year.

Finance and Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke yesterday tabled the Estimates of Expenditure for 2020-21, which showed that the Ministry of National Security has been allocated $78 billion on the recurrent side of the budget, $1.7 billion more than financial year 2019-20, and $15.95 billion in capital investments, versus $19.86 billion based on the revised estimates last year.

The ministry’s budget includes appropriations-in-aid of $592.09 million.

Provision is made for activities that support the costs associated with the witness protection programme, which plays a central role in maintaining public confidence in the criminal justice system and is also of vital support in the investigation and prosecution of major crimes.

Allocations have also been made for military spending to boost its vehicle fleet and acquire armoured patrol carriers, purchase and overhaul ships, as well as for cybersecurity initiatives, construction, and improvements.

The Government has allocated $6.29 billion for public order and safety, down from the revised estimate of $7.2 billion for fiscal year 2019-20.

As part of the spending, $1.2 billion has been allocated for the purchase of telecommunication equipment for the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the supply and installation of cameras to upgrade Jamaica’s CCTV’s network and enhance the radio communication network and computer-aided dispatch systems.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, in the Throne Speech presented earlier on Tuesday, said that during the 2019-20 legislative year, the Government made considerable strides in advancing its policy agenda to support national crime-fighting strategies.

That included the passage of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, 2019 and attendant regulations to strengthen local anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing efforts.

He said that included the development of regulations to support the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act, as well as the Firearms Act. Those pieces of legislation are expected to significantly curtail and disrupt the work of organised criminal networks, Sir Patrick said.

He said the Government maintained that a whole-of-society approach was required to tackle the crime and violence. Through the infusion of technology and significant capital investment, the Government will continue its multi-agency approach to social intervention efforts, he added.

The governor general said that the Government would be seeking to table other critical pieces of legislation that will enable improved security operations. Those include a Law Enforcement (Protection of Integrity) Act to encourage and promote integrity among persons armed with law-enforcement powers, thereby strengthening measures for the prevention and detection of acts of corruption and other crimes.

It also include a Corrections (Amendment) Act to update and strengthen the law and make it more aligned to current trends, taking into consideration modern technological advances, and increases in existing penalties for breaches, as well as an Aliens Act and Immigration Restriction Commonwealth Citizenship Act to allow for improved management of current trends in immigration breaches and border-security control mechanisms.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com