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Budget climbs again

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Country spends $31.5 billion more this year

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The Government has tacked on $31.5 billion to its Budget for this fiscal year which ends in two weeks.

With nine days to go before he presents the 2010-2011 Budget, Finance Minister Audley Shaw yesterday went to Parliament with a second Supplementary Estimates showing plans to spend $593 billion for the fiscal year.

This is up from the $561 billion presented in the first supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament in September, and $38 billion more than Shaw had initially told the country he would spend when he presented the original Budget last year.

In tabling the estimates, Shaw noted that the majority of the changes were related to the country's debt, even as he pointed out that the money allocated to housekeeping expenses had been hiked by just under $10 billion. A little less than $22 billion was added to the Government's capital budget.

But other ministries and agencies, including the police force, had eyebrow-raising changes.

The revised estimates show the police spending $1.6 billion less than budgeted for the year, with some areas hardly touching the money allocated.

These include the firearm and tactical training unit, which was allocated $62 million but is now slated to use less than $6 million.

Homicide spend

It was a similar story for homicide investigation, which was granted an initial budget of $80 million, but will end the year spending $47 million.

The unit charged with implementing the recommendations of the strategic review will end the year spending $38 million, or just over 10 per cent of the $370 million it was allocated.

In the meantime, the budget of the finance ministry sees several adjustments.

On the recurrent side, an additional $11.5 billion was allocated to the ministry for interest payments on government debt, despite the success of the recently concluded Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX), which reduced rates on domestic bonds and extended the maturity period.

In fact, the estimates provide for almost $16 billion more in interest payments, which it describes as "additional requirement due to payment of accrued interest under the JDX".

There is savings of $305 million based on the compliance of a number of public-sector entities in servicing their debts, while the Government saves approximately $4 billion based on the "lower-than-projected exchange rate", among other factors.

On the capital side, finance gets $34 billion to repay an unprogrammed issue of short-dated securities, reflecting the short-term treasury bill offers placed on the table by the administration recently.

But there is a $7-billion saving on the repayment of locally issued US$-denominated or US$-indexed bonds because of the extended maturities based on the JDX.

Parliament's Standing Finance Committee is slated to discuss the revised estimates today before the House of Representatives vote on the spending plans.