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The real Budget: $859 billon - 68 public bodies to spend $360b

Published:Sunday | March 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw holds up a copy of the Public Sector Consolidated Estimates of Expenditure for 2010-11, a report tabled for the first time alongside the national Budget, in the House of Representatives, on Thursday. - JIS Photo

Lavern Clarke, Business Editor

For the first time, the Ministry of Finance has included an accounting of public-sector bodies, summarising their accounts in a side document tabled alongside the national Budget on Thursday.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw tabled the Public Sector Consolidated Estimates of Expenditure for 2010-11 on Thursday, giving a snapshot of how much they spend.

The public bodies' combined spending plans in the coming fiscal year, starting April 1, is just under $360 billion, of which $69 billion is designated for capital projects and programmes, and $290 billion for operational expenses.

The summary covers 68 government-owned companies and agencies.

Central government, by contrast, will spend $499.4 billion.

greater transparency

The disclosure of their combined budgets of just under $859 billion - a follow-through on a commitment for greater transparency - presents a clearer picture of the scope of government activity throughout the economy.

National Housing Trust, for example, will be spending $31.2 billion in fiscal 2010-11 on capital projects, and $6.8 billion on operations. The Urban Develop-ment Corporation has a $6.6 billion budget for projects, while its operational expenses are half that, at $3.3 billion.

On the flip side, National Water Commission will spend $7.3 billion on water infrastructure, and close to triple that amount, $19 billion, to run the monopoly distribution agency. Port Authority of Jamaica's housekeeping budget stands at $11.8 billion, and its capital programmes at $7.6 billion.

Petrojam Limited, operator of the state's monopoly oil refinery now being upgraded to add refining capacity, has a $146 billion operational budget that covers its oil and other petroleum imports, and $3.7 billion for capital projects.

Jamaica, in its agreement with the International Monetary Fund, committed to establishing a fiscal responsibility framework for the public sector, which will have the force of law behind it.

Adjustments to existing legisla-tion have begun, with the House of Representatives, in February, passing amendments to the Financial Administration and Audit Act and the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act.

On Thursday, Shaw also tabled the annual Public Bodies report, which offers more details of the plans and accounts of the selected government entities. The report is normally available at the opening of the Budget Debate, which kicks off two weeks after the Budget - the Estimates of Expenditure - is tabled.

The House's standing finance committee will begin meetings next week to assess the numbers in the Budget tabled Thursday.

lavern.clarke@gleanerjm.com