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Gov't crunches new numbers

Published:Wednesday | March 31, 2010 | 3:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

FIVE DAYS after Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw tabled a $499.3-billion Budget in Parliament, the Estimates of Expenditure have been moved up by nearly one percentage point to $503.9 billion.

In his opening presentation during a meeting of Parliament's Standing Finance Committee yesterday, Shaw disclosed that the Budget would increase by $4.5 billion.

The Standing Finance Committee was examining the estimates which were tabled on March 25.

The jump in the Budget was attributed to several factors outlined by Shaw.

According to the finance minister, the Government had to allocate an additional $2 billion to pay some of the arrears due to public- sector workers, including teachers and nurses.

Miscalculation

Shaw pointed out that external interest payment had been miscalculated and, as such, an additional $1.7 billion was added to the Budget.

"This is due to a miscalculation in terms of the exchange rate that was used. The euro should have been used (but) instead the US exchange rate was used, so there has to be an adjustment," Shaw explained.

At the same time, $500 million has also been included in the budget for pension payments.

Members of parliament will receive $20 million this financial year under the Constituency Development Fund. Last year, the amount allocated to each constituency was $15 million. For the 60 members of parliament, a total of $320 million has been added to the Budget this fiscal year.

Turning to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company Limited (JUTC), Shaw said the Government would subsidise the entity to the tune of $600 million this financial year.

The JUTC has projected losses totalling $1.3 billion before subsidy this year.

Shaw also addressed concerns from opposition finance spokes-man Dr Omar Davies, regarding inadequate sums allocated in the Budget annually for public cleansing and street lights.

He said an additional $550 million has been set aside in this year's Budget to pay for street light costs and a further $450 million for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA).

An increase in property taxes this year, according to Shaw, would yield $3 billion to be allocated evenly to the NSWMA, as well as to pay for street lights.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com