Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Gov’t sensitising high school students on Budget

Published:Saturday | April 22, 2023 | 1:04 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke (left) answers questions asked of him by students from Wolmer’s Girls’ School during a session focused on the 2023-2024 Budget at the Kingston-based school on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service is aiming to spark the youth's interest in the operations of the country through its High School Budget Tour.

The tour, which made its first stop at the Wolmer's Boys' and Wolmer's Girls schools in St Andrew on Tuesday, is designed to sensitise high school students about the national Budget and the role of the ministry.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke asserts that making this information more accessible is important to ensure youth participation in the country's democracy.

“You represent our future and it is not too early for you to invest yourself in how your country works, and in what goes into making these decisions for your country,” he told students.

He charged the students to be conveyors of this information in their homes and communities.

“It is the everyday citizen who ultimately makes the decision as to the direction of our country, and as a result, it is critically important that the everyday citizen is informed, is aware, and has the information required to make a decision,” he said.

Ten schools have been targeted for the school tour, which will end on April 28. According to the minister, this inaugural tour will ultimately become a feature of the yearly Budget presentation.

Clarke explained to the students that approximately 70 per cent of the more than $1-trillion Budget for this financial year is used to service the country's debt, pay public sector wages and salaries, and pensions.

The Ministry of Education and Youth received $148.3 billion, the second largest allocation behind the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

Education Minister Fayval Williams lauded this fact and stated that tours like these form part of civic education in schools.

“I want you to understand the commitment, not only of the Government but of the people of Jamaica, to education and for you to have no question in your mind about that fact Jamaicans really value education and they want to see all our students excel,” she said.

Wolmer's Boys' School principal Dwight Pennycooke also heaped praise on the MOFPS for “prioritising education in the national Budget”.

Capital expenditure

Meanwhile, Clarke, while extolling this financial year's capital expenditure budget of $75 billion as the largest yet, he acknowledges that ideally, this should be at least 3.3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

Nonetheless, the minister commended the Government's investment in capital expenditure, which he contends is crucial for the future.

“As we seek to improve our economy and to grow our economic output, the surest way to do that is through investment in human capital development. It is the productivity of the individual citizen that will overall determine the productivity of the overall society. So ensuring that each one of you has what you need to learn is critically important,” he said.

The minister further urged students to show regard for the country's development as the country's progress depends on it.

“Our future is as bright as you make it to be,” he told the students. “We have the power and the capacity, the knowledge and the energy to chart our own direction, to change our own direction, to decide who it is that we want to be, when we want to be that and to chart the course to achieve that, but it requires seriousness of purpose, focus and dedication, arming yourself with knowledge and information and equipping with a framework to make rational decision.”

“Now is about the time that you should be investing in yourself in this regard,” he said.