Education - $76b budget tight
The Ministry of Education will be hard-pressed to finance its objectives given its $76-billion budgetary allocation for the 2013-2014 financial year, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has admitted.
Thwaites has, however, stressed that the ministry would be engaging in what he describes as a policy of realignment to make the best use of the budgetary provisions.
"I must admit that the budget is flat in many respects and we have to engage in a policy of creative realignment," Thwaites told yesterday's sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament, which is this week examining the Estimates of Expenditure.
The minister argued that there was "considerable room for efficiency" in the education system to focus on the effort to encourage realignment to achieve its target.
Reacting to concerns raised by his opposition counterpart, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Thwaites sought to put into context the 2013-2014 budgetary allocation of $76.2 billion.
Noting that last year's increase had been used to finance the one-off payment of a seven per cent wage increase to teachers and others in the education sector, he said "this accounted for the additional figure".
Thwaites also pointed out that the budgetary allocation to the tertiary system represented a one-off payment to that area of the education sector.
Dalrymple-Philibert had stressed that there was a reduction in real terms for the new fiscal year as in 2012-2013, the allocation of $73.82 billion was revised upward to $79.5 billion.
"How does the ministry intend to maintain its programme with this reduction against the background of inflation running at eight per cent?" queried Dalrymple-Philibert.
"Last year, you had to increase the figure ... yet there is a reduction this year."