Guyanese will on August 10 learn how much the new government plans to spend to carry out the country’s business for the rest of this year.
Minister of Finance Winston Jordan revealed plans to table the proposed Fiscal Budget of 2015 on that day, as government Members of Parliament (MPs) convened for the fifth sitting of the National Assembly yesterday.
The announcement came even as the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), which was engaged in budget talks with the government just last week, continues to boycott the National Assembly.
This year’s budget should have been introduced and passed in the House by April 2015, but the process was delayed by a series of events. First the prorogation of the 10th Parliament last year, and its subsequent dissolution, paved the way for General and Regional Elections on May 11, which essentially stymied the process.
As the year creeps closer to an end, however, the new government is hoping that the package of revenue and expenditure will be debated and passed by September 1. Customarily, Parliament goes into recess between August 10 and October 10, but the government’s Members of Parliament (MPs) moved to delay the break by way of motion yesterday.
Without the suspension of the two-month parliamentary recess, the Minister of Finance would have been unable to lay the budget, the House heard yesterday.
Last week, the Minister met with members of the opposition to discuss the 2015 Budget. He had said earlier that while he inherited some preparations for the budget, the focus has since changed to reflect the agenda of the new APNU+AFC Administration.
The budget, he assured, will not be an extravagant one.
A draft of the National Budget was considered last week by the Cabinet of Ministers, in advance of its presentation to the National Assembly next month.
Pressed by this newspaper after the announcement, for answers as it relates to features that could be expected in the budget, the Finance Minister would go only as far as to say that a reduction in the Berbice Bridge toll and the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on certain food items will be introduced.
The APNU+AFC’s action programme for the first 100 days in office had promised “significant salary increases for government workers.” Tax reductions were also promised.
Given the worrying performance of the country’s traditional revenue earners, such as sugar and gold, the Finance Minister had said that the budget cannot be expected to be anything close to the $220B one which was presented to the House in 2014 by Former Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.
Jordan said that such an extravagant budget is also not possible given that the nation is already in the seventh month of the fiscal year. He emphasized that a “modest” budget is in the making.
In the area of infrastructure, attention will be paid to dredging of the Demerara Harbour and the development of road links including the Timehri to Georgetown to East Coast Demerara link, the Linden to Lethem Road and the East Bank Essequibo to Bartica Road.
The Finance Minister had suggested that a team be put together through the Ministry of Business and Investment to look at a Public-Private Partnership for the dredging of the Harbour. Jordan has already made it clear that Government does not intend to proceed with the Amaila Falls project in its current form.
Also, plans under review to boost the economy are also expected to be incorporated in the 2015 budget. The National Assembly is adjourned until August 10.
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