• $51B for Health
• $52B for Education
• $34B for Public Works
• $38B for National Security
Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, yesterday presented a $330B emergency budget for the fiscal year of 2020. Edghill made his presentation at the second sitting of the 12th Parliament at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) in Liliendaal—an event that saw no attendance from the opposition. This budget represents an increase of $29 million or 10 percent of the 2019 budget.
According to Edghill “this Budget embodies a no-nonsense, no frills, no fluff, people-centered, pro-poor, results-oriented approach to launch this nation back on its positive development trajectory.”
During his presentation, the Public Works Minister highlighted that there were two main overriding priorities in budget 2020 with a focus, in the last quarter, on bringing under control the spread of COVID-19 and opening up the economy.
“This Budget has been prepared in record time,” Edghill said. “On August 10th the Budget circular was issued… and within 21 days we had concluded virtual budget hearings with all agencies and regions, and prepared the recommendations for the budgets of constitutional agencies… This cycle was completed in a record 22 days. Today (yesterday), eight days later, we have before this honourable house a motion of the estimates and expenditure for the fiscal year 2020.”
Under normal circumstances, the annual budget preparation process takes over 150 days, hence, Edghill labeled this achievement a significant one.
The Minister related that when the People’s Progressive Party regime assumed government from the previous A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) regime, it inherited concerning findings. Edghill listed these as a bloat of employment in the public sector which drove up operational costs; “unauthorized invasion” and “regular withdrawals” from the Consolidate Funds and widespread squander-mania, with the most recent example being the barely operable $1.6B COVID-19 hospital at Liliendaal.
Notwithstanding these financial impediments and constraints, the long-awaited budget was presented with sweeping financial measures and relief across all agencies.
$51B allocated for health sector
As an immediate measure, this budget will provide for the purchase of adequate drugs and medical supplies, tests kits and anti-retrovirals for HIV patients. It will also serve to engage the fixing of the diagnostic imaging capacity of many of hospitals; fix many of the infrastructural defects at facilities across the country, and facilitate swift works to improve the quality of health care provided to citizens.
To this end, government has allocated $51.7B or 15.7 percent of the total budget for the health sector for 2020. Of this amount, $14.3B is budgeted for the procurement of drugs and medical supplies. Corrective action to facilitate the procurement of emergency supplies of drugs and medical supplies, to the tune of $3.2B, is underway and a full review of quantification and procurement practices is being currently undertaken, as there is a lack of evidence of any purchased drugs and medical supplies since 2017.
Of this $51B, $2.6B has been allocated to boost the Health Ministry’s COVID-19 response. This includes $790M to operationalize the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to cater for 200 patients. The estimated $1.6B infectious disease hospital is currently housing a number of maternity COVID-19 positive cases, isolation and non-critical patients. Furthermore, $1.8M has been allocated for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for central government employees.
$52B allocated for education sector
Minister Edghill explained that given the new dynamics of learning from home, the monies will support the procurement and distribution of learning materials. As such, the government has budgeted $52B or 15.8 percent of the total budget for the development of the education sector in Guyana. Of this amount, over $1.7B is allocated for the construction and rehabilitation of schools across the country.
Government is also focused on more innovative ways of learning and as such has budgeted over $300M to cater for an expansion of the Guyana Learning Channel and the establishment of the radio station specially dedicated to education delivery.
The nursery students will be given individual home-based packages containing print material, manipulative and other appropriate resources. The primary and secondary students will each receive work books and core text books in Math, English, Social Studies and Science which they will use during this time and beyond.
Towards the eventual reopening of schools, the Minister explained that funds have been made available for “sinks with running water, proper ventilation, working toilets, the delivery of masks to our teachers, students and ancillary staff and adequate signage to promote safe behaviour in all learning institutions and in all schools.”
In the area of higher learning, the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) will benefit from allocations “to facilitate learning continuity in hinterland centres of teacher education and to facilitate the virtual teacher education programme”.
For the University of Guyana (UG), government will be dispensing $3B in support. Of this “$221.3 million is allocated to complete and advance several roll-over projects across both campuses including the new sewer system, the human resources and bursary building, the pump house, teaching learning centre and electrical upgrade projects,” Minister Edghill explained.
$34B for public works and infrastructure
Edghill announced that the government intends to invest $34.4B in his Ministry for 2020. According to him, because the projects left behind by his government in 2015 were not fully implemented, the PPP/C regime is now forced to direct its energies towards seeing them come to fruition. These include energy expansion and diversification; the Amalia Falls Hydropower Project; the CJIA expansion project; the resurfacing of the East Coast Demerara (ECD) railway embankment; remodelling of the Linden-Lethem road project; redesign of the Ogle to Diamond bypass road and a new Demerara Harbour Bridge.
The expansion of the Hinterland Electrification Programme (HEP) remains a top priority. Some 25,000 households in Amerindian, hinterland, and deep riverain communities can expect an upgrade and replacement of their solar panels. Additionally, $400.6M has been allocated for expanded electrification of Amerindian and hinterland communities.
$38B invested for National Security
Some $38B is being allocated to propel the agenda of protecting the safety and well-being of citizens. These agendas include $1B invested for training, rehabilitation and construction of new police stations, $428.1M for the procurement 50 vehicles and $63M to procure two water tenders for firefighters in Linden and Bartica.
“Government will also focus on expanding the use of ICT in the fight against crime, providing better remuneration and conditions for the officers in our security forces and ensuring greater accountability by the Police Force for solving crime,” the Minister said.
It was highlighted that over the past five years there has been no rehabilitation of the country’s prison system. However, in the 2020 Budget, the Minister pointed out that the government will “seek to reform the prison system, to improve conditions and ensure compulsory training and educational opportunities for prisoners, security and safety prison officers.”
Meanwhile, the facility at Mahdia will benefit from an upgrade, in addition to receiving additional vehicles, tools and equipment to aid in firefighting.
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