JIS News

KINGSTON-Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon Audley Shaw, tabled Estimates of Expenditure totaling $545 billion for 2011/12, in the House of Representatives Thursday April 14.

The gross budget figure is approximately $556 billion but, minus appropriations-in-aid (daily incomes) which add up to $11.2 billion, it nets at $544.7 billion for the fiscal year. This is approximately $48 billion more than last year's revised figure of $497 billion.

The bulk of the allocations go, as usual, to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, followed by Education, National Security and Health.

The Ministry of Finance and the Public, as is normal, gets a huge chunk of $322 billion in recurrent (house keeping) and capital (projects) appropriations, the bulk of which will service the country's huge debts.

There is also $6.7 billion in contingencies, which includes $4.6 billion for retroactive (back) pay to government workers, of which the teachers will get $2.5 billion arising from the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) award. There is $1.4 billion for general allowances and $700 million for select groups.

In addition, $500 million will be spent on recruiting Cuban health personnel, $1.1 billion to meet anticipated increased electricity costs, $475 million to liquidate outstanding arrears for drugs and $63 million to assist in establishing the Jamaican embassy in Brazil.

Some $700 million will be spent on computerising the revenue services, especially Customs, which will get 50 percent of the amount. Funding for scholarships and other forms of training for public sector workers also jumped from $81 million last year, to just over $200 million.

There was also a dramatic jump in spending on maintenance and construction of buildings owned by the Ministry and its departments, from $120 million in 2010/11 to $568 million in 2011/12. This includes relocation of the Accountant's General Department to the Air Jamaica building, Harbour Street, Kingston, at a cost of some $200 million.

The Ministry will also spend some $42 billion on JDX, $34.7 billion for repayment of bonds due in May and $14 billion on treasury bills.

Four Ministries- Finance and the Public Service, Education, National Security and Health – combined to absorb $320 billion of the $352 billion in recurrent appropriations, and five – Finance, Transport and Works, Office of the Prime Minister, Labour and Social Security and Agriculture- have absorbed $180 billion of the $192 billion in capital allocations.

The Ministry of Transport and Works' $12 billion for road repairs, include $1.4 billion from the Special Consumption Tax on Fuel, to be used by the Road Maintenance Fund for infrastructure improvements, and $2 billion for new the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses.

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) will be spending $1.3 billion on the National Census, and funding for the e-learning project more than doubled from $630 million to $1.4 billion.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will spend approximately $4 billion, in a multilaterally funded programme, to improve the effectiveness of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), to motivate educational attainment and retention in secondary schools, as well as assist working age clients to seek and retain meaningful employment.

Most of the capital spending in Agriculture is multilateral funding for projects like climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, the Agricultural Competitiveness Programme, the ALBA Food Initiative Project and the Coffee Industry Board's Common Fund for Commodities.

The Standing Finance Committee, which is comprised of all 60 MPs in the House of Representatives, will review the Estimates starting next Tuesday. Minister of Finance and the Public Service, the Hon Audley Shaw, will open the Budget Debate on Thursday, April 28.

By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Editor & Reporter