JIS News

Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has defended the Government’s decision to cut expenditure in a number of areas, noting that the Government had to contain spending in light of serious economic challenges.
“We are not making any apologies about it,” the Prime Minister said in his contribution to the debate on the first Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure in the House of Representatives yesterday (Feb. 3).
“Any Government in any part of the world, faced with the problems that we are faced with this year, which did not take the steps to contract expenditure in the face of declining revenues, would be a Government that would be guilty of irresponsibility,” he stated.
Opposition Spokesperson on Agriculture, Roger Clarke, in his contribution, expressed “serious concern” about the cuts in the allocations to the agricultural sector.
“Every single line in the agricultural sector was cut. The much vaunted Dairy Revitalisation Programme was allocated $144 million and $60 million was cut; marketing assistance (was allocated) $16.9 million and $6.9 million was cut,” Mr. Clarke said.
Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Omar Davies, also questioned the cuts in agriculture, asking “what are the priority areas for the Ministry, because everything just got a chop here”.
The Prime Minister in arguing the Government’s case said: “you cannot prepare yourself to attack the Minister (of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw) if the deficit is getting out of line, as if he didn’t put a hold on it he would have come under severe attack, but at the same time you get up and you read out line by line where expenditure cuts have taken place.”
The Supplementary Estimates, which were tabled in the House of Representatives on January 27, reflect $18.4 billion in additional allocations, which have increased the 2008/09 budget from the original $489.5 billion to $507.9 billion. This includes net increases of approximately $5 billion in recurrent spending and approximately $13.5 billion in capital spending.
Spending on wages and salaries and the non-debt programme have moved by $4.4 billion up from $180.9 billion to $185.3 billion, while interest payments have gone up by 0.09 per cent from $123.6 billion to $124.1 billion.
“The reasons for the increase include the fact that the projected salaries showed an increase of 4.67 per cent, in part as a result of the negotiations with the various groups, which settled at, in some cases, higher than projected rates,” Minister Shaw explained.
The Finance Minister also noted that public debt has increased by $458 million, from $123.6 billion to $124.1 billion.
The first Supplementary Estimates were approved by the House of Representatives.

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