JIS News

Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, has said that, despite the challenges it faces with the 2009/10 budget, the Government has fulfilled its commitment to protect the critical sectors of education, health, the social safety net services and national security from cuts.
He said that this year the Government has to find $127 billion to pay public sector salaries, as well as $335 billion to service the debt. This $462 billion, when subtracted from the revised budget of $561 billion, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, leaves approximately $100 billion to meet all the other obligations of Government.
“In the Supplementary Estimates we gave an undertaking that we were going to do everything possible to protect the critical sectors – health, education, the social safety net programme and security, and we have done that,” Mr. Golding said as he addressed the crowd at his seventh Town Hall Meeting this year at the St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church in May Pen, Clarendon recently.
“The provision for health is not less (than the original provision), it is a little bit more. The provision for education is not less, it’s a little bit more. The provision for social safety net services is not less, it is the same as what it was before,” Mr. Golding explained.
He said that while the police’s budget is a little bit less, because certain police stations that the Government had planned to build this year have been put off to the next financial year, the regular police services have not been affected.
Mr. Golding said that in order to meet salary increases in the public sector funds have been shifted around in the budgets of some of these Ministries, but there is no overall reduction in spending.
“What is true is that we have had to shift some of the money from areas that we had planned to spend before, in order to meet the additional cost of salaries to Government workers. So in education, you may find that it is not less money we are spending. We are spending a little bit more, but the more that we are spending is going to salaries, it is not going to build schools and it is not going to strengthen the delivery of lessons and curriculum in the schools,” he said.
He stated that the year has been particularly difficult, because taxes that were projected to be collected already, have not been forthcoming for various reasons. He suggested that by the end of the year, tax revenues are likely to be $15 to $16 billion off target.
He said that the reduction in taxes was the primary reason the Government had to produce the Supplementary Estimates.
Mr. Golding said that the Government was forced to seek the IMF’s support for its external account, mainly because of a 50 per cent fall in exports, including a reduction in bauxite/alumina earnings from $1.2 billion to under $300 million this year, and a 16 per cent reduction in remittances from Jamaicans abroad, or $350 million less than last year.
However, the Prime Minister admitted that there have been some improvements in the external account in recent weeks, with the Government accessing the US$330 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) available from the IMF, as well as funds made available by the European Union (EU), which have helped to boost the Net International Reserves (NIR) from the US$1.6 billion, it had fallen to earlier this year, to almost US$2 billion.

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