Speech

Expression of Gratitude

Madam Speaker, I rise this afternoon to close the budget debate on the Appropriation Bill for the 2021/22 fiscal year.

This is the 59th budget debate in Jamaica’s independent history.

Though it takes place in the almost impossible context of the worst economic crisis in our history and the worst health crisis in our country, it has been no less spirited or vigorous.

For that, on behalf of the people of Jamaica I thank the contributors to the debate, the Most Honourable Prime Minister, for delivering a presentation of substance, achievement, and hope.

I thank the Leader of the Opposition, for his maiden presentation in that position where he tried a few googlys but pitched them well short.

I also thank the Opposition Spokesman on Finance for his first budget presentation.

A keen cricketer in his time, he came hustling down the pitch, with fast bowling action, but sadly pitched the ball wide.

Thanks to the Speaker who has been doing an excellent job in maintaining the order of these proceedings.

Thanks to the Parliamentary staff, the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, the Marshals, the Stenographers, and all who work at the House of Parliament for your dedication and professionalism.

Thanks to the Financial Secretary and the entire staff at the Ministry of Finance, who are among the finest in this region, and indeed among the finest anywhere in the world.

Thanks also to my security detail and driver. And, of course, I again express thanks to my family, for their loving support.

Thanks, too, to the members of the media and the listening public for tuning in. For those in the diaspora and those following on social media, on YouTube or on Facebook or on Twitter, thank you for your participation and interest.

Introductory Remarks
The Evolving Nature of the Health Crisis

Madam Speaker, the health crisis continues to evolve. Economic recovery, which we are programming to begin in the upcoming fiscal year, depends on winning the battle against COVID-19 in the public health theatre of this war.

The measures announced by the Most Hon. Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday are designed to control the spread of the coronavirus by restricting movement.

The progress of the vaccination programme will also be critical.

The evolving nature of the coronavirus public health dynamics could have a significant impact on budgetary outcomes. Uncertainties exist and yesterday’s announcement was a fulfillment of that reality.

In light of the programmed triple weekend lockdown the GOJ will provide two million $2m per constituency to support citizens requiring assistance across the lockdown periods. The provision will be disbursed to the CDF on April 1 for further distribution.

These uncertainties increase the risks in the budgeting and fiscal forecasting process. Prudence is therefore required.

We have presented a budget that is aligned with the priorities of: (i) vaccination of the population against COVID-19 and winning the battle against the virus; (ii) economic recovery stronger and faster than before; (iii) social support for the vulnerable and those impacted by the pandemic; (iv) continued financing of the provision of the public goods and services on which our society and economy depend; and (v) the preservation of stability, which is a pre-requisite of all other priorities.

The budget has benefited from the dividends of good policy, literally and figuratively.

Madam Speaker, policy matters and good policy matters even more.

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