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Mar 21, 2018

Budget Reviewed Ahead of Debate

Earlier we spoke about one of the Budget’s revenue-collecting measures, the exemption of G.S.T. on agricultural services being lifted, being shelved for now. The rest of the billion-dollar budget will be debated starting on Thursday. A look through the book shows modest recoveries for most of the major ministries after a tough year financially and economically. But what does that mean for national services after April first? News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Indeed I could have perhaps borrowed some colorful language from you in terms of your description just now, but I am saying to you that it is not a budget of pyrotechnics. It is not a budget of fireworks. It is as steady as she goes budget. And in these times where fiscal consolidation is the watchword, that’s how it is and that’s how, quite frankly, it should be. While we go through this period of consolidation and recovery, before once again hitting full stride, and perhaps returning you to the glory days of pyrotechnics. That may well be for somebody else, after I have left.”


Aaron Humes, Reporting

And who are we to argue? The General Revenue and Appropriation Bill to be debated on Thursday, quite possibly the last of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s career, doesn’t have much meat on the bones. The Government has managed to eke out more of what it makes than what it spends, due to a burgeoning tax base now totaling over a billion dollars. Of the twenty established Government Departments listed in the annual budget, all but two – the Ministries of Works and Foreign and Home Affairs, managed to spend less than they were budgeted in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and then not by much – about twenty million dollars. All of that and a little more is available for some key government departments like the Ministry of Home Affairs, which includes Police; the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary; oversight bodies such as the Ombudsman, Contractor General and Integrity Commission; the Ministry of Education, Youth, Culture and Sports; the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation and the Ministry of Health – although Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, as a statutory body, is cut out of that bounty. But the Prime Minister promises that the poor remain central to his administration, and he will take care of at least the basics.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: March 9th, 2018]

“We grasp the nettle with both hands, we rise to meet the challenges, and we will overcome them. This year’s budget is structured accordingly and there therefore can and will be no retreat from our signature pro-poor policies. (Applause) No retreat from BOOST and Food Pantry; no retreat from the Apprenticeship Program; no retreat from the High School Subsidies; no retreat from the Payment by GOB for students’ CXC exams; no retreat from the Funding of the Second Chance Opportunities; no retreat from Tuition Assistance (Applause); no retreat from the plethora of Full Scholarships; no retreat from the Construction of New Classrooms, no retreat from new Rural Water Supply Systems, Health Posts and Hospitals. Certainly in San Pedro, which we hope to fund from a public/private mix, and also from P.G. That’s the next priority.”


But there can also be no retreat from the fact that, according to the Leader of the Opposition, there’s just not much to talk about.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition [File: March 9th, 2018]

“The Prime Minister was known as always talking, all glitter and no substance; well today, it’s no glitter and no substance, because there’s nothing in that budget; it’s lifeless. He talks nothing about crime, about the social ills affecting us. He’s talking about him being the enabler – the only enabling he has done [is of] is some U.D.P. millionaires that we have been profiling on television. There’s nothing. That is why he has been living off borrowed money, issuing treasury bills and treasury notes, sucking up all the liquidity in the banking system. So I don’t know what the Prime Minister is talking about, about a fourth term? If he is so confident, bring it on.”


On Thursday and Friday, it’s on! Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


We’ll have all the highlights of the Budget Debate and the B.N.T.U. protest in Thursday’s newscast.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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