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Apr 21, 2021

Budget Debates Begins Tomorrow, What Should We Expect?

The financial plan for 2021, presented by Prime Minister John Briceño on April ninth, will be hotly debated on Thursday and Friday in parliament. News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks at the issues on the table.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It promises to be a robust, albeit severely lopsided affair, considering the fact that the opposition is made up of only five elected members.  The attendance of Denise ‘Sista B’ Barrow, as area representative for Queen Square, is uncertain given her absences from several sittings of the House of Representatives since the People’s United Party took office in November of last year.  The budget for the next twelve months is quite trim, taking into account the disastrous economic situation the country is facing.  During the previous house meeting, PM Briceno laid bare the summary estimates for 2021/2022.  Those projections are predicated on four grounds which include allocations in key areas such as health and education.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“…that priority be given to spending in the areas of health, poverty mitigation, education, citizen security, rural development and of course, the maintenance and development of the infrastructure of our National Logistics Network.  Giving everyone a fair shot at prosperity, more so because of the inequities in society that the extant crisis has compounded, is our urgent duty.”


With a budget that’s a hairsbreadth above one billion dollars, overall expenditure during the 2021 fiscal year will amount to roughly two hundred million more.  Government’s wage bill continues to be the single largest chunk of its recurrent spending, with four hundred and thirteen million dollars being set aside for salaries.


John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“In this budget, the salaries and pensions of public employees will constitute sixty-four cents of every dollar collected by government, and the costs attendant to their work, such as utilities, fuel, travel, etcetera, accounts for another eighteen cents of each dollar.  That leaves just eighteen cents for recurrent revenue, some one hundred and seventy-six million [dollars] to make all our interest payments that are due on four point two billion [dollars] of accumulated debt, to fund all capital investment programs and to settle principal repayments.”


That’s a cursory review of what is available for government to spend this year, as well as its priority areas.  It is expected that the budget will be deconstructed based on these proposed figures; however, a healthy part of the debate will also include the drama that parliament has come to be known for.  The session two Fridays ago was punctuated by a walkout, following the use of un-parliamentary language.  With the remainder of the week scheduled for discussion and the stage having been set, there is all likelihood that heated exchanges across the floor will inevitably take away from the grim figures presented, as well as the passage of the ten percent wage cut.


Dean Flowers

Dean Flowers, Vice President, P.S.U.

“The government will proceed, I trust, tomorrow.  I mean the date has been set, they are going to debate the budget over the next two days.  We have served notice through the Minister of Labor that at the expiration of twenty-one days we will proceed to industrial actions.  We’re already engaged in industrial action and at the end of twenty-one days we will proceed to strike and nationally.”


On the outside of the Assembly Building, preparations were underway earlier today to avert any potential unrest at Independence Plaza in light of the actions being taken by the unions.  Teachers and public officers, as we’ve reported, are in a logjam with government over the pending salary cuts which are already included in the budget. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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