Finance Minister spending bill passed

– approximately $30.9 Billion allocated

DPI, Guyana, Friday, December 14, 2018

The consideration of the estimates for Budget 2019, today, saw the Ministry of Finance’s capital expenditure of $ 4.9 Billion and current expenditure amount of $26 Billion approved by the National Assembly.

In response to queries about sums for employment costs, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said that the amount stated at line item 6141 relates to salary increases and potential new recruits. For 2019, he explained that $230Million will cater for the two percent increase for teachers, for example. Further information, the minister said, will be made available only when discussions with the Guyana Teachers and the Guyana Public Service Unions have been completed in the new year. The 25 percent increase relative to 2018, included funding for several areas and not just salary hikes.

The increase by 100 percent for security – $30Million – was also questioned. Minister Jordan noted that security rates have increased from $250 to $350 per hour, and due to various factors, which arose recently, including robberies and break-ins, there is a need to beef up security both on the human side and by other methods to safeguard the ministry’s facilities.

The Finance Minister also revealed that more will be spent to promote programmes and initiatives such as the Natural Resources Fund, to the general public. Maintenance works will see painting carpentry, guttering and general repairs to the building housed within the ministry’s compound.

The use of monies for the Special Purposes Unit and the ability of NICIL to fund the interest on the bond of $30Billion used to support GuySuCo. Only the $16Million tranche has been tapped into, with $14Million remaining. It is expected that by May 2020, the organisation will commence sales of some of its land holdings. There has been tremendous interest in proposed land sales and the Cabinet will review this process to ensure transparency and accountability, he added.

The increases in the GRA’s allocations, the Minister noted, will allow for the upgrading of the agency’s facilities, staffers, training, and the establishment of new offices and its Oil and Gas Unit. He also confirmed that the GRA’s Board is functioning as it should.

The $1.4Billion for the Low Carbon Development Strategy, Minister Jordan stated included the Amerindian land title programme, ICT linkages Sustainable land management programme and components of the Green State Development Strategy.

He also gave an update on the proposed contribution to international organisations. It was explained that only a $20Million loan for the Guyana Power and Light Incorporated’s (GPL’) usage was accessed thus far, from the Islamic Development Bank. The Minister explained that whilst $820Million is available in the bank’s first cycle until 2021, accessing these funds depends on qualifying projects that can use them. Several projects are being considered going forward, according to the minister. Only bankable projects that can pass rigorous tests by the government and international institutions will be able to use any such funds. No of these include the halted Amalia Falls Hydro Project.

The expanded activities of the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN), which is focusing on assisting potential homeowners will be supported with a $218Million sum. 475 persons have already been given the “nod” to access loans via the agency according to Minister Jordan. The outer limit of lending amounts to $ 1Million, he added.

The Finance Ministry is moving to utilise an established technology programme, which necessitated the increase in funds for training to streamline methodologies. He cited the need for staffers who can actually “explore their computers” and get the best out of them. To date, all budget agencies and ministries except those in Region Eight are able to access the Finance Ministry’ ICT network via the E-Government system, he said.

The Appropriation Bill, Number 15 of 2018 was then read for a second and third time, put to a vote and passed by the House.

Paul Mc Adam

Images: Jameel Mohamed