AROUND 14:30 hrs on Thursday , Finance Minister Winston Jordan rose in the National Assembly and reported that the Committee of Supply of the National Assembly, has considered and approved the national budget estimates for 2017.His pronouncement effectively green-lighted the $250B budget presented on November 28.
Minutes later, the reading and passage of the Appropriation Bill 2016 Bill No. 24/2016 concretised the passage of the budget, concluding several weeks of debate on the 2017 National Budget and consideration of estimates in the Committee of Supply.
The budget was presented under the theme: “Building a diversified green economy: delivering the good life to all Guyanese.”
Earlier in Thursday afternoon’s session, Jordan was grilled on budgetary allocations for 2017which fall under the Ministry of Finance, including an allocation of $145M for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) , the autonomous body responsible for requesting, receiving, analysing and disseminating suspicious transaction reports and other information relating to money-laundering, terrorist financing or the proceeds of crime.
The unit was established and operates within the ambit of the Anti- Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (AML/CFTA) and its regulations.
Jordan said only recently a director and other staff were appointed to run the FIU. He said the sums allocated for 2017 will go towards staffing and increased activities of the body.
In addition, in response to queries from the Opposition, Jordan informed the National Assembly that a sum of $750M which has been allocated for Low Carbon Development programmes will cater for several initiatives, including the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) as well as Amerindian land-titling.
Late November, Jordan presented the budget, the third under his watch since the APNU+AFC administration assumed office last May.
A number of measures were announced in the 2017 budget to stimulate the country’s economy, create employment opportunities, and in keeping with an election promise, the Government reduced VAT from 16 per cent to 14 per cent.
However, Guyanese will now have to pay VAT on their electricity and water bills.
According to Minister Jordan, once the electricity bill exceeds $10,000 and the water bill is more than $1,500, then the 14 per cent VAT will have to be paid.
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Highlights of the Budget
-The 2017 budget has revealed that local and foreign beverage companies will pay GY$10 per unit (bottle or can) from January 1, 2017. According to Minister Jordan, the law will be amended to create a level playing field for local and foreign companies in keeping with Caricom’s Treaty of Chaguaramas.
-Old Age Pensions have increased to GY$19,000 and GY$7,500 for monthly Public Assistance. Personal Income Tax has been reduced from 30 to 28 percent for persons earning less than GY$180,000 per month and the Income Tax threshold has been increased to GY$60,000 or one-third of the gross salary, whichever is greater.
-It was disclosed that in 2017, almost $1B will be allocated for the implementation of a series of renewable energy projects. This is a contributory phase in furthering the ‘Green Development’ Plan.
-Building on previous initiatives with a low-carbon focus, the government will review and expand the scope on alternative energy sources. Some immediate measures are as follows:
-Reduced taxes on hybrid vehicles
-Zero rating excise tax on biofuel
-Restriction of used tyres and reduction of taxes on new tyres
-A total of $16M has been allocated for the established Toshaos Council Secretariat to enable the council to effectively carry out its mandate of catering for the needs of Indigenous Peoples.
-To expand coverage of all people as well as to optimise revenue collection at the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), 13 different services will be guaranteed and expanded, including issuance of driver’s licences, value-added tax and tax-reform processing
-In addition, ports-of-entry will be established at Parika , Charity and Morawhanna