STAFF members at the Ministry of Finance were, on Sunday afternoon, busy making final touches to the 2017 National Budget, scheduled for Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s
presentation to the National Assembly today at 14:00hrs.
President David Granger had in August noted that early presentation of the 2017 budget was to ensure and maintain adequate preparation in tandem with its planning mechanisms. While addressing Parliament in October, he had said that the APNU+AFC Administration had adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of which are compatible with Guyana’s social agenda.
He had said that the 2017 budget would reflect the harmonisation of the SDGs with Government’s national development plans, particularly in the social sector.
Budget preparation, started several months ago, has been characterised by an inclusive and consultative process, the President said.
The first budget under this more-than-one-year-old administration was presented on August 10, 2015 under the theme: “A Fresh Approach to the Good Life in a Green Economy”. Less than 10 months later, on January 29, 2016, the $230B Budget for 2016 was presented in the National Assembly by Minister Jordan, under the theme “Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence: The Good Life Beckons.”
Some $40.3B were allocated in the 2016 budget for the Education Sector; $28B for the Public Health Sector; $24B for Public Security; $20.3B for the Agriculture Sector; $15.8B for Housing and Water, and $14.4B for Public Infrastructure.
In the lead-up to today’s budget presentation, the Ministry of Finance had engaged several agencies as discussions materialised on each agency’s budgetary proposals.
In September, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) engaged the Ministry of Finance on preparations for its budget. Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, told members of the media at the time that the MPI defended its submissions, and the entity is competing with several other ministries to receive funding for projects in the 2017 fiscal year, including in hinterland areas.
The MPI is handling several marquee projects, including the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Expansion Project, which has to be completed in 2017.
Patterson said the $4B allocated in 2016 for the CJIA project have been expended, and the project is expected to be completed by December 2017.
President Granger recently noted that budget allocations provided for the security sector are inadequate. The Head of State has always contended that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) needs more resources in order to effectively tackle the country’s crime situation. As such, he noted that the $21B allocated to the MPI in the last two budgets had been well spent, but the sum is still insufficient. The ministry received a total of $14.534 billion in the 2016 budget.
The surveillance capacity of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is expected to receive a boost with the expected acquisition of new fixed and rotor wing aircraft in 2017 and the possible establishment of additional bases across the country.
For the 2017 National Budget, the army’s submissions to the Finance Ministry include funding for the acquisition of additional rotor wing aircraft, models whose capabilities are said to be significantly advanced in comparison with the current Bell 206 helicopters on the army’s roster.
GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier George Lewis, told this publication in October that several suggestions at improving the surveillance capacity of the army have been included in the 2017 National Budget proposals.
On October 27, the National Assembly approved some $6.8B, representing the 2017 budget estimates for the 16 constitutional agencies in Guyana. At the level of the Committee of Supply, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) made several attempts to secure clarifications from Minister Jordan about reductions in the proposals made by the various agencies, but those attempts were met with resistance, as the Finance Minister insisted that the adjustments were premised on the “fiscal space” available.
In recommending approximately $1.5B for the Parliament Office, Minister Jordan explained that the recommended allocation was made in the context of the existing fiscal space and consideration of the agency’s request within national development priorities.