A FIVE-month electoral impasse and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have taken a toll on the local economy, but the new government will be looking to restore stability, and lay the foundation for 2021 with its $329.5B budget, which was passed unamended by the National Assembly on Friday evening.
Although Friday evening culminated quietly, the passage of Budget 2020 came after two weeks of debates, scrutiny and passionate exchanges from both sides of the House. The size of Budget 2020 is $329.5 billion, which is 9.6 per cent, or $28.8 billion, above that of 2019.
The passage of this budget clears the way for the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration to offer much-needed relief to Guyanese amidst the global pandemic, and to simultaneously start the process of “rejuvenating” the productive sectors.
“The Year 2020 has been a complicated and difficult one for us as Guyanese. We have gone through testing times as a nation, given our own internal struggles of living together as one people; but, it is clear that we have one destiny. As Guyanese, we must all make every effort to heal, and to move forward together, as we consolidate our national position in order to achieve our development trajectory ahead,” said Minister of Public Works, Bishop Juan Edghill while presenting the budget to the House on September 9, 2020.
The pandemic presents an additional crisis that will continue to affect all spheres of life; and, as the country adapts to this new normal, Minister Edghill said, one lesson rings true: “How we act as individuals will ultimately impact the lives of those around us, whether we apply that to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, or to our engagement as mutual respecting citizens of our beloved country.”
The minister believes that Budget 2020 offers hope and relief, in its measures and programmes and projects; that it reflects government’s fierce dedication to ensuring a better quality of life for all Guyanese.
“Our Government will continue to fiercely defend our cherished democracy, as we have recently done, and we will always champion upholding the rule of law,” Minister Edghill said.
“We will continue, as always, to secure working partnerships with our private sector – from the fruit vendors to the rum producers, farmers to fishers, miners to millers, air service providers to minibus drivers. We will work within the public sector with all diligent public servants, including soldiers, police, educators, and health workers – especially those who are on the frontline – to ensure effective delivery of public services to all Guyanese, particularly at this crucial time,” he added.
PLAN FOR PROSPERITY
Government’s “plan for prosperity”, despite the challenges, has taken root in this emergency budget, and Budget 2021 will outline the transformative agenda for the medium-term; one that is inclusionary and participatory in its architecture and implementation.
Budget 2020 includes a $25,000 cash transfer to every household; a $15,000 cash grant for schoolchildren, and a $4,000 uniform voucher; $800 million for the Amerindian Development Fund; $5 billion for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo); a two-week, tax-free bonus for members of the Joint Services; and $150 million for frontline workers, among many other things.
President Dr. Irfaan Ali had also said that the government, after re-prioritising and re-programming fiscal measures, has managed to add $20 billion in relief to the “pockets” of Guyanese, at a time when the nation is faced with the effects of COVID-19, and the recently-concluded protracted electoral process. The conduits of relief include revised tax measures, and sweeping incentives.
The broad objectives of those measures, which feature in government’s emergency budget, are to stimulate economic activity; get persons back to work; increase Guyana’s productive capacity; reduce the cost of doing business; improve efficiency; and facilitate growth and development of businesses.
“These measures will have an immense impact on people’s welfare and well-being… as these measures would also address directly, issues of cost of living and living standards,” said President Ali.
Budget 2020 comes at the end of the third quarter of the year, so expenditure would have been accumulated in the first half of the year to ensure the continuation of multi-year projects and programmes, and provision of public services in the middle of the pandemic.
To account for expenditures made by the former APNU+AFC administration between January 1 and September 1, 2020, Government would have tabled a Statement of Expenditure, which was unanimously passed by the National Assembly.