ON Friday, February 12th, 2021, Senior Minister within the Office of the President with the Responsibility of Finance presented the much-anticipated budget of 2021. With this release, many have expressed their gratitude to the government for being considered and able to benefit tremendously from the year’s budget, after five years of hardship. This budget, however, is a continuation of what was started by the government in 2020. This budget took into consideration all traditional and emerging sectors within Guyana: the senior citizens, youths, persons with disabilities and the indigenous peoples who have been left alone for quite some time. Though 2020 has ended on a better note despite a rough start, 2021 will be the best year for Guyana. This editorial will focus on the main highlights of the budget.
This year’s budget is totalled at $383.1 billion, which is 16.3 per cent or $53.6 billion above that of 2020. The total expenditure is expected to rise by 14 per cent from $337 billion (2020) while the revenue is expected to increase by 22.5 per cent from $251 billion (2020). The overall deficit is estimated to decline by 13.5 per cent from 2020 to approximately $76 billion.
The education sector budgeted $60.7 billion, which is 15.8 per cent of the total budget and 16.7 per cent increase from 2020 and 175.9 per cent from 2019. This is intended to improve the delivery and learning outcomes along with installing sinks, troughs, and water systems in schools. Scholarships will continue to be provided with 196 scholarships projected to be issued to the hinterland regions.
The agriculture sector received $22.6 billion, which is 5.9 per cent of the total budget and a 22.8 per cent increase from 2020 and 61.4 per cent from 2019. This allocation will be used for the opening of new farm-to-market roads; clearing and preparation of new lands; expanding infrastructure in the intermediate savannahs; expanding drainage and irrigation networks to make new land available for small, medium, and mega farms; strengthening extension services to reduce existing trade barriers; research and development; and coordinating and facilitating private sector participation in agriculture- based tourism. Two billion dollars is also included for GuySuCo.
The forestry sector was allocated $250 million for phase two of the national forestry inventory programme in Regions 2, 7, 9 and 10. Agro-processing and packaging facilities and other agriculture infrastructure were budgeted at $832 million. The Guyana Livestock Development Authority is allocated $806 million. The government will also invest in a modular abattoir to meet the demands for processed pork and related products.
A sum of $185 million was budgeted for the construction of the Hospitality Tourism Training Institute which will be able to facilitate 1800 students annually. This will aid job creation as the tourism sector is set to bloom with the many hotels, restaurants and bars lined up to be opened.
Small business owners also had a share in the budget with a sum of $250 million budgeted to be used to establish a National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council, which will reform the culture of entrepreneurship in Guyana and create an impetus for new entrepreneurs while supporting existing ones.
The Amerindian Land titling process, which has long been overdue, will soon come to reality as $630 million was allocated to this project. For the interior areas that depend on the water ways as the mode of transport, $196.6 million was budgeted to provide boats, engines, and equipment to empower these communities and improve the livelihoods of its residents. A sum of $1.75 billion was also budgeted for hinterland roads to enhance connectivity.
The housing sector was allocated 1.6 per cent of the total budget or $6 billion which is a 100 per cent increase from 2020.
The health sector received $53.5 billion or a 14 per cent of the total budget, which is a 3.5 per cent increase from 2020 and 114 per cent increase from 2019. This will aid in getting medical equipment, supplies and infrastructure needed to improve the health care systems across the country.
The infrastructure sector was allocated the majority of the budget of $347.45 billion (90.7 per cent), which is an increase of 313.1 per cent from 2020 and 892.7 per cent from 2019. Of the $347.5 billion, $3.5 billion is allocated to energy expansion and diversification, $25.6 billion for roads and bridges construction, $310 million for river and maritime transport, $3.25 billion for air transport and $5.1 billion on sea and river defence.
A sum of 4 billion was allocated to procure equipment and improve and expand the water supply network systems throughout the country.
The Youth Innovation programme was allocated $90 million while the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship programme was allocated $820 million to provide training and stipends for the betterment of the hinterland regions. The Culture, Youth and Sports Sector was allocated $2.7 billion.
The Guyana Police Force is budgeted to receive $15.3 million and the Guyana Fire Service has been allocated a sum of $1.9 billion.