Forward-Looking Budget
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FINANCE Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, on Wednesday, presented what can be described as ‘groundbreaking’ Budget Estimates to the National Assembly. In a presentation that lasted over five hours, the Finance Minister outlined the plans of the PPP/C administration for this fiscal year which will see the launch of a number of programmes strategically aligned to the goals and objectives of the administration to transform and modernise the country within the framework of a low carbon development strategy.

This year’s budget is historic in that for the first time in the country’s history, revenues from oil will be utilised to partially fund the developmental programmes of the country.  It is also by far the largest allocation available to the government, a whooping $552 billion which will be pumped into the economy to facilitate the country’s multi-faceted development.

This is 44.3 per cent larger than that provided for in the 2021 Budget and 36 per cent above total expenditure last year. Even more significant is the projected growth of the economy which will be 47.5 per cent, the highest not only in the region but the entire world for 2022. The projected growth will be fuelled by oil production increases which are expected to more than double its current output during the course of this year.

This is no ordinary sum of money and President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali; Vice-President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo and the entire PPP/C Cabinet must be commended for having put together such an impressive financial envelope which will have a transformative impact on the economy and on the lives and well-being of the Guyanese people. The budget, according to the Finance Minister, launches what could very well be the most rapid period of transformation and modernisation ever witnessed in the country’s entire history. According to the minister, “supported by the robust institutional architecture that the government has established, Budget 2022 ensures two complementary and critically important objectives are met: firstly that the urgent development needs of the country are met in the shortest possible time and that the long-term well-being of the country is protected and safeguarded at all times.”

The budget has as its theme “Steadfast against all challenges, resolute in building our One Guyana.” This theme is both apt and relevant having regard to the difficult international and local situation that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, both of which has impacted adversely on the economic and social life of the Guyanese people. Indeed, were it not for the proactive and resolute manner in which the challenges were dealt with by the PPP/C administration, the impact could have been more severe.

As to be expected, the expectations of the Guyanese people are high and with good reason. The Guyanese people have already benefitted from a menu of policy measures taken by the PPP/C administration to improve their standard of living during the past few years including direct cash relief to all Guyanese to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, financial compensation to those affected by the flood situation, cash grants to parents of school children, tax reductions and in some cases elimination, increased old-age pensions, greater disability benefits, subsidies for water and electricity for the elderly, cash payments to sugar workers and an across the board seven per cent increase for public servants retroactive to January last year. One consequence of those interventions was an increase in disposable incomes, especially for low-income and vulnerable groups in the society.

The good news is that the full universe of the Guyanese population stands to benefit from a package of financial benefits which would see further increases in old age pension, increases in public assistance, cash payments to parents of school children, further reduction in taxes and an increase in the income tax threshold from $65,000 to $75,000.  What this means in effect is that all those who earn below the government minimum wage will now be exempted from income tax payments.

Significant sums of money will also be spent on infrastructural works that will change the face of the country while at the same time opening up vast tracts of lands for productive purposes, establishing new communities and making thousands of Guyanese homeowners for the first time.

This is truly a people’s budget which is consistent with the philosophical and ideological outlook of the PPP/C administration, namely to place people at the centre of all developmental activities of the government. The debate on the presentations will commence shortly and no doubt the political opposition will search for ways to find fault with the several elements of the budget estimates. It will be no easy search but as the saying goes, ‘those who only look for faults can find nothing else’.

The Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, and his team of advisers and technicians, deserve full credit for putting together such an insightful and forward looking budget, one that fully accords with the vision and developmental aspirations of President Ali and his PPP/C administration.

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