THE first supplementary estimates should be passed in the House of Representatives when the House sits tomorrow, but there is some concern about whether these estimates are being untidily rushed through Parliament.
The estimates were expected to be tabled on January 29, but for some unexplained reason, this was delayed until Tuesday, February 5.
It was rushed to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) that afternoon, and the committee agreed to sit on Wednesday and Thursday to review it and make a report to the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) in time for its Tuesday morning meeting.
However, concerns have been raised about whether the PAAC had enough time to do a detailed review of the estimates, because the Ministry of Finance and Planning and financial secretary Devon Rowe were not in a position to produce the kinds of explanations required for a satisfactory analysis of the situation at all ministries, departments and agencies.
PAAC Chairman Edmund Bartlett missed Tuesday’s meeting and so did a number of other members of the committee. Bartlett had been pushing for the committee to be given a whole week to absorb the estimates instead of a single night, which was what they eventually got.
In fact, when the PAAC met on January 30, indications were that they would have a whole week to study the estimates, and then question Rowe’s team on Thursday, February 14.
It is unclear when, how and why that plan was changed, but eventually the members received the estimates Tuesday evening and the PAAC met Wednesday morning.
However, all is not lost because the SFC, which comprises all 63 MPs, will meet at 11:00 am Tuesday to do a follow-up prior to the meeting of the House at 2:00 pm.
Hopefully, through their efforts, a better understanding of what has happened with the 2012/13 budget will emerge prior to the debate.
As the financial secretary explained the revised budget on Wednesday, the following emerged:
The total 2012/13 budget of $612.4 billion was cut by $9.8 billion, or 1.6 per cent.
The Recurrent, or Housekeeping budget was cut by 1.9 per cent or $7 billion; the Capital A budget, which is financed by the Government, was cut by 0.2 per cent or $396.3 million; and the Capital B budget, which is a mixture of Government of Jamaica, multilateral and bilateral loan funds and grants, was cut by $2.4 billion, or 9.5 per cent.
Debt servicing, as is normally the case, took 53 per cent of the funds, or $325.8 billion; Education was next with 14 per cent or $81.3 billion; National Security followed with eight per cent or $48.8 billion; Finance and Planning had seven per cent with $41.2 billion; and Health was next with $33 billion.
Debt servicing dominated the Recurrent estimates with $129.4 billion of the $367.7 billion total; followed by Education with $79 billion; National Security, $46 billion; Finance and Planning, $39.3 billion; and Health with $33.6 billion.
Capital A spending was totally dominated by debt payments of $196.4 billion of the total $211.3 billion.
Transport, Works and Housing followed next with $6.2 billion and Finance and Planning with $1.5 billion.
In terms of the Capital B allocations, it was Transport, Works and Housing which led the way with $9 billion of the $23 billion allocated, attributed mainly to planned works programmes, including the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP) and the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).