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New budget figures include billions for public sector back pay

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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Finance Minister Audley Shaw yesterday tabled in the House of Representatives the second supplementary estimates for 2017/18, including an estimated $8 billion to cover retroactive payments to public sector employees.

Shaw said that the tabling of the estimates is a “tidying-up” exercise, allowing for additional expenditure which became necessary since those dealt with in the first supplementary estimates, approved in December, had increased the annual budget for 2017/2018 by $90 billion.

The increases in the second supplementary budget will now move the annual budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, from $805.4 billion to $815.2 billion, an increase of $9.8 billion.

The highlight of the budget is the transfer from the contingency fund of $5.4 billion to facilitate payment of the retroactive salaries for the first year of the Government's four-year wage agreement (2017/18) with several public sector workers, which is being paid to all public servants.

The Ministry of Finance would not confirm the total figure for the payment of the retroactive salaries when contacted yesterday. The Jamaica Observer was told the details would be provided this morning when the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives meets at Gordon House to review the expenditures. The budget is expected to be passed later this afternoon when the House meets for the debate.

The main increases are in the recurrent (housekeeping) expenditures for the year, which rose from $515.4 billion to $523.8 billion.

Removal of the $5.4 billion from the contingencies to meet outstanding retroactive salary payments to be paid by March 31 helped to reduce the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service's recurrent budget by $6.6 billion to $30.2 billion, but increased the Ministry of Health's budget, for example, by $5 billion. This includes $2.8 billion owed to medical doctors and medical consultants for the period 2009/2015, and $215 million owed to medical technologists who went on a work stoppage recently over the unpaid funds for 2015/2017.

Other housekeeping increases included: $3.7 billion for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; over $1 billion for the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation for the maintenance of secondary roads; and for the Ministry of National Security, $642 million for its administration, plus $3 billion for the Police Department and $484 million for the Department of Correctional Services; the Attorney General's Department will also get $454 million more.

The Capital A and B budgets have increased to a combined $291.4 billion, including: the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries' $324-million allocation for farm roads improvement; and the Ministry of Local Government's $150 million.

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