$58.2 billion added to budget; $1.7 billion set aside for local gov't elections - Clarke

KINGSTON, Jamaica - More than $58 billion has been added to the national budget following Tuesday’s tabling in the House of Representatives of the Third Estimates of Expenditure for the 2023/24 fiscal year, by Finance and Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke.

The amount includes $1.7 billion for the local government elections which are due by next February.

The lion’s share of the increased amount will go towards salaries for public sector employees as part of the Compensation Review Programme.

Clarke noted that the estimates “reflect, among other things, the allocation of amounts to facilitate implementation of the second year of the public sector compensation restructure for those ministries, departments and agencies not previously addressed in the Second Supplementary Estimates”.

The second supplementary estimates that were approved in July added $14.5 billion to the budget. The third supplementary estimates provide for total expenditure of $1.094 trillion.

The finance minister said the additional amounts will be financed from a projected increase in revenues and grants by $43.1 billion, primarily consisting of an increase in tax revenues of $35.8 billion, non-tax revenues of $6.1 billion and grants of $1 billion.

The budget now provides for non-debt recurrent expenditure of $719.4 billion inclusive of below the line amounts which represent an increase of $39.1 billion over the second supplementary estimates.

Clarke said capital expenditure of $66.6 billion represents a reduction of $8.7 billion on the prior allocation for capital programmes; a debt service of $308 billion comprised of interest of $170 billion which represents an increase of $14.9 billion; and amortisation payment of $138 billion representing an increase of $12.9 billion.

The additional $39.1 billion in non-debt recurrent expenditure is allocated as follows: $1.4 billion to recurrent programmes; $37.2 billion to compensation of employees; and $0.6 billion to other outflows which consist of loans to public bodies.

“These increases represent the net changes in each of the categories as the overall adjustments to the prior budget involves reallocation, reductions and additions to various activities,” Clarke said.

He said the net increase of $1.4 billion on recurrent programmes is therefore the end result of adjustments that include $1.7 billion allocated for the holding of the local government elections.

Meanwhile, $480 million has been set aside for the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation of which $400 million is for social housing and $80 million to support the trucking of water by the National Water Commission to drought- stricken areas.

Another $420 million has been earmarked for the Ministry of Local Government of which $100 million is dedicated to the clean-up of town centres, $200 million for community roads, $120 million for indigent housing and $60 million for the trucking of water.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will receive $200 million for the provision of compassionate grants; $260 million goes to the Ministry of Agriculture for farm roads; $126 million to the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, including $31.5 million to support the development of sport and cultural programmes for youth and $50.9 million to support the establishment of a JIS regional office in St Thomas.

In addition, $1.6 billion has been set aside to support compensation restructure payments for central government agencies and the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), which includes $472 million to the JUTC; $345 million to the University Hospital of the West Indies; $395 million to the Caribbean Maritime University; $120 million to the Tourism Enhancement Fund; and $107 million to agencies of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“The net increase of $37.2 billion in compensation of employees reflects the allocation of $54.5 billion to this category to address the second year implementation of the compensation restructure and a provision of amounts to address arrears relating to the first year of compensation,” Clarke said.

The Public Administration and Appropriations Committee will discuss the estimates when it meets next Wednesday at Gordon House.

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