Clarke expected to table 2023/2024 budget today
In this file photo Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke is seen speaking in Parliament.

FINANCE Minister Dr Nigel Clarke is expected to table the proposed 2023/24 budget in the House of Representatives today, following the ceremonial opening of Parliament which will be marked by the governor general's throne speech, outlining the Government's programmes and plans for the year.

The national budget was pushed to almost a trillion, at the end of January, after an additional $24.5 billion was tacked on to facilitate retroactive payments to remaining public sector groups, under new compensation arrangements dating back to April 1.

In November $60 billion was added to the budget in the first supplementary estimates, and $24.5 billion in the third, moving the initial estimates tabled in March 2022 of $912 billion to $998.2 billion. The second supplementary estimates of $30.4 billion was funded from the contingency budgets of the various ministries, departments and agencies. The second and third estimates were crafted to facilitate billions in back pay and new salaries to roughly 100,000 public sector workers.

The new budget is being presented on the heels of a positive review from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which concluded its article four consultation with Jamaica. The IMF's executive board described the Administration's response to recent shocks as "well designed", and its fiscal policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic as "nimble, supporting the economy in 2020, but then quickly resuming a downward path for the debt as the impact of the pandemic faded".

The IMF said the central bank's data-driven monetary policies, aimed at countering inflation, had struck the right balance in responding to shocks, protecting the vulnerable, countering inflationary pressures, and further securing debt stability. The review took note of continued improvement in the fiscal policy framework, including strengthening tax and customs administrations, and fiscal management systems, as well as reforms in the public compensation structure.

"High commodity prices have resulted in an increase in the current account deficit, however international reserves remain at healthy levels. The financial system is well-capitalised and liquid at the same time," the IMF said.

At the same time the board urged the Jamaican authorities to reduce crime and barriers to trade, and to strengthen education and training, upgrade infrastructure, and to digitise government services. The directors also stressed the need to ramp up efforts to improve its Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorism Financing framework in line with the action plan which was agreed with the Financial Action Task Force.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter

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