A record breaking $220B 2014 Budget was presented to the National Assembly yesterday by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh, under the theme: ‘A better Guyana for all Guyanese’ and includes a menu of measures to benefit the average Guyanese man and woman.
He said: “Budget 2014 seeks to continue the work this government has been doing to build a more modern and prosperous Guyana.
Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, makes his way to the Parliament Chamber, where he made his 2014 Budget presentation, three minutes shy of three hours, yesterday
“It seeks to promote both the creation of employment and business opportunities and to better equip our citizens to avail themselves of those opportunities. It seeks to expand our physical infrastructure and improve linkages with our neighbours. It seeks to improve the quality of our social services and address the concerns our citizens have about the cleanliness of their physical surroundings. It seeks to further improve the competitiveness of our business environment and strengthen our institutions.”
The minister’s announcement that no new taxes will be introduced was much welcomed, as was his announcements that: old age pensions would be increased from $12,500 to $13,600 – up from $3,500 in 2006; old age pensioners would receive an annual electricity assistance of $30,000, an increase from $20,000; and a $10,000 allowance for each child in the public education system.
Opposition Leader, David Granger, in the National Assembly yesterday
Among other measures Singh announced were-the allocation of $3.2B to meet the cost of maintaining the electricity subsidy in Linden and Kwakwani, Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice) the allocation of $100M to advance technical and other assessments for capital works to Port Georgetown; and $1B for rehabilitation of critical interior roads, including the Linden to Lethem road.
Allocations to other major sectors saw an increase in this year’s Budget and include: $3.7B to the Guyana Power and Light Company, to support critical capital expenditure and avoid increased tariffs for consumers; $1B for rural enterprise development; $6B for the sugar sector, to achieve a badly needed reversal of fortunes; an injection of $500M into the rice sector to support efforts to increase competitiveness and resilience; $200M for advancement of efforts in other agricultural areas; and an investment of $800M into the tourism industry for the establishment of a Hospitality Institute.
New this year was the announcement of a ‘Clean Up Guyana’ campaign, which attracted an allocation of some $1B, $500M of which will be dedicated to immediate efforts to clean up the capital city.
INVESTMENT IN PEOPLE
The largest percentage of the 2014 Budget went to the Education sector with an allocation of a whopping $32.3B, while Health received an allocation of $21.5B.
The security sector attracted an allocation of $19.5B.
AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, and Health Minister, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran
According to the breakdown of the allocations training will be conducted for the Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) Unit and a sum of $382.6M has been allocated to train the joint services; while $413M is budgeted to train and equip community policing groups countrywide in an effort to restore safe neighbourhoods to citizens. Training will also commence with staff at the forensic laboratory on chemical analysis, drugs analysis, toxicology and court room procedures. A sum of $1.2B has been allocated for the completion of the forensic laboratory and the fire training school and the continuous upgrading of physical infrastructure across the joint service in locations across the country. A sum of $1.1B has been allocated to support land, air and sea operations of the joint services while another $1.1B is allocated to effectively equip our forces to serve and protect our citizens.
Also in 2014, a sum of $1.8B has been budgeted to consolidate the advances already made within the justice sector.
Housing received $4.4B and Water received an allocation of $2.5B, while Sanitation received $544.6M.
Under vulnerable groups and other targeted interventions, $382.5M was allocated to consolidate efforts made in the delivery of childcare and protection services; over $960M was allocated to the sector of which $344 million is expected to be spent on continuing works at the Leonora athletic track and the warm-up pool at the National Aquatic Centre and another $300 million is expected to be spent on the grounds enhancement initiative which aims at upgrading selected sports grounds countrywide; and $796M has been allocated for the continuation of Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP).
The energy sector was allocated $7.7B,
In 2014, an amount of $13.7B is budgeted to improve our roads and bridges network, of which $12.9B will be spent on roads and $844.2M on bridges.
The four lane access road to the CJIA and the East Bank of Demerara four-lane highway are slated for completion this year and will alleviate much of the current traffic bottlenecks and improve safety.
Works are also expected to commence on the West Coast of Demerara Road and will include pavement rehabilitation, pedestrian and cycle lanes in selected high traffic areas, and street lighting. The widening of the East Coast Highway will continue and road reconstruction works for the upgrading of Better Hope to Belfield will commence. Construction of the Parika/Ruby back dam roads will begin, thus opening up access to over 330 farming households and over 2,000 acres of mixed crop farming. Engineering designs for the Canal Polder Number One and Two roads and feasibility studies and designs for the extension of the highway from Diamond to Timehri will be undertaken. On the East Bank of Berbice, studies and designs will be completed and the complete reconstruction of six kilometres from Stanleytown to Everton and upgrade of 11.5 kilometres from Belle Vue to Light Town will commence.
Also a total of $6.6B has been budgeted for the CJIA. The relocation of the Guyana Defence Force engineering division at Timehri is targeted for completion to facilitate construction works on the new airport terminal building. Another, $231.1M is allocated for the rehabilitation and maintenance of hinterland airstrips and a further $773.9M is budgeted for dredging equipment, ferry vessels, and spares and for the rehabilitation of stellings.
The sum of $1.9B is budgeted to ensure the further strengthening of our sea and river defence infrastructure. Critical works will be done in Regions 2 to 7.
Some of $6.9B is allocated for the completion of drainage and irrigation structures for the Northern Relief Channel Project, the completion of Hope/Douchfour public road bridge, the construction of nine new drainage pump stations at Windsor Forest, Canal Polder, Pine Ground, No. 66 Village, Paradise, Gangaram, Eversham, No. 43 Village and Lima and the rehabilitation of intake structures and sluices at Ann’s Grove, Hope, Annandale and Nancy in addition to other works. A new project is being designed with targeted interventions for drainage works to reduce potential future flooding particularly in connection to the East Demerara Water Conservancy.
The Finance Minister stressed that Budget 2014 is all about creating a better Guyana, a Guyana of greater opportunity, for all Guyanese.
He said: “It might be somewhat ironic for me to say it now, but had brevity not been a paramount consideration, the theme of this year’s budget could equally have been By All Guyanese, A Better Guyana, for All Guyanese.”
Singh made it clear that the provisions in the Budget addresses issues that matter to Guyanese and the country as a whole.
He said: “They include ensuring that the climate and environmental services provided by our standing forests are adequately remunerated by the global consuming community, thereby generating revenue for our country while preserving our endowment of nature.
“They include attracting the inflows of private capital to make Guyana self-sufficient in clean energy and an exporter of renewable energy to our neighbours, thereby reducing the cost and improving the reliability of power domestically while earning inflows from energy exports.
“They include producing more food for domestic consumption and for export to the Caribbean, reducing our import bill and creating growth opportunities for our agricultural sector.
“They include making Guyana a major exporter of services in the global business process outsourcing industry, creating technology based jobs for our young people.
“They include making Guyana a destination of first choice by the global tourist looking for forest and nature adventure, thereby creating business opportunities in our hospitality sector.
“They include ensuring that every single young Guyanese person is sufficiently well educated and equipped with the skills required to enter and succeed in the world of work, thereby earning an income for themselves and contributing to the national productive effort.
“They include ensuring that every citizen has access to a safe and clean environment, thereby contributing to their own wellness and wellbeing.”
The debated on the 2014 Budget is scheduled to begin on March 31.
(By Vanessa Narine)