GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Mar 24 – The Guyana government Monday presented a GUY$220 billion (One Guyana dollar = US$0.004 cents) tax free budget to the National Assembly. Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said the government is also predicting economic growth of 5.6 per cent this year.
However, sugar production declined by 14 per cent while rice production grew by 26 per cent. Bauxite saw a decline in production while gold production was up.
But the budget presentation was boycotted by members of the Alliance for Change, (AFC) in protest at the government’s failure to hold meaningful consultation with the opposition in keeping with the Constitution.
“Judged from the raves and rants of his previous speeches the AFC has no reason to believe that Minister Singh would make a sober presentation this year,” the AFC said in a statement.
Singh told legislators that there would also be no increase in the income tax threshold that stands at GUY$50,000 and that the tax net remains the same at 30 per cent. The government also refused to decrease the 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) despite calls for a reduction from various sectors.
The Donald Ramotar government announced that Old Age pension would be increased from GUY$12,500 to GUY$13,125 monthly with effect from May 2014. In addition, pensioners electricity assistance is set to increase from GUY$20,000 to GUY $30,000 per annum.
The government has announced a series of projects costing billions of dollars to be undertaken during the fiscal year including a six billion dollar transfer to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) to help the ailing sugar industry.
The government said it would also spend one billion dollars on roads in the hinterland including Linden and Lethem and that Guyana Power and Light (GPL) would receive GUY$3.7 billion to support critical capital expenditure.
“This support will ultimately redound to the benefit of all 170,000 of GPL’s customers and their families,” Singh said, adding that the government is providing a $3.2 billion to subsidize electricity rates at Linden and Kwakwani.
The Finance Minister said GUY$7.7 billion had been allocated to the energy sector focusing on electricity supply.
In addition, the government has allocated one billion for rural enterprise development, with GUY$960 million allocated to the sports sector.
The government, which spent one billion last year on the still to be completed Leonora track, will spend an additional GUY$300 million this year on the project.
Singh said the government has allocated one billion dollars for the “Clean Up my Country Campaign” and GUY$2.5 billion allocated for improving safer water supply.
Education received the biggest allocation in the budget with an estimated GUY $32.3 billion followed by health at GUY $21.5 billion, GUY $19.5 billion for public safety and security and GUY$6.9B for the housing and water sectors.