Clarke kicks off budget debate today

MINISTER of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke will open the 2021/22 Budget Debate at Gordon House today as he leads the economy into another challenging year in which Government is seeking recovery from the painful blows of the coronavirus pandemic.

The minister has been warning for months that it will be a budget with several risks. However, he has maintained confidence in the possibilities of a tourism-led recovery over the next 12 months.

On February 18, following the annual ceremonial opening of Parliament, Dr Clarke tabled the 2021/22 Estimates of Expenditure, revealing $830.8 billion in expenditure and total revenues projected for the fiscal year, which begins on April 1, of $807.3.

The three danger areas of the budget which usually carry the bulk of the spending are: public debt at 272.2 billion; non-wage expenditure in the public sector at $247.8 billion; and public sector employees wages and salaries, $239.2 billion.

With the hit to the funding for 2020/21 being so tremendous, the minister admitted a “significant loss of revenue”, and an unprecedented decline estimated at 11.3 per cent, or $73.3 billion, compared with the 2019/20 inflows. Despite all of this, however, the 2020/21 overall expenditure was programmed at 3.8 per cent, or $24.2 billion higher than 2019/20.

The Government’s priorities for the recovery process in the 2021/22 budget are:

• Adequate provisions for vaccine for economic recovery, as it is essential that the financing exists to procure sufficient vaccines to reach herd immunity in the quickest possible time.

• The need to ensure that country bolsters social support to assist vulnerable persons and those who are most affected by the pandemic; and

• The need to continue to finance the provision of the public goods and services on which society and economy depends.

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