Jamaica Public Service gets largest slice of budget pie

Dr. Nigel Clarke, Finance Minister, Jamaica

Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke presented a J$803bilion budget to the parliament on Thursday announcing a J$385.6 recurrent expenditure allocation for the Ministry of Finance and Public Service. This represents over to 58 per cent of the total budget.

The next biggest allocation of J$109.4b representing 16 per cent, went to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information which also received a capital expenditure budget of J$5.7b.

Recurrent Expenditure – Jamaica Budgetary Allocations, 2019/2020 Fiscal Year

National Security received J$72.4b recurrent and J$20.2b which represents the largest portion of the capital expenditure budget (34%).

Clarke said the budgetary allocation for national security reflects the level of priority government places on improving security for the citizens of Jamaica.

“Mr. Speaker the dedication of significant resources to national security arises out of the Government’s conviction that the high incidence of violent crime is a significant source of inequity in Jamaica.

“Jamaicans, who live in areas subject to consistent violence, or under the control of organized crime, are denied an equal chance at life. Due to the restricting nature of pervasive violent crime, they are victims of unequal access to services and unequal opportunities in the work place.

“If we care about equity and justice we must care about national security not for some, but for all,” the Finance Minister said.

Capital Expenditure – Jamaica Budgetary Allocations, 2019/2020 Fiscal Year

In what was his maiden presentation Clarke told legislators that though Jamaica was one of the most indebted countries of the world, it is now has a positive fiscal trajectory and has become “a shining example to the world of what can be achieved when there is unity of purpose.”

He said when the current fiscal year ends on March 31, Jamaica’s debt-to-GDP ratio will be near 96 per cent, the lowest debt level for Jamaica, in nearly two decades; and it will be the first time below the 100 per cent for the same period.

Clarke boasted of the country being close to completing its engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after entering into a precautionary arrangement with the fund almost three years ago.

“What started as an IMF programme became Jamaica’s programme with IMF support,” Clarke told legislators.

“The Andrew Holness Government terminated the US$930m Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF, six months into office which was also six months before the maturity of the EFF.

“With the EFF, Jamaica borrowed money from the IMF. In its place Jamaica entered into a larger US$1.6 billion Precautionary Standby Arrangement.

“We are now 2 and a half years into this Precautionary Standby Facility, with 6 months to go and Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that…so far….Jamaica has had no need to draw down on and borrow funds from the IMF.”

The Finance Minister also reported that the country has had low, stable inflation for four years with domestic interest rates at levels that never before seen in the country.

“The Central Bank has lowered the policy rate four times this fiscal year to a record low of 1.5 per cent in February 2019.

Market interest rates for individuals and businesses have never been lower. Many individuals and businesses are now able to access single digit interest rates on Jamaican dollar loans, something that would have been deemed unattainable, unthinkable a few years ago,” Clarke told legislators.

In his presentation titled “Growth with Equity” Clarke also outlined plans to remove some taxes and a reduction on others.

The  minimum business tax of J$60,00 dollars will be abolished as of April 1, while taxes on property transfers, student loans and stamp duties will see a significant reduction.

Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Mark Golding,  will respond to the budget presentation on Tuesday, March 12, while leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, will make his contribution to the debate on Thursday, March 14.

Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, will speak in the Budget Debate on Tuesday, March 19, and the Finance Minister will close the Debate on Wednesday, March 20.

Finance Minister denies PM’s rally was paid for by government

Grenada’s Finance Minister Nazim Burke has categorically denied that state funds were used to finance the Prime Minister’s rally held in St. Andrew on Sunday.

Burke in an exclusive with freelance journalist Nicole Best refuted claims that the Prime Minister’s office was paying expenses related to the rally, a claim which was reportedly made by an official from the Prime Minister’s Minister.

“I want to make it categorically clear that absolutely not resources from the government of Grenada or from the national treasury is being used for this event,” Burke said.

“From my understanding, private persons who are sympathetic to the Prime Minister have made resources available to him and to the constituencies around the country to try to do this in support of him as Prime Minister of the country and as a demonstration of their support and their vote of confidence in him.”

The rally which was announced by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas in his address to the nation last Thursday night, following the resignation of former foreign Minister Karl Hood, was said to be his way of showing gratitude to the people of Grenada for their support of him following the failure of a No Confidence Motion filed against him by Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell.

“As an act of appreciation and expressions of support for the Government especially in the past two weeks, I in my capacity as Prime Minister, will be holding a national thanksgiving rally at the Grenville car park…” Prime Minister Thomas said in his address.

During Sunday’s rally a number of protocol officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present and attending unto the needs of the dignitaries, made up primarily of government ministers and cabinet members as well as members of the NGO community and founding members of the National Democratic Congress.

Burke in response to questions as to why the protocol officers were in attendance and obviously at work, said the fact that it is a Prime Minister’s Rally means that there is nothing wrong with the ‘apparatus’ of the state being made available for the use of the Prime Minister.

“This is a Prime Minister’s rally; to that extent the apparatus of the state can be available, even if it is not being used,” Burke said.

“The fact that public officials are here on their own time should not worry you or any other journalist,” Burke told freelance journalist Nicole Best.

But Burke’s admission is different to what an official from the Prime Minister’s office told another journalist. Press Secretary Richard Simon is reported to have told another journalist that the Prime Minister’s office will collect the tab.

Another journalist has reported that a number of persons from government offices who attended and worked at the rally are said to have filed for overtime allowances for that day.©

Grenada watchdog group concerned about conflict of interest in possible economic citizenship programme

A local watchdog group calling themselves Citizens in Defense of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage, has written to Prime Minister Tillman Thomas expressing concern with his government’s alleged engagement of Henley & Partners to facilitate the development of its economic citizenship program. Continue reading