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Public servants urged to up their game

Public servants urged to up their game

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With a $7.3 million increase in wages and salaries in the 2016 Budget Estimates, the Prime Minister is urging public servants to give the Vincentian public “value for the money” that the Government is spending.

Speaking in Parliament last Friday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves noted that the {{more}}estimate on wages and salaries in this year’s budget is $281.8 million, which is not only an increase on 2015’s estimate, but also an increase on the actual figure spent.

“I want that number to sink in. That’s why I’m asking our public servants, and all categories of workers, to please give the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines value for the money [that] we spend,” said Gonsalves.

“We know that you do a good job… but I’m asking you, particularly in challenging times, to up your game. It’s a lot of money we’re spending.”

Last Friday, January 29, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, presented the 2016 Budget Estimates, which amounted to $912,897,311 – six per cent ($58.5 million) less than was budgeted for in 2015.

The Budget comprises $715,228,341 in recurrent expenditure (a $40.2 million/six per cent increase) and $197,668,970 in capital expenditure (a $98.3 million/33 per cent decrease).

Gonsalves assured that the decrease in capital expenditure would not result in a reduction in “actual activity on the ground,” because what was budgeted previously was not spent in its entirety.

“There are several matters on which we had spent [which] are either finished or they are winding down, like, for instance, the Argyle International Airport and some of the disaster projects,” he pointed out.

The Prime Minister also said that the capital budget for 2016 will be mainly focused on four ministries: the Ministry of Transport and Works ($49.4 million); Ministry of National Security, Sea Port, and Airport Development ($49.4 million); Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation ($26.7 million) and Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment ($22.8 million).

The 2016 budget is financed by a current revenue of $564,627,600 and capital receipts which total $348,269,711. Moreover, with a current expenditure of $576,553,198, the budgeted current account balance shows a deficit of $11,925,598 – which is 58 per cent less than the 2015 budget.

In addition to the budgeted increase in salaries and wages, the Prime Minister highlighted a $6.1 million increase in pensions and NIS contributions, and a $2.9 million increase in ‘other transfers,’ which include social assistance, training, scholarships, grants and contributions, among others.

Stronger effort to collect taxes

During his address, Gonsalves emphasized that there will be a “stronger effort by the main revenue agencies” to collect taxes.

“Revenue from tax sources is expected to contribute $482.4 million to the consolidated fund.”

He explained that this estimated figure represents an 8.3 per cent increase on the 2015 budget estimates.

Taxes from incomes and profits and taxes from goods and services are expected to yield a combined amount of $298.2 million in revenue, which accounts for 52.8 per cent of the total current revenue for 2016.

Taxes in trade and international action are estimated at $142.4 million – an increase of 4.7 per cent.

News posts, new ministerial responsibilities

Gonsalves said that the 2016 Budget seeks to “focus our efforts, in respect of the new posts, to those which connect with the strategic priorities of the Government;” and in so doing, has created 27 additional positions.

Twenty-one posts have been created for medical/nursing and support staff at the modern medical complex at Georgetown; and six posts under the internal audit unit within the Ministry of Finance.

The Prime Minister also noted that several ministries have been allocated additional duties; and in the case of the Ministry of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Information and Labour, an entirely new portfolio has been created.

This new ministerial portfolio has been allocated $30.38 million within the 2016 Budget Estimates.

In addition to this, five ministries have been selected as pilots in the “ongoing strategic budget reform initiative” that is being implemented by the Ministry of Finance. These ministries include those of Finance, Agriculture, Education, National Mobilization and Health.

Overall decrease in public debt

With a total public debt of just over $1.5 billion (as of September 2015), this represented a 0.2 per cent decrease on the comparative period for 2014.

Prime Minister Gonsalves noted that the total domestic debt, as of September 2015, had amounted to $646.7 million (a 2.5 per cent increase), while the external debt for that same period (2015) had decreased by $18.2 million (2.1 per cent) from $864.5 million in 2014.

Gonsalves explained that the 2016 Budget Estimates had been arrived at with an “anticipated uptick in economic growth” in mind.

He pointed out the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted “modest” economic growth for St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2016. However, the Prime Minister was mindful of the global economic difficulties that still continue to challenge countries across the region and across the world. (JSV)

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