The Kenny Anthony administration today, April, 29, presented this year’s financial budget in the House of Assembly, which stands at EC$1,252,021,600. In presenting the expenditure and estimates, Prime Minister Anthony said that this year’s budget is aimed largely on reducing the current financial deficit.
Anthony highlighted the success made over the previous financial year, which saw a reduction of the country’s fiscal deficit from 9.4 per cent to 5.7 per cent. The deficit however stands at EC$ 57.2 million.
“By a stretch of imagination that was a commendable achievement…I don’t think I can identify any country in the Eastern Caribbean that was able to do that without the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he opined. The prime minister also noted that his government was also able to stabilize revenue intake for the previous financial year. He expressed gratitude to the citizenry for understanding that measures had to be put in place, to assist with the reduction of the fiscal deficit.
Anthony indicated that the improvements made in this regard is not “an accidental development”, as was speculated. Rather, the prime minister described the accomplishment made in reducing the current deficit as, “the employment of fiscal discipline.”
During the 2014/15, Anthony said that the fiscal deficit will be reduced by EC$74.5 million. However, he reminded Members of Parliament (MPs) that the work is not over, stating that, “we are not out of the worst.” The deficit he reported is projected to increase by EC$254.5 million during the new financial year, which he plans to monitor properly.
In addition to that, Anthony stressed that his government will work feverishly to ensure that public debt is reduced further. “I hope that this government would be able to present legislation, to deal with public debt and refashion how to address that issue … to determine what to borrow and at what time we can borrow,” he added.
At present, the government he said is also faced with increase spending for wages and salaries in the public service sector. During 2012/2013 the bill for wages and salary in the public sector stood at EC$449 million. This figure is expected to increase to over $450 million, this year.
Anthony noted that outstanding increase in wages and salaries for the public sector, brought about through wage negotiations stands at approximately $459 million. He highlighted that serious attention must be paid to this issue. In addition to that, he explained that retirement funds is slowly increasing, which is a cause for concern as well. Anthony said it is therefore important that the deficit must be reduced.
“The journey has started … we have done well …we must continue … fiscal discipline is producing results … it requires a change and we have to complete this journey of taking it down,” Anthony stressed.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the financial year 2014/15 is expected to reach EC$3.7 billion. The goal he said it to reduce current expenditure by 17.4 per cent. While a reduction on the capital side of spending will be achieved, spending on the reoccurring side will see little progress. “In this business they have to be give and take and it would require leadership to do this, we have made good progress and we can do it together,” he said. Despite a reduction on spending in a few areas, funding for constituency programmes will continue, with a provision of EC$18 million made in this year’s budget.