Georgetown: Finance Minister Winston Jordan, fielded several questions put to him about spending and programmes, under the auspices of the ministry. The Ministry’s Budget was last to get the nod of approval Friday evening, just prior to the closing of the Committee of Supply consideration of the 2018 estimates.
Approval has been given for $28,292B to be spent by the Ministry next year on interventions such as micro-community development projects and programmes; payment for cycle seven and eight interventions including water supply projects in Baramita, Canal Bank, Timehri and early childhood development centres in Ithaca, Dartmouth, Suddie, Linden, Anns Grove and Anna Catherina; and support to Bureau of Statistics for a Labour Force Survey and institutional strengthening and capacity building.
There is also provisions for the Amerindian Land Titling, the Amerindian Development Fund for village economy, for the Micro and Small Enterprise Development, for the Adaptation projects including rehabilitation of Cunha Canal, for Information and Communication Technology Access and E-Service for Hinterland, Poor and Remote Communities. 7. Sustainable Land Management and Development and for the Green Economy Development Strategy.
For the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) there is support for the completion of buildings at Anna Regina, New Amsterdam and Corriverton and implementation of Total Revenue Integrated Processing System (TRIPS) and Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) softwares and the upgrading of regional tax offices
In response to queries from Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Irfaan Alli about the number of new staffers for the GRA, the Finance Minister stated, the revenue authority is projected to hire about 42 staffers, to boost its capacity to deliver efficient and effectively to Guyanese.
The Finance Minister also responded to questions raised about a$320M for trips and overseas engagements budgeted for the Ministry in 2018. The Minister noted that figure remained the same despite increased costs as Cabinet agreed that unless travel was necessary, alternatives to overseas travel would be utilised.
Questions were also raised about a sum of $381M for the seventh and eight cycles for the Basic Needs Thrust Fund. In response the minister indicated that he was more familiar with the ninth cycle which was approved by the IDB in March of this year. This cycle, it was stated, will last until May 2020 and is more for community outreaches to garner information on community projects, and to have the ministry staffers help the local residents with initiatives to develop sustainable development projects.
Questions were raised about the proposed new Wismar Bridge. Minister Jordan revealed that negotiations were currently underway with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and these were expected to be complete by next year. Asked about the institutional strengthening and the performance of the Public-Sector Investment Programme (PSIP,) the minister reminded that he had previously stated his dissatisfaction with the pace of government spending. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is also helping with this process and the government has a ‘War room’ meeting held weekly and chaired by the President to chart a way forward, the Minister explained.
The percentage of total revenue based on arrears was $20B in 2016 and in 2017 the figure was $9B up to October this year, the minister answered in response to a query about the amounts thus far. It was noted that several tables were missing from the printed copies of the estimates. Minister Jordan stated that this would be corrected noting that it was the fault of the National Printers, who produced copies of the Estimates and would be provided as soon as possible.