In what has been labelled an “emergency” budget presentation, estimated at GY$330 billion, Guyana’s Minister of Public Works Bishop Juan Edghill yesterday promised that all Guyanese will be afforded a good education, decent work, be able to start their own businesses, raise and provide for a family, own their own homes, live in a safe and secure environment and retire with dignity.
“We believe our hard work and sacrifice, bolstered by an economy strengthened by a well-managed oil and gas sector, must guarantee the next generation of Guyanese a brighter and better future,” the minister asserted while tabling the estimates and expenditure for 2020 in the National Assembly.
The budget for the current comes some 20 months after the APNU+AFC presented the last, and several months of political stalemate following regional and several months since pending election results created a political stalemate.
With the coronavirus pandemic now having an impact on Guyana’s economy, Edghill prefaced his presentation by outlining that he took into account what effects the virus would have as the Government moves to reopen the economy.
“Given all that our country has endured since December 2018, the PPP/C Administration is presenting Budget 2020 under the theme, Our Plan for Prosperity: Protecting our People in a COVID-19 Environment; Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law; Incentivising Economic Growth and Job Creation; and, Enhancing Welfare,” the public works minister said.
“This budget embodies a no-nonsense, no frills, no fluff, people-centered, pro-poor, results-oriented approach to launch this nation back on its positive development trajectory,” Edghill added.
While cognisant that the pandemic that has distorted the idea of normalcy and battered health systems across the globe, he pointed out that the budget 2020 aims to ensure that Guyana’s level of preparedness and response prioritises the safety of its people.
“This budget embodies a no-nonsense, no frills, no fluff, people-centered, pro-poor, results-oriented approach to launch this nation back on its positive development trajectory.”— Bishop Juan Edghill, minister of public works, Guyana
To this end, Edghill explained that the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, both as a health emergency and an economic challenge, is of utmost importance to the Dr Irfaan Ali Administration.
“Strengthening our public health response and capability, while finding avenues for stimulating economic growth is the challenge of the hour. A major focus is relieving hardships at the household level, and supporting micro and small businesses, as well as cushioning the adverse effect being experienced by vulnerable groups,” he stated.
On Monday, Ali, president of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, announced a number of measures — financed through the budget —that will benefit households and small businesses. Among them, he repealed value-added tax (VAT) on a number of services and goods to alleviate the financial pressure occasioned by COVID-19.
“We have reversed the VAT on electricity, water, machinery and equipment, exports, and materials for the construction sector, among others. These measures will surely improve the viability of small business start-ups and the sustainability of existing businesses,” Edghill stressed.
And while underscoring the significance of the public education sector in the development of Guyana, he indicated that the Government has budgeted GY$52 billion — or 15.8 per cent of the total budget — to education. Of that amount, the Government has allocated over GY$1.7 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of schools across the country.
“These measures will surely improve the viability of small business start-ups and the sustainability of existing businesses.”— Minister of Public Works — Guyana Bishop Juan Edghill
Retroactive to January 1, 2020, each child will receive a GY$15,000 cash grant and school uniform voucher allowance to $4,000 — the latter doubling the previous allocation.
In addition, pensioners will receive a GY$25,000 allowance and free water retroactive to January 1, 2020.
The Government also budgeted GY$5 billion to support Guyana Sugar Company, GY$150 million for frontline workers in the health care system and GY$25,000 per household for COVID-19 relief.
At the same time, Edghill said the 2020 budget reflects the Government’s pursuit of a debt-management strategy that focuses on development financing and meeting debt service obligations at the lowest possible cost — over the medium to long term and within acceptable risk parameters.
The budget debate begins next week.