Jamaica’s House of Representatives last night (Tuesday) approved the third supplementary estimates for 2020/21, after both government and opposition expressed support for the intent of the budget.
The estimates total $850.3 billion for capital and recurrent (housekeeping) spending, a drop of $3.5 billion, or 0.3 percent from the previous $$853.8 billion total spending allocation.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, opening the debate, noted that it comes in the face of the worst economic downturn in Jamaica’s history.
“…COVID 19 has delivered a monumental shock and the path out is quite clear, but it is a narrow path, with little room for error.”– Jamaica’s Minister of Finance, Dr Nigel Clarke
He said that among the things the crisis has impacted is the economic output, which is set to decline precipitously this fiscal year, having declined by 18.4 per cent and 10.7 per cent in the first and second quarters of the current fiscal year.
He also noted that government revenues declined by approximately $72 billion during 2020, or fifteen percent for the first nine months of the fiscal year, as compared with the same period of the previous year.
“Yes, $72 billion gone, but we have to keep the wheels of government turning,” Dr Clarke said noting that the government will have to be preparing, at the same time, to protect its human resources, and continue to respond to COVID-19.
He noted, however, that between April and December last year, the government spent $466 billion, with only $397 billion of revenues. He also noted that the country’s debt stock has risen $2.087 trillion to $2.72 trillion,
“We absorbed the shock and rebalanced over the nine months of 2020, and we have provided over $50 billion of COVID related support and, more importantly, maintained the stability of the economy,” Clarke said.
“However, make no joke about it, COVID 19 has delivered a monumental shock and the path out is quite clear, but it is a narrow path, with little room for error,” he cautioned the House.
Responding for the Opposition, its finance spokesman Julian Robinson, welcomed the developments in the economy, but added that the two sides may differ in terms of the future, in determining what are the priorities and offering solutions on how the country can grow the denominator.
“We have to obviously find ways to grow the denominator, so that we can restore the ratios and come back to the targets, and we have different views on that,” Robinson explained