National Budget in 21 days; Minister of Finance to be announced soon

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The newly installed People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government is working to introduce a national ‘emergency’ budget in 21 days, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo announced at a press conference Friday.

At a press conference held at the Arthur Chung Conference Center, Dr Jagdeo said the Finance Ministry during the first budget meeting informed that it usually takes them 179 days to prepare and present a budget but the Government has made it clear that this should be done within three weeks.

“The 179 days in a normal cycle will have to come down in three weeks…and the reason why this is so is because the country and the help the people need in many of the sectors can’t be made available to them unless we have an early budget,” the Vice President explained.

The 21 days took effect from when the circular went out to all agencies and Ministries this week.

Ministers and Heads of Department have been given deadlines of next Monday and Wednesday to submit their plans so that the Finance Ministry can take the next steps.

Guyana has been operating without a 2020 budget as a result of the March 2 elections and the five-month delay in the declaration of the results and even though an entire Cabinet has been established, there is no Finance Minister.

This responsibility has since been taken up by the Office of the President but according to Dr Jagdeo, a Finance Minister will be announced soon so as to have “full oversight” of the sector.

The Vice President did not say whether the Finance Minister will be announced in time for the budget presentation in the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Dr Jagdeo revealed that a number of issues will “hamstring” the Government from providing an adequate budget.

He explained that while the oil economy grew by 45.9 per cent, the non-oil economy shrunk by 4.9 per cent for the first half of the year.

He said the budget will have to include measures to stimulate the economy and stop the decline.

According to Dr Jagdeo, the wholesale and retail trade shrunk by 14 per cent, accommodation by 33 per cent, the bauxite sector shrunk by 42 per cent, mining by 57 per cent while the forestry and fisheries sector also registered “significant decline.”

The Vice President further revealed that up to mid-year, a total of $116 billion was dispersed from the Treasury while $111 billion in revenue was spent.

The new Government also found that the former APNU+AFC administration provided a loan of $10.7 billion to the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) to pay for a Wartsila Plant. This money was taken from the Consolidated Fund, according to Jagdeo, who noted that this is an “illegal disbursement.”

It was further revealed that the former Government, in capital expenditure, spent $1.134 billion on COVID-19 related activities.

The Vice President said the major public Corporations such as GuySuCo, GPL, GWI and the Guyana Forestry Commission and other agencies are in deficit; it was revealed that the Gold Board is over $4 billion in deficit.

According to Dr Jagdeo, the PPP will be starting the budget with $135 billion spent already on the capital side.

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