Story and figures done by Vishani Ragobeer
Parliamentarians will this week scrutinise the 2024 National Budget – Guyana’s first trillion-dollar budget – that was presented earlier in January by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.
They will do so through the Committee of Supply, a body that comprises all Members of Parliament. Starting Tuesday at 10:00 hrs, the Committee of Supply will begin the consideration of the 2024 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
In simpler terms, the Parliamentarians are expected to delve into the ‘nitty gritty’ of each sectoral allocation. Usually, government ministers sit with key staff for a fixed time and field questions from Opposition Parliamentarians about the allocations to the ministries or agencies.
Other Government Parliamentarians have also questioned their colleagues before.
To understand Budget 2024 a bit better, and to see how it compares to other recent budgets, the News Room compiled the following visual aid.
First, the budget total
Since returning to government in August 2020, the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) has presented five national budgets.
This year’s budget is the first trillion-dollar spending plan ever presented in Guyana. It is about 46% larger that Budget 2023.
A summary of this year’s revenues and expenditure
The budget demonstrates how public funds will be spent (expenditures) but it also includes information on money the country should earn (revenue).
If the country spends more than it earns, there is a deficit; if it earns more than it spends, there is a surplus. This year, there is a deficit of $198.7 billion.
Next, some key sectoral allocations
Last week, Parliamentarians were locked in budget debates. They each got the opportunity to share their views on this year’s budget and how the government plans to spend public funds. Government Parliamentarians acknowledged that there is a huge focus on capital spending- that is, spending on long-term assets like new hospitals, schools and roads – because those investments are needed now in Guyana’s phase of development.
The regional allocations
Funds are also allocated to each of Guyana’s 10 administrative regions, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Those funds are for regional administration and finance, public works, education delivery, health services and agriculture.
There are budgetary measures too
Dr. Singh, in his budget speech, also announced some key measures meant to provide relief to Guyanese. Those measures include a $7 billion sum set aside for interventions to counter the rising cost-of-living, an extension in the reduction of fuel tax and freight charges and wiping out student loans of University of Guyana (UG) graduates.
Shown below are three other measures that are rolled out by the government each year: hiking the income tax threshold which deals with how much of a worker’s salary is taxed, increasing old age pension paid monthly and providing more money to vulnerable groups through the public assistance scheme.
The budget, in its entirety, is divided into three volumes. These are heavy books that detail the government’s plan for current and capital expenditures. And that’s what the Parliamentarians will use as their map or Bible throughout this week’s considerations.