The National Budget of $781.9 billion was today passed in the National Assembly at the conclusion of its 62nd Sitting following approval of the Appropriation Bill 2023 (Bill No. 2 of 2023). On January 16, 2023, the Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, presented to Parliament Budget 2023, the nation’s largest budget ever.
Beginning January 23, both sides of the House participated in five days of debates following which there were four days of Committee Supply Meetings during which the Opposition Members meticulously examined the estimates and posed questions Government Ministers on various line items under each sector and Ministry, providing an opportunity for the public to get a better understanding of what is in the Budget.
Budget 2023, which proves to be even more historical in nature than that of 2022, imposes no new taxes and is partially financed by revenue earned from Guyana’s historic sale of carbon credits, with a payment received from Hess Corporation. This has placed Guyana on the world stage as being the first country to receive such a payment, valued at US$75 million under an agreement that will be worth a minimum of US$750 million up to 2030. Two more payments of US$37.5 million each will bring the total amount appropriated in this year’s National Budget to US$150 million. The payment materialised as a result of Government’s continued recognition of the important role of the country’s forests in the development of our country and in combatting climate change globally. On December 1, 2022, the Architecture for REDD+Transactions Environmental Excellence Standard (ART-TREES) announced the issuance of 33.5 million credits to Guyana for the period 2016 to 2020. The Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) is a global initiative that seeks to incentivise the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and restoring forests as well as protecting intact ones.
Budget 2023 also benefits from continued financing through projected withdrawals from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) of US$1 billion this year, equivalent to G$208.9 billion to finance developmental priorities.
As highlighted by Dr. Singh, this year’s National Budget will strike a balance between addressing the pressing needs and irritants of today, while simultaneously investing in the future. As such, a number of transformational projects are included in the budget for critical projects across the agriculture, education, health and infrastructure sectors.
As the Government remains committed to working towards achieving the vison of world class standards of education and health care, Budget 2023 allocates $84.9 billion for the health sector, and $94.4 billion for the education sector to ensure that the country’s young people are prepared for the future. Importantly, within these, there is an allocation of $13.1 billion to advance work on the paediatric and maternal hospital, and six regional hospitals at Lima, De Kinderen, Diamond, Enmore, Bath and No. 75 Village, as well as $12.4 billion to improve education infrastructure countrywide.
This year’s Budget also includes a number of large projects that will transform energy supply in the country including provisions for the construction of an integrated natural gas liquids plant and a 300 MW combined cycle gas turbine power plant within the Wales Development Zone. During his presentation of the Budget on January 16, Dr. Singh noted that this project “… represents the single largest investment made in the electricity sector, and single largest Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract undertaken”. It is anticipated that this project will directly cut emissions by 70 percent, resulting in a number of major economic development initiatives in Guyana as energy costs would be significantly reduced.
Other large infrastructure projects include provisions for upgrading and widening of the Corentyne Highway from Palmyra to Crabwood Creek, with a sum of $27.7 billion allocated in Budget 2023; upgrading of the East Coast Railway embankment road into a four-lane highway from Sheriff Street to Orange Nassau, continuing to the Mahaica River bridge, continuing of the upgrade of the East Coast Highway from Belfield to Orange Nassau and constructing a second bridge across the Hope Canal, with $16.6 billion allocated in Budget 2023; constructing the East Coast – East Bank Road linkage from Ogle to Eccles (first phase of a four-lane highway intended ultimately to link the East Coast of Demerara and the Soesdyke-Linden Highway), with $10.3 billion allocated in Budget 2023; and, constructing the New Demerara River Bridge, the first high span, four-lane permanent hybrid concrete and cable-stayed structure, with $5.2 billion allocated in Budget 2023 to advance works.
Key measures in Budget 2023 include a strong focus on increasing disposable income through salary adjustments benefitting 5,000 healthcare workers and 9,000 members of the Disciplined Services with effect from January 1, 2023 amounting to an additional $3 billion in disposable income; an increase in the income tax threshold from $75,000 to $85,000 monthly releasing a total of $3.3 billion into the hands of taxpayers and removing 12,000 taxpayers from the tax net; increasing Government’s ‘Because We Care’ cash grant from $25,000 to $35,000 to benefit over 214,000 school children in public and private schools; easing the cost of living through maintaining zero excise taxes on fuel to absorb volatile fuel prices; expansion of Government’s part-time job programme, with a budget of$10 billion; supporting the vulnerable through an increase in old-age pension from $28,000 to $33,000 monthly; an increase in public assistance from $14,000 to $16,000 monthly; and an increase in the low-income mortgage ceiling from $15 million to $20 million, reducing the cost of borrowing within this range from Commercial Banks and further incentivising home ownership.
Budget 2023 reinforces government’s commitment to improving the lives of all Guyanese families and individuals today, while at the same time improving the opportunities for all for our tomorrow. (Press Release)