The People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s third national budget has been lauded as the foundation to not only propel Guyana’s transformational development but also to enhance the lives of its people.
During a five-hour presentation, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh delivered the massive $552.9 billion Budget 2022, themed “Steadfast Against All Challenges, Resolute in Building Our One Guyana”, in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Among the exciting measures announced is the increase of old age pension to $28,000 and the increase in public assistance to $14,000. There is an increase in the Because We Care cash grant to $25,000 and an increase in the uniform allowance to $5000. Additionally, the income tax threshold to $75,000 from $65,000.
The Finance Minister also announced the further lowering the excise tax rates on gasoline and diesel from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, which will result in significant reductions in the prices of fuel. Reductions in the excise taxes for the importation of several categories of trucks and pick-ups were also announced as well as the establishment of farmers’ markets.
There was also a slew of tax measures that focus on boosting local businesses’ competitiveness and capacity.
According to Minister Singh, these measures will facilitate the most rapid period of transformation and modernisation ever witnessed in Guyana’s history. He added too that they are not only aimed at boosting the expansion of the country’s economy but also addresses pertinent issues such as the rising cost of living.
This view was shared by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Paul Cheong, who sat through the marathon presentation on Wednesday.
He told the media afterwards that Budget 2022 is ‘balanced’.
“Many things are there to lay the foundation for the development of Guyana. We are happy with the measures in place to ease the living conditions for ordinary Guyanese,” he stated.
According to Cheong, the construction of new public infrastructure such as hospitals and schools will benefit many citizens, while others will see local businesses catapulting.
The PSC Chairman told this publication that he was particularly pleased with the measures that “level the playing field for local businesses so they can be more competitive in the oil and gas sector. Also, there were measures to assist [local businesses] in retooling in terms of the trucks and so on.”
“I’m happy fuel price will be reduced because that’s something that has an impact on every single Guyanese lives not only businesses… Those are good measures. A lot of the measures would increase disposal income for people and businesses. So that would help to grow the economy and businesses, and help to create more jobs and better the environment to all Guyanese,” he added.
Pointing out that budgets are a balancing act, Cheong disclosed that the PSC had submitted a list to the Finance Minister during consultations but said it is understandable that not everything can be granted. One the things that the Private Sector body had put in a request for is certain tax relief measures to alleviate impact of COVID-19 on businesses.
But the Chairman is nevertheless confident that as Guyana’s economy expands, there would be room to do more in the future.
Moreover, Cheong also said he is pleased with the fact that Budget 2022 has been presented this early in the fiscal year so that the programmes can be implemented in a timely manner.
Budget 2022, which is 44.3 per cent larger than last year’s and 36.6 per cent above total expenditure in 2021, is fully financed with no new taxes. In fact, a withdrawal of $126.7 billion from the Natural Resource Fund is being used to finance this year’s massive budget.
According to Minister Singh, Budget 2022 has two main goals, that is, to ensure the urgent development needs of the country are met in the shortest possible time and to guarantee the long-term economic wellbeing of the nation.