By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh moments ago presented a whopping $220B National Budget for the financial year 2014 as he boasted of eight years of consecutive economic growth (2006 -2013) under his stewardship as Finance Minister, representing the longest period of uninterrupted growth.
This year’s budget is not only record breaking in terms of its individual provisions but is also the largest national budget ever presented in the history of Guyana’s independence dating back to 47 years ago.
Budget 2014 was presented under the theme: ‘A better Guyana for all Guyanese’.
Among the highlights is a transfer of $6B from the national coffers to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). The rice industry will be boosted with a $500M subvention to support its efforts of competitiveness and resilience.
The Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) will receive 3.7B as steeper tariffs looms while the Linden Electricity Supply has been allocated 3.2B for subsidies.
Old age pension was increased by five percent; from $12,500 to $13,125 monthly beginning May 01, 2014. Pensioners will also receive $30,000 annually as electricity subsidies.
Government will provide a cash grant to every parent whose child attends a nursery, primary or secondary school, in the public sector $10,000 annually.
Some $7.7B will be spent on the energy sector in 2014 while $32.3B have been allocated for the implementation a new strategic plan in the education sector and another $2.9 will go towards the upgrade of facilities in the education sector.
A total of $21.5B has been allocated for the health sector in 2014, which will see the upgrade of facilities and the procurement of ambulances among other initiatives.
In 2014 continued attention will be placed on developing new housing schemes with a commitment by the government to continue until every Guyanese owns a home. $4.4B has been allocated to the development of the housing sector while $2.5B will be spent in the water sector in 2014.
The budget also makes provision for improving the lives of children, youth, single parents and the sports fraternity.
The security sector was allocated $19.5B to ensure public safety and law and order while $1.8B was allocated for the justice sector.
Minister Singh has projected that the economy will see an expansion by 5.6 in 2014 with the non – sugar sectors to grow by 5.2 percent.
Sugar is also poised to improve in output along with the bauxite, manufacturing, services and construction sectors among others.
Rice is expected to grow by one percent; livestock by 2.3 percent, forestry will expand by 3.3 percent, fishing 2.2 percent and mining 2.8 percent.
Economy Performance in 2013
Guyana’s economy grew by an average of five percent (5.2%) while the global economy grew by three percent in 2013; more specifically the economy of Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 2.7 percent.
Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 5.2 percent while the non sugar sectors grew by 6.2% in 2013, reflecting the underlining strength of other sectors.
Sugar continued to struggle and contacted by 14.5 percent in 2013 while rice production grew by 26 percent with production of over 545,000 tonnes, representing the highest record of annual production.
The manufacturing and mining sectors grew by eight percent with gold declaration reaching its highest in 2013, exceeding production levels even while Omai Gold Mines was at its peak.
The services sector recorded an overall positive growth 5.5 percent, led by the construction sector with a growth of 22.6 percent.
The economy recorded growth in other sectors like forestry, fisheries, information, health and information and communication along with other crops.
Value Added Tax (VAT) collections in 2013 amounted to $34.4B while foreign direct investment amounted to $214M.
Export earnings contracted with sugar, rice and bauxite accounting collectively for 35.5 percent of export earnings.
According to Dr. Singh the three industries still provide direct employment for tens of thousands of persons and as such the administration will continue to harness its potential in an efficient manner.
He is hopeful that Guyana can make a leap from what he said is now promise and potential to where the promise can be fulfilled and the realization of the country’s potential achieved.
According to the Finance Minister, this third budget of the 10th Parliament offers the occasion for midterm introspection on the new dispensation in House as it brings the anatomy of challenges under the microscope.
He said his administration will continue to make the investment that is critical to raising the quality of life for all Guyanese and guarding fiscal sustainability which the government have worked hard to build and which can be easily lost if wrong choices are made.