Debt: Up, Up and Away!
Civil servant pay raises constitute the single major component of the increase.
The government projects that it will collect $1.145 billion in the 2005-2006 fiscal year, an increase of $93 million or nine percent over the projection for the present year, which is drawing to a close.
In the budget communication to the House of Assembly yesterday, Acting Prime Minister Cynthia Pratt also announced that the government plans to spend $1.214 billion, an increase of $39 million or three percent over the 2004/2005 budget.
"The single major component of the increase is the provision in the Ministry of Finance estimates for pay increases for public servants and related groups, arising from the present negotiations, as well as some increase in benefits for retired public servants," Mrs. Pratt announced in a packed House of Assembly.
"Another important increase is for the improvement in insurance arrangements for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the other law enforcement officers."
This amounts to some $8 million.
The government has also allocated $2 million for the new Urban Renewal Department as the success of the Urban Renewal Programme is said to be "one of the highest priorities" of the government.
"The new department will play a critical role in coordinating the input of the many government agencies into the programme," Mrs. Pratt said.
The ministries of Education and Health again received the greatest budgetary allocations.
Overall, the Ministry of Education will get $216 million or 17.8 percent of the new spending plan. Of this figure, the Department of Education will receive $157 million; the Ministry of Education, $32 million; the College of The Bahamas $20 million.
The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) has been allotted an estimated $5 million and the Department of Archives will receive $2 million.
Almost $185 million or 15 percent of the new budget will be spent on health. It includes $128 million for the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA); $26 million for the Department of Environmental Health; $21 million for the Department of Public Health; and $10 million for the Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism will receive $78 million or 6.4 percent of the total.
The Department of Public Service will receive six percent of the budget or $72 million, mainly for pensions, rents and the insurance for police, defence and other law enforcement officers.
The allocation for security services is set at $146 million or almost 12 percent.
The Ministry of Labour and Immigration, the Department of Labour and the Department of Immigration will receive $19 million.
The Department of Social Services has been allocated $24 million and the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, $3 million.
According to the Acting Prime Minister, the provisions for the Simpson Penn Centre for Boys and the Williemae Pratt School for Girls stand at an estimated $1 million each.
Mrs. Pratt also announced that over $15 million has been allocated for the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture, while $34 million will be spent on Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government.
In its entirety, the legal system has been allocated $25 million, $9 million of which will go to the Office of the Attorney General, another $9 million to the Judicial Department and almost $8 million to the Court of Appeal and Magistrates Courts.
The Post Office will receive almost $8 million and the Port Department has been allocated $6 million.
An estimated $8 million will go the Ministry of Transport and Aviation; $6 million has been allocated to the Department of Road Traffic; the Department of Civil Aviation has been allocated $9 million; the Department of Meteorology will get over $2 million, while the Airport Authority has been allocated $3 million.
The Ministry of Works and Utilities and the Department of Works will be given more than $23 million.
The Ministry of Finance will receive $44 million, of which $24 million is the global amount for negotiated pay settlements for the public service and $2 million is for pension adjustments for retired public servants. Customs will receive $23 million while the Treasury has been allocated over $8 million.
The Department of Statistics will receive $3 million
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service will receive over $16 million; The Ministry of Housing and National Insurance and the Department of Housing, almost $15 million; the Ministry of Trade and Industry, $4 million and the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments, $4 million.
The government has allotted $165 million for capital expenditure. This represents an increase of $17 million over the 2004/2005 budget.
According to Minister Pratt, much of the capital expenditure allocations will go toward projects being carried out by the Ministries of Works and Education.
Minister Pratt added that with economic growth expected to be at least 3.5 percent this year, revenue performance is projected to be quite impressive in the coming year.
"The 2005/2006 budget, like all of the budgets introduced by this government, is intended to create the conditions whereby Bahamians of all social classes can enjoy a reasonable, secure and happy standard of living, whereby families and persons in crisis can receive suitable assistance to ease their pain and their problems, and where everyone participates in the quality which we can all have," the Acting Prime Minister said.
Other highlights of the budget included an announcement that another $1 million has been allocated to the Venture Capital Fund for small businesspersons. This will be in addition to the $1 million allocated in the 2004-2005 fiscal year.
By: Macushla N. Pinder, The Bahama Journal