$220 Billion Budget offers $625 increase for old age pensioners

$220 Billion Budget offers $625 increase for old age pensioners

It took the Minister of Finance just over 2 hours and 50 minutes to announce his $220 Billion budget which offers no new taxes, no increase in the income tax threshold and a $625 increase in the old age pension.

Decked in a grey suit and repeatedly sipping on water, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh rolled out his 8th consecutive national budget under the theme “A Better Guyana for All Guyanese” that catered very little for old age pensioners. The Minister announced that the old age pension will be increased from $12,500 to $13,125 monthly and that represents a 5% increase. The increase will take effect from May 1, 2014.

Additionally, he announced that pensioners will get  an increase in the electricity assistance from $20,000 to $30,000 annually.

The 2014 budget offered no new taxes but left the income tax threshold the same. It focused heavily on the security sector and infrastructure works across the country.

In the security sector, $19.5 Billion is being allocated to cover public order and safety. Of that figure, $382.6 Million has been allocated to train the Joint Services while $413 Million will go towards training and equipping Community Policing groups across the country. The allocation to the security sector will also cover training for the new SWAT unit which is expected to come on stream by mid 2014.

On the infrastructure side, billions have been allocated to build and expand new roads and highways across the country including the Linden to Lethem road. Over $13 Billion has been allocated to improve roads and bridges across the country. The Cheddi Jagan Airport expansion programme is expected to continue this year to the tune of $6.6 Billion.

The drainage and irrigation system across the country should also see improvement as several projects are expected to be launched.

The health and education sectors will also see several new programmes being implemented. In the education field, $32.3 Billion will go towards the implementation of the first year of a new Education Strategic Plan. The University of Guyana will get just over $1 Billion to ensure the operation of both the Turkeyen and Berbice campuses and the University is also expected to launch online degree programmes this year. The Government will also be launching a $10,000 per year assistance programme for parents who have children in the public education system.

The health sector has landed a $21.5 billion allocation to ensure that its strategic goals are supported. It will cover upgrades to a number of health facilities across the country as well as the Georgetown School of Nursing and the National Psychiatric Hospital. $117 Million has been allocated to buy 12 new ambulances and that will represent a 40% increase in the fleet in the public sector.

On the Agriculture front, the government will be channeling more funds to the  ailing sugar industry. The Guyana Sugar Corporation which has been seeing a steady decrease in production and earnings over the past few years has been allocated $6 Billion to “help the industry the reversal of fortunes that it so badly needs”. The Minister explained that the measure to offer more assistance to Guysuco will benefit its 18,000 workers directly.

In the rice sector, $500 million is being allocated to support the sectors efforts to become more competitive globally. The rice sector performed exceptionally well in 2013. It saw increase in production by 14%.

The Minister  of Finance also announced new programmes in the area of Rural Enterprise development. $1 Billion has been provided to support the initiative which is expected to create employment and linkages from enterprise incubation grants made under the facility.

In the energy sector, the Guyana Power and Light Company has been allocated $3.7 Billion to support “critical capital expenditure” by the company. If the money is not provided, there could be an increase in tariffs. And in the mining town of Linden, Budget 2014 offers $3.2 Billion to meet the cost of maintaining the electricity subsidy in Linden and Kwakwani. Over 10,000 customers are expected to benefit.

The One Laptop Per Family Programme is expected to continue this year with the injection of over $2 Billion to support the programme and the purchase and distribution of over $14,000 new laptops.

The Finance Minister said he is convinced that the budget will provide a better way of life for all Guyanese. He said “every day, each and every single one of us has an opportunity to make Guyana a better place, for ourselves and for our countrymen”.





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