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The 2023 National Budget, valued at some $781.9 billion was on Monday tabled in the National Assembly under the theme “Improving Lives Today, Building Prosperity Tomorrow”.
The fiscal plan, 41.4 per cent larger than 2022, is fully financed with no new taxes and is the largest in Guyana’s history.
Government said the Budget contains a series of interventions intended to create wealth for Guyanese, while diversifying the country’s economic prospects and bolstering nationwide growth. The Opposition disagreed.
The Opposition decried the budget as being anti-poor, anti-working class, a poverty trap and accused the government of discriminatory allocation of resources that would result in widening the gap between the rich and poor.
Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs Roysdale Forde SC took a swipe at President Ali for “once again failing to make the Budget about all Guyana.”
Forde said the president “has ignored the calls of United States Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch to be inclusive and ensure shared prosperity; he has ignored the inclusionary requirement outlined in the Constitution; and he has ignored the input from the political opposition and many stakeholders in societIt, therefore, presents a timely opportunity both to look back at the first half of this term and, even more importantly, to look ahead at what is to come.”
Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton, in his reaction said this budget is found wanting when it comes to the need for measures to attenuate, alleviate, and ultimately eradicate poverty.
“This seems to be a budget for the rich. There is no place in this budget to deal with the issues facing the small man and allowing him to progress. So, in some regard this is an anti-working class, anti-poverty budget. It has nothing to deal with poverty and to improve the lives of the working people of Guyana.”
The Alliance For Change (AFC) warned, before the Budget reading, that the party will only support Budget 2023 if it includes provisions that would benefit all Guyanese and not just a select few.
The party presented a menu of measures it would like to see included in the Budget that would put “Guyana First” such as reduction in VAT, restoration of university free education, increasing public sector minimum wages to $150,000, pension to $50,000 and Disability to $40,000. None of the AFC’s demands were included in the Budget.
At a glance the following has been allocated in the Budget:-
$3 billion has been allocated in salary adjustments, benefitting 5,000 healthcare workers and 9,000 members of the disciplined services, with effect from January 1, as previously announced by President Ali.
An increase in the monthly 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.
‘Because We Care ‘Cash Grant will see an increase from $25,000 to $35,000 which will be distributed to 214,000 schoolchildren in public and private schools.
Zero excise taxes on fuel will remain. The minister said this is to absorb the impact of volatile fuel prices, as long as fuel prices remain elevated at an estimated cost of $17 billion.
Some $10 billion has been allocated for the expansion of the part-time jobs programme.
$5 billion will also go towards the additional cost of living measures to be determined from the ongoing community engagements.
Old-age pension Increased from $28,000 to $33,000, with 73,000 pensioners stand to benefit from a $5000 per month increase.
Public assistance will be increased from $14,000 monthly to $16,000. 29,000 persons will receive $2000 per month more.
Mortgages on low-income homeowners, the low-income mortgage ceiling has been increased from $15 million to $20 million, reducing the cost of borrowing within this range from commercial banks, and further incentivising home ownership.
$84.9 billion has been budgeted for the health sector. This includes over $500 million for the training of healthcare professionals and more than $900 million to address non-communicable diseases, including mental health.
$94.4 billion has been allocated for education.
$2.1 billion has been allocated for the National School Feeding Programme. The programme will provide juice and biscuits, breakfast, and hot meals to over 85,000 pupils.
Over $3.4 billion allocated to procure textbooks for use at primary and secondary schools and $12.4 billion to improve education infrastructure across the country.
$1.8 billion has also been allocated towards the GOAL scholarship programme which caters for 8,555 new students and 1,047 continuing students.
$54.5 billion has been budgeted for the housing sector in new and existing areas, including the construction of roads, drains and bridges, and the installation of utilities to meet housing demands.
$17.7 billion was allocated for the water subsector
Over $200 million will go towards child advocacy and daycare centres, and $100 million to commence the construction of a new care home for senior citizens.
$13.52 billion has been allocated for the hinterland community
The agriculture sector gets $26 billion
Legal affairs and local government received upwards of $6.2 billion and $13.5 billion, respectively.
Government said Budget 2023 is the first budget to benefit from the sale of Guyana’s carbon credits, which will amount to $31.3 billion in revenue this year, alongside a transfer of $208.9 billion from the Natural Resource Fund to the Consolidated Fund.