By Godfrey Broomes
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – The government of Guyana on Tuesday presented a massive $552.9 billion budget in the National Assembly, making it the largest fiscal plan to date; one that is transformative. The budget themed, ‘Steadfast against all challenges, Resolute in building our One Guyana,’ contains a slew of measures to create wealth for all Guyanese, and improve their livelihoods.
This follows the $383.1 billion national budget in 2021. And the third budget presented by the PPP/C Government in 18 months.
Senior minister in the office of the president with responsibility for finance, Dr Ashni Singh read the budget which is centred around the development of people, improving infrastructure, capacity and an enabling environment for the overall growth of Guyana.
He said: “building on the foundation laid by the previous two budgets, Budget 2022 launches the most rapid period of transformation and modernisation ever witnessed in Guyana’s entire history…It provides for massive investment in infrastructure…opening vast new tracts of land for productive purposes, establishing entire new communities while connecting others and making thousands of Guyanese homeowners for the very first time.”
In keeping with its manifesto promise, the government would be increasing the ‘Because we Care’ cash grant from $15,000 to $25,000 for every child that is enrolled in nursery, primary, and secondary schools; both private and public schools.
This comes after government reinstated the education cash grant after returning to office in August 2020. This will place an additional $2 billion in the homes of the children attending both public and private schools. Similarly, the school uniform cash grant has been increased.
“I am pleased to announce that we will increase that grant this year from $4,000 to $5,000 per child. This will place $200 million of disposable income in the homes of 200,150 children attending both public and private schools.”
Also, as promised, to ease the cost of living on the elderly, government has proposed to increase Old Age Pension from $25,000 to $28,000, placing an additional $2.3 billion of disposable income in the pockets of 65,000 pensioners.
This follows the increase in 2021 from $20,500 to $25,000.
Additionally, public assistance for 18,000 Guyanese in vulnerable situations has been increased from $12,000 to $14,000 per month. This will provide an additional $432 million of disposable income to these individuals.
In order to boost the manufacturing sector, government also proposes lowering the excise tax rate further on gasoline and diesel, from 20 per cent to 10 percent.
In budget 2022, the agriculture sector also received a major boost to its various agencies. All of the current programmes will be continued, as well as newer ones will be facilitated as government pushes Guyana to be food secure.
This will realise the government’s vision of Guyana returning as the breadbasket of the Caribbean.
“Our focus is on ramping up domestic production as well agro-processing capabilities, working with the region to remove all historic barriers and impediments to intra-regional trade, and promoting more widely agri-business and complete transformation of regional food systems,” the minister said.
Dr Singh noted that in 2022, there will also be massive infrastructural upgrades across the length and breadth of the country. This will aid in furthering the plethora of major transformational projects embarked on by the Ministry of Public Works.
The Sherriff-Mandela expansion programme, Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Linden-Mabura Hill highway, New Demerara River Crossing, and the Corentyne River Crossing are just a few of a myriad of mega projects being undertaken by the government.
“Our government is committed to implementing an integrated national infrastructural development programme comprising: improving international, hemispheric and regional connectivity; creating, re-establishing and improving communication linkages between and among our major urban, rural, hinterland and inland centres; and prioritising farm to market access to promote increased production and reduce the cost of production, as well as improve trade and competitiveness.”
In the area of improving healthcare, government will be introducing a Dialysis Support Programme that will finance up to $600,000 per annum worth of dialysis treatment for every dialysis patient.
“This programme will provide much-needed assistance to almost 300 persons at a cost of $180 million,” Dr Singh said.
Dr Singh also announced that the monthly income tax threshold will be increased from $65,000 to $75,000, releasing a mammoth $1.3 billion into the hands of taxpayers.
As government is working on its manifesto promise of providing 50,000 house-lots in their first year in office, minister Singh proposed that the ceiling on low-income loans obtained through commercial banks under the low-income housing loans programme supported by government be increased from $12,000 to $15,000.
“This will make housing loans from commercial banks more affordable to borrowers within that range, and help encourage persons who now have a house lot to proceed to borrow and build,” the minister said.