KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Nov 26, CMC – Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves will deliver the 2012-13 national budget on December 3 as his administration prepares to law the estimates of income and expenditure in Parliament later this week.
Last year, legislators approved estimates of EC $793.9 million (One EC dollar = US $0.37 cents) for the budget that was 0.7 per cent or EC $7.42 million (US $2.78 million) more than the approved budget for the previous year.
Gonsalves, who is also Finance Minister, has already hinted that pensions will be among the major challenges for his administration during the next fiscal year.
“The major challenge always is pensions. Now the pensions are growing at about five per cent annual. It is the fastest single growing item, retiring benefits, pensions and NIS (National insurance Scheme) contributions,” Gonsalves said during a radio programme.
Parliament was prorogued last Tuesday and the Appropriation Bill is scheduled to be debated on Wednesday. The Standing Committee on Finance is expected to meet to consider the 2013 Estimates and the Appropriation Bill on Tuesday and Wednesday
Government has been considering options for reforming the pension system that qualifies public servants to receive separate pensions from both the NIS and the central government.
During the last budget debate, Gonsalves said pension reform would be discussed during this year as his administration was awaiting an actuarial report on the NIS.
During the radio programme, Prime Minister Gonsalves said that his government not was considering increasing pensions to compensate for inflation. But he hinted also that government might have to consider “gradually extending the period of retirement”.
Gonsalves said the Estimates would deal with “housekeeping matters” and listed the EC $652 million airport at Argyle, scheduled to be completed next year, among the strategic issues his government is considering while designing the budget.