Delay in budget presentation leads to speculation

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, CMC – The Grenada government has announced a delay in the presentation of the country’s 2012 budget triggering concerns among the private sector.

The new estimates of revenues and expenditure, normally presented in January for the latest, will now be read at a date to be disclosed in March, officials in the Ministry of finance have confirmed.

It is the first time for many years, the budget will be presented so late and political and economic observers say the delay reflects an ongoing economic crisis here.

“Obviously, the private sector had concerns about this delay in reading the budget and how it will affect economic activity, start of projects continuation of projects” said Chris Deallie, the private sector’s representative in the Senate.

News of the delay in the budget presentation was announced by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Timothy Antoine, during a meeting with the Grenada Chamber of Industry of Commerce (GCIC).

Antoine told the meeting of business officials that the delay is to afford the Ministry “ample time to complete its consultations with various sectors”.

However, the long-serving senior public servant said projects currently underway would not be adversely affected.

“We were assured by Antoine that the effects will be minimal  because most of the projects carded and announced this year in the town hall meeting by the Prime Minister  would have already started in some respect in this fiscal 2011 period” Deallie said.

“We should not see any major changes in project as a result of the budget not being read early. It’s really a roll over situation so we should see activities continuing or even heightening in the first six months of 2011”.

Ministry of Finance officials are trying to figure out how to plug a near EC$100 million (US$37 million) budgetary gap in the current preliminary estimates.

By the end of this year, the government’s expenditures will have tallied EC$662 million (US$245.1 million) while taxes collected are estimated at EC$481 million (US$178.1 million)  with EC$100 million (US$37 million) leaving a deficit of EC$80 million (US$29.6 million).

Antoine said “the good news is that the gap is a lot less than we had anticipated”.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance anticipates cutbacks in concessions granted by government in 2012.

Priority areas selected for the coming year include agri-business, health and wellness, governance and public administration, communications and tourism, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Tillman Thomas government said it would be holding a series of public consultations on the budget beginning on December 15.

It said the consultation “will take the form of six working groups, namely: Tourism, Agribusiness, Small Business Development, Health, Job Creation, and Waste Reduction.

“Briefs on the relevant areas will be forwarded to confirmed participants via e-mail, at least three days prior to the consultation,” the government statement urging “all interested persons to participate in this consultation.”