The 2018 national budget will focus mainly on stimulating the economy and providing incentives, according to Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
During a press briefing at his office to provide an update on the budget preparations yesterday, Jordan also said that that the populace should expect no new taxes. However, he added that no new tax was ever featured in the three previous budgets. “They were all the same tax,” he said.
Although the Valued-Added Tax (VAT) was lowered from 16% to 14% in the last budget, its application was extended to include, among other things, water, power and private education fees.
Jordan added that, as promised, the controversial VAT on private education fees is being given some consideration in the budget preparation but he declined to provide details.
Jordan said that the consultations have been intensive and positive so far and he noted that the ministry decided to widen the pool of persons it meets with because it was realised that the same people were being engaged repeatedly. He said a number of business groups, professionals and youths have already been engaged.
The opposition has not taken part in the consultation process as yet. Jordan said that the opposition has been invited but would usually respond by requesting documents, some of which are in the public domain and others which cannot be released. While noting that he has never responded to any of the requests which ought not to be a basis for consultation, Jordan emphasised that the door is open for the opposition to part take in the process.
Jordan also mentioned that residents along the East Bank of Berbice corridor could expect roadwork to begin early next year as monies will be allocated for this project in the 2018 budget.
“… We have to build the road. The road is going to cost between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion but it’s not going to be the whole road, it’s going to be a significant part of the road… we have provided half the sum in the budget to start the road,” he said.
Jordan also said that the methods of overcoming pressures and difficulties have got to be tested in “these severe and austere times.” He said that while Guyana is not affected by severe natural disasters, it is facing difficulties that are just as harsh. “We don’t have hurricanes and so on and we don’t have earthquakes…but we do have our own hurricanes, whether it is GuySuCo… we have to contend with it and we have to deal with it,” he said, while stressing that the last government did not have to pump as much money into GuySuCo as the current administration has in less than two years. “We have had that kind of pressure to deal with,” he added.