Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ralph Gonsalves will today present what is expected to be his last Budget before seeking a fourth consecutive term in office for his Unity Labour Party in elections due in March 2016, but widely expected before yearend.
Parliament in December approved Estimates of Income and Expenditure for 2015 totalling EC$969 million.
EC$560 million dollars will be current expenditure and EC$112 million dollars for amortisation and sinking fund contributions.
The capital budget will be EC$296 million, while there will be an EC$27 million deficit on the current account, EC$13 million less than last year.
Gonsalves has said that the Budget will contain “a strong housing programme”.
This will include the continuation of the low- and middle-income housing programme and the rehabilitation of poorly constructed house that the state-owned Housing and Land Development Corporation built in Clare Valley.
The Budget will also contain “significant monies” for health because of the 10th Europe Development Fund, allocated to the moderation of the health sector.
Transport and Work will also get a sizeable chunk of the Budget, including monies for the restoration of roads and bridges.
Gonsalves will present the Budget after Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne delivers the Throne Speech, in which he will outline the government’s legislative agenda for this year.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, who ahead of the presentation of the estimates last December dismissed them as “a joke”, will respond to the Budget Tuesday morning.
Eustace, who was Minister of Finance from 1998 to March 2001, said last week that he is at a disadvantage in preparing his response because over the years he has not been given the document prior to its delivery in Parliament.
He said that in other countries lawmakers are given as much as a week before they have to reply to the budget, but in St. Vincent and the Grenadines the Leader of the Opposition has to reply hours after the presentation.
“So, I will see the Prime Minster’s budget about 9 o’clock Monday night coming and have to reply 9 o’clock Tuesday morning.
“My budget reply would have been written before that … That is how it has been in St Vincent over the years. I have to make my reply assuming that the Prime Minister is going to do certain things…” Eustace said, adding that he was already preparing his response to the budget.
He said a New Democratic Party administration would change the format to allow lawmakers more time to prepare their responses.