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An unidentified woman who listened to the Budget Address embraces Minister of Finance Camillo after his the speech on Monday. (iWN photo)
An unidentified woman who listened to the Budget Address embraces Minister of Finance Camillo after his the speech on Monday. (iWN photo)
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Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, on Monday, said the 2020 Budget is “an ambitious attempt to accelerate the economic transformation” of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

“At $1.2 billion, it is the largest budget ever tabled in Parliament,” he said at the beginning of his four-hour Budget Address, ahead of the debate, which begins today (Tuesday) with the response by Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday.

The 2020 fiscal package contains no new taxes but shows “moderate” increases in some user fees across the public service and additional fees for new services offered by various ministries and departments.

The increases include the fees that private patients pay for several hospital, laboratory, and dental fees, the cost of obtaining a passport, and the fee visitors pay if they overstay their time in the country or if they want to extend it.

He said that in 2019, the fees collected at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital represented just 8% of the amount spent at that institution.

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“For the most part, the fees paid by public patients, who make up the vast majority of persons accessing these services remain unchanged,” the minister said.

The cost of a medical report will increase from EC$25 to EC$40 for all patients.

Private out-patient surgery fee has moved from EC$30 to EC$36.

The increases in radiology fee, applicable only to private patients, range from EC$2 for a dental x-ray, which will move from EC$10 to EC$12, to EC$22 for other types of procedures, where the price has increased from EC$110 to EC$132, while they remain at EC$50 for public patients.

For dental services, where public patients now pay EC$15 for cleaning, it will increase to EC$25, a filling will move from EC$20 to EC$25, extractions from EC$5 to EC$10 and root-canal treatment from EC$20 to EC$40.

To obtain a new passport, Vincentians 16 years old and under will pay EC$20 more, with the fee now standing at EC$100.

Adults will, however, have to come up EC$50 more, paying EC$200.

Gonsalves said that in 2019 the government entered into a new agreement with Canadian Bank Note for a comprehensive upgrade of the hardware and software required for the smooth operation of services and for the introduction of a 48-page e-passport, which has enhanced security features.

He said that the new seven-year contract amounts to EC$18.45 million.

Persons overstaying their time in the country will now pay EC$100, up from EC$25, and those seeking an extension of their stay will pay EC$50 more, taking it to EC$75.

In agriculture, farmers will have to pay 25 cents more for day-old broiler chicks, the price of which is now EC$2 and 75 cents more to reach the new price for layer chicks: EC$5 each.

There is now an administrative fee of EC$15 to obtain a chainsaw licence.

In fisheries, there is now a local fishing licence of EC$25 for vessels 10 to 30 feet long and EC$50 for those 30 to 60 feet. A fisher’s ID card and health certificate attract an EC $5 fee each and a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) certificate goes for EC$10.

Budget address 2020
A second of the audience in the Stranger’s Gallery during the speech. (iWN photo)

The budget represents a 9.1% increase over the 2019 fiscal package, and includes an EC$2 million current account surplus.

The EC$311 million in capital expenditure is another record high category, 34% of which is devoted to climate resilience, disaster response and renewable energy.

The finance minister has allocated EC$16 million for solar and geothermal energy projects, while EC$31 million — 1.4% of GDP is currently held in the Contingencies Fund.

The figures provide for a 2% salary increase to government workers, placing salaries at 4.5% higher than at the start of 2017, even as wages to low-wage part-time employees who clean or prepare meals at government facilities will increase by 25%, the minister said.

The 2020 fiscal package establishes 106 news jobs in the public service and provides for the building of six new sports facilities, including the athletics track at Diamond, playing fields, and multipurpose hard courts.

The government has allocated EC$16 million for additional school repair and reconstruction beyond the EC$6.8 million spent in 2019.

EC$24 million has been allocated for capital works in tourism, including the construction of two state-owned hotels.

EC$2 million has been budgeted for cash grants to young entrepreneurs and microenterprises through PRYME — a government initiative, and 700 young people are given annual internships and stipends under the YES and SET Programme.

There is EC$1 million in additional support to farmers and fisher folk through the Farmers Support Revolving Fund. The budget allocates EC$104 million in total expenditure in health and the environment, 105% per cent more than in 2001, when the Unity Labour Party came to office.

The minister has set aside EC$39 million for the construction and repair of roads, bridges, footpaths, and other infrastructure.

And persons importing new tour buses to alleviate capacity constraints in cruise tourism will receive a 90% duty concession.

Gonsalves said that Budget 2020 builds on the foundation of the government’s work over the past two decades and “hastens the transition from colonial-era economics underpinnings towards a modern, competitive, post-colonial economy.

“Significant investment in ICT, tourism, infrastructure, renewable energy and entrepreneurship further this objective,” he said.

He said that the budget continues to emphasise climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness and sound environmental practice.

“The government’s signature focus on education is continued in 2020, with a special emphasis on school reconstruction and the provision of improved opportunities to access technical and vocational training. More students than ever before are accessing tertiary education and internships through student-support loans, scholarship and stipends,” Gonsalves said.

“Budget 2020 is ambitious, but attainable. It places its confidence in the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and sets forth a developmental vision that is sustainable, progressive, and people-centred.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines is well-positioned to accelerate its economic transformation,” Gonsalves told lawmakers and media audiences.

13 replies on “Minister presents ‘largest budget ever tabled in Parliament’”

  1. These people believe they could blindside people announcing mostly hypothetical whims. Gibberish and bold faced lies is all they good for. They should be rap stars.

  2. Master's Student says:

    You are so right to say its ambitious……I am not savvy or an expert in Economics…..but even the blind can SEE that this was the most wicked budget ever presented in History!

  3. No thought is given there by this Gonsalves as to just how inflationary these increases of his are on an already struggling economy, or even how those people out of work here are going to pay the increases.

    However one must say, that this statement;“The 2020 fiscal package contains no new taxes but adds “moderate” increases in some user fees across the public service and additional fees for new services offered by various ministries and departments” is rather rich and one find it quite interesting. It reminds me of one of those old Anansi story.

    Anansi had invited all neighbouring villagers to a “free drink-up” in his Barn and had made much of the fact that other neighbours’ drink-ups were costing as much as $10 a head for an entrance fee.

    Anansi’s drink-up however, was going to be absolutely free to enter. Make no mistake about it, totally free to enter. So naturally the barn was packed within just half an hour of the doors opening, where upon Anansi close all doors and windows to the barn, bolted the same and was charging a $100 fee to exit the suffocating heat and fowl air of the Barn.

    No new taxes indeed but the adds on are sure swinging! Ouch!

    This perpetuating Gonsalves “government”, is just yet another name for the new form of slavery and which demands more and more of our money which many Vincentians just do not have.

    So pray do tell, why on earth is this woman embracing this man? Is this a severely sad case of the“Stockholm syndrome”? If there are more like her in SVG may God help us all!

  4. Why are there higher fees for private patients who seek radiology and laboratory services at the main hospital. This seems discriminatory and unfair to me. These people have actually saved the government money by seeking a private doctor in the first place and not placing additional burden on the already overcrowded public health care system. Plus they are often regular folks with regular jobs who just managed to squeeze a little from their incomes for the convenience of a private doctor visit. These additional costs should be removed immediately.

  5. The 39 million for roads and repair of roads and such infrastructure is far too little. Even 139 million is not enough. If it were me, I would have a different budget altogether. There are already far too many people employed by the government and many fees and taxes are already too high. So many changes have to be made that in truth we need an entire restructuring. I would suggest streamlining instead of expansion of the public service. All of this will definately require the usual tax increases 1 year after the election. I suggest they look for ways to reduce the fees and taxes and not increase them. The reason why we and many other Caribbean states are doing so poorly is because of the exorbitantly high taxes and fees. These governments seem to have a goal to make things worse and not better.

  6. Besides the very small amount allocated to roads, bridges and such (which should be around 300 million for the next 5 years and not 39 million) it is noteworthy that the government wishes to provide more ways for young people to access technical education. Very good! However, we do have many young technically trained people that cannot find jobs. I suggest the government does something to attract investment in the private sector instead of discouraging investment. Most countries INCLUDING CUBA have a lower Corporate Income Tax and a period of waiver, (Cuba has 8 years waiver, SVG has ZERO) Singapore has 5 years and in many sectors that tax is only 3.5%. In SVG it is 32%!!! Corporate tax in SVG should be at or slightly below 21%, I suggest 18% if they want to open some eyes!
    Our government has to figure out when they are putting the horse before the cart or the cart before the horse. Look at the heavy, heavy terrible bureaucracy (and high cost) that is SVG Customs! Absolutely shameful! It is a great example of how to discourage business.
    Anyone who says people on this site complain but do not offer suggestions can read what I just wrote. That is only a few of the things that should be considered by government if they really do want to improve the country. The answer is not to increase the size (and therefore cost) of government but to increase efficiency. To lower costs and increase useable revenue. The spending priorities need to change. We need better roads more than we need luxury for foreign diplomats. Skype can be used instead of sending hundreds or thousands of people on expensive flights for unimportant missions wherever. I can come up with many more suggestions. Top officials in government seem incapable of thinking of the economic health of the country, instead they just look for ways to raise taxes and spend and borrow more so they can look good.

  7. Samuel Johnson, 1709 -1784 often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer and amongst other things had this to say, quote; “Prosperity’s right hand is industry and her left hand is frugality”. While Terry Edward Branstad that American politician writes; “You can’t borrow your way to prosperity”.

    I know that many of us Vincentians are very dunce indeed and the Gonsalves have been exploiting this disadvantage of ours for near on twenty years now, but yet, I am always surprised as to the extent as to just how truly dense, how foolish and how stupid some of us really are.Why say this now? Well!

    I find myself looking at the photograph above with incredulity, and each time I do so, a wry smile grips my ugly face. The reason for this smile is very simple. The picture above generates a funny image of a dolt pig, going into an abattoir at Christmas, and asking the surprised wide-eyed butcher there for a rack of Bacon and a collection of Ham Joints. Now isn’t that just greatly stupid!

    It’s like a flock of Turkeys being given the opportunity to vote for the cessation or abolition of Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, and guess what, each Turkey casting their ballot, cast their ballot for the glories’ of the tradition to continue unabated. Now isn’t that just too stupid for comprehension!

    My old friend and neighbour often try to remind me of just how doltish many of us Vincentians truly are, although, I am always seeking to find some redeeming qualities in our approach to life’s problem.

    But alas, I am always defeated by our inability to extrapolate from the past and from ongoing events, perhaps largely due to our own selfish desires that we hold, or our poor educational attainment or even our inability to see through the shenanigans of those who would wish to exploit our inadequacies or our naivety.

    Indeed what a picture! I shall forever treasure it in my consciousness as it shall ever remind me of that long, long road that we Vincentians, the abused descendants of African Slaves need to travel for our true emancipation. The difficulties involved in changing some childishly captured minds, ever wedded to the maliciously pernicious concepts about ourselves, the same given to us and to our forebears, by those who saw us only as being fit for gross exploitation.

    Why have we as Vincentians have allowed ourselves to buy into the myth of the Gonsalves supremacy in intellect? Why have we allowed ourselves to assume that this family and this family alone should be responsible for our wellbeing? And what a mess of SVG they have made during their time in office!

    For near on twenty years they have been treating Vincentians like hapless children in need of a papa. We their incapable children in need of them as our Moses. Can we not get a grip and begin to attend to our own wants and needs?

    To quote Paul Ryan that American politician who served as the 54th speaker of the United States House of Representatives from October 2015 to January 2019. “Borrowing and spending is not the way to prosperity”. And Ruth Ross; “All prosperity begins in the mind and is dependent only on the full use of our creative imagination”.

  8. As I have always said, these guys MUSE only know how to pick our pockets because they have no possible idea as to how to run a successful economy as they take their directions from Cuba and Venezuela.

    What is Worst, some Vincentians are dunce enough to tolerate their incompetence and believe in an idea of Gonsalves overall superiority. what stupid twaddle indeed!

    Such a laughable idea, Gonsalvesian supremacy in economics. If that was the case, all Vincentians would by now have bulging Bank Accounts stuffed with dollars after twenty years of Ralph Gonsalves economics, instead what do they have, some here going to bed at night hungry, with the regime squeezing more and more cash out of every possible pocket they could find and begging all over the world in addition.

    So much for his economics competence.

  9. By the way DUKE, the main problem with Gonsalvian Economics is that he believe in spending OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY and which he and others like him always spend most badly on big government.

    We saw the same most spectacularly in Brazil in recent years. The additional problem with these types is the corruption that follows them. That is why their system never works.

  10. One thing is certain, if they have their way the next ten years will be more of the same. I can see that this goes to the heart of a few. Why can’t men just be men like the way it’s supposed to be? They seem to ask. Some of these things are truly biblical in proportions. We can do something about it. REMOVE THESE JOKERS.

  11. Dictatorships R, are often very hard to remove from office but when the shifting starts, it is very often very swift and retribution often follows.

    If only Nicolae Ceausescu knew that! “23 December 1989: Nicolae Ceausescu’s overthrow follows a week of carnage in which thousands of protesters against his regime were killed in cold blood”

    This family have had near on 20 years in oppressing the people of SVG, the end therefore is sure nearing! So ready yourself for the sure inevitable tragic outcome.

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