Government revenue for January 2021 fell by EC$13 million compared to the same period of 2020.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the disclosure on Wednesday, noting that he and Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, had noted in the Budget Debate this month that 2021 would be a more difficult year, at least until October.
“And I made the simple observation that in the first quarter of last year, our revenues, government revenues went up by 9.5% — nearly 10%. It was very good. And that’s why at the end of the year, our revenues ended up with half of one per cent the 2019 number,” the prime minister said on his weekly appearance on NBC Radio.
He said that revenue fell minimally year on year in 2020 because the country never went into lockdown and also because the Vincentian economy is not as tourism-dependent as, for example, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados.
“And we had revenue streams, which kept us going. Some months we were up, some months we were down, but over the whole period last year, we were half of a percentage point above 2019. But that is so also because the first three month was 9.5% upward, almost 10%,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that there is no such cushion during the first quarter of 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And compared to  January, we are $13 million down, almost $14 million on revenue and grants, and also $15 million down if you just take current revenue alone in the month of January.”
Gonsalves noted that “one swallow does not a summer make … and one garlin (cattle egret) don’t mean that rain is coming.
“The point I am making, you look more than just January because you will have it up and down. But, it’s not comforting.”
He noted that government workers and pensioners received their pay-outs in January, despite the EC$13 million decline in revenue and grants and EC$15 million dip in current revenue.
In January, $27 million was paid on compensation to government employees.
“And that does not include pensions for persons who are retired and so forth. And they got their pension, too,” Gonsalves said.
“In the first month, on the current account, we have a deficit of $9 million because our expenditure didn’t really fall. In fact, the total expenditure went up by about $400,000 over last year.”
He noted that the 2020 Estimates that lawmakers approved before the COVID-19 pandemic had forecast EC$680 million in current revenue.
This was revised downward to EC$605 million after the impact of the pandemic.
“This year, we are budgeting to get 647 million, which would be about $33 million less than the number which we approved last year in January, indicating on our part that we’re expecting 2021 that we would not be in a position as we would have been in January last year. And it is going to be a struggle to reach 647 [million],” Gonsalves said.
“And this is why I looking for money all about,” he added.