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Poor babies to get support for a year
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday gave a sneak peek at the national budget which is expected to be read by Finance Minister Larry Howai tomorrow.
With the budget statement in her hand as she addressed the Congress of the People’s inter-faith service yesterday in Montrose, Persad-Bissessar announced a new $500-a-month allocation for babies born to the most vulnerable families. That allocation will continue for the first year of the child’s life, Persad-Bissessar said. It takes effect from October.
She also announced that the rainy day Heritage and Stabilization Fund would receive a boost, and spoke of plans to promote the manufacturing sector. The PM said plans for the manufacturing sector were part of the move toward diversification of the economy. Persad-Bissessar also revisited the contentious Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 which passed after amendments were made last month.
She said she “did not care” if it spelled political suicide for her and her Government as long as she did what was right. She promised to call the election when it was constitutionally due next year, warning that it was not due until September 2015. While Howai is keeping the final figure for the 2014-2015 budget close to his chest, he has revealed that, just like last year, the education sector will get the biggest slab of the multibillion-dollar pie.
In a one-on-one interview with the Sunday Guardian, Howai said that in tomorrow’s budget presentation, education would receive 12 per cent of the entire budget figure. Persad-Bissessar was reported as pegging this year’s budget at “more or less” than $60 billion. This Government has steadily produced some of the biggest budgets this country has ever had.
Last year’s budget allocated $9.8 billion to education, $6.5 billion to national security and $5 billion to the health sector. Public utilities were allocated $3.8 billion, while housing received $2.7 billion and local government $2.4 billion. Works, which now falls under local government, received $2.4 billion last year with agriculture being given the least at $1.3 billion.
National security, which usually takes the second largest chunk of the budget, is not expected to receive any major increase in this 2014-2015 budget, leaving it with almost the same allocation it had last year. Since Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has said his ministry needs $6 billion in allocation for the next financial year, housing’s allocation could surpass that of national security in the 2014-2015 budget.
If Moonilal is granted that massive allocation, the 2014-2015 budget would see his ministry doubling its multibillion-dollar allocation in one year. Last year’s budget was calibrated on oil prices pegged at US$80 per barrel and gas prices estimated at US$2.75 million metric British Thermal Units (mmBtu). The 2013-2014 budget also pegged T&T’s total revenue at $55.041 billion, with revenue from oil of $23.374 billion and non-oil revenue of $32.667 billion.
Howai last year predicted a fiscal deficit of $6.357 billion or 3.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from the 4.6 per cent in the 2013 budget. Tobago last year was expected to receive $3.309 billion or the equivalent of 5.39 per cent of the national budget.
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