By Khrisna Russell
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Department of Social Services’ uniform assistance programme will receive considerably more money in the upcoming fiscal year in an apparent effort to curtail the anger government received last cycle for allotting what many saw as insufficient to cover the needs of dependents. Government estimates that $462,000 will go toward the social assistance benefit.
This is 71 percent more than the department’s $270,000 in fiscal year 2018/2019.
Additionally, a little over $2m more will go to the food assistance programme. The new budget is $14,158,360 when it got $12,819,150 previously.
The foster care programme is also set to receive a larger budget of $605,150 compared to the $452,750 it got the year before.
However. the department’s overall social assistance benefit has been cut by more than half from the previous year. In the approaching fiscal year the budget for this item is $488,951; it was $1m in the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
While many of the key social assistance areas are set to get more money, the Department of Social Services’ overall budget is marginally less for 2019/2020. In the approaching year it will receive $39,090,505 whereas it was given $39,757,411 in 2018/2019.
The Ministry of Health is also set to get a financial boost.
The Minnis administration is planning to earmark $301,973,034 for the ministry, a little over $8m more than it got in 2018/2019.
That year, it received $293,915,388.
The Public Hospitals Authority’s budget also increased to $223,455,825 from $216,000,000.
Further, PHA building maintenance will have more money to work with at $448,659 allocated, up from $100,000.
Equipment maintenance, maintenance of generators, A/C and other machinery, grounds maintenance, and office furniture upkeep seem to be new line items all receiving $31,100; $279,050; $1,195,425 and $20,000 respectively.
In his three-hour long budget communication, Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest explained the government’s need to exercise fiscal restraint.
He said: “Our estimates for the 2019/20 budget are framed within the projected outcomes of the 2018/19 fiscal year and the current and projected economic climate. Although the economy is expanding, the reality is that recovery is not occurring at the pace previously projected, against the backdrop of a number of global factors.
“We are fully sensitive to the fact that a further improvement in our fiscal outcomes, and the attainment of the legally binding fiscal objectives, is contingent on both ongoing expenditure discipline and the further enhancement of revenues. On the revenue front, we note that the revenue yield of our taxation system amounted to some 18.8 percent of GDP in 2018/19. A number of factors are expected to contribute to a further enhancement of that yield in 2019/20 and beyond.”
He also said uncovering a history of over-budgeting has allowed the Minnis administration to trim its budget, especially with respect to spending on personal emoluments.
As a result dozens of departments, organisations and ministries will have less money for the new fiscal year.
Ministry of Finance’s new 2019/2020 budget is $221,593,097 down from $360,724,262 while the Department of Inland Revenue has gone from a budget of just over $19m to $6.1m and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has gone from a budget of $28.1m in 2018/2019 to $22.8m.
Further, Over-the-Hill Initiative is set to receive $2.8m in the new fiscal year when it previously got $5m.
The Royal Bahamas Police force will have a budget of $123.7m down from the previous $127.9m while the Road Traffic Department’s budget is $4.6m, down from $5.2m.
Several others have also been reduced.
Visit the Ministry of Finance’s website at www.bahamas.gov.bs/finance for the full 2019/2020 Budget details.