No new taxes in Antigua’s Budget

St John’s – Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Thursday presented an EC$1.64 billion 2022 budget that includes no new taxes which his administration expects will contribute to economic growth of at least eight per cent, and also announced pay increases for public servants.

“This Government is a caring government. We recognize that after almost two years of economic difficulty caused by the pandemic, persons and companies need an ease to recover, to rebuild and to reinvigorate,” he said in his Budget presentation in Parliament, entitled “Setting the Stage for Economic Rejuvenation”.

“We also know that, once they have sufficiently rebuilt their lives, livelihood and business, they will both restore their savings and spend on the things they have gone without in the last 24 months,” Browne added.

He said that this will help to rejuvenate the economy and accelerate the achievement of eight per cent growth or more.

He told the House that Government’s wage negotiation team will complete its work this year, noting that the negotiations with bargaining agents for public sector employees were overtaken by the imperatives of protecting the population from COVID-19 and preserving public sector employment.

Browne said once the negotiations are complete, a further increase will be paid to public servants.

The 2022 Budget has a financing requirement of EC$609.6 million. It will be financed by EC$274.3 million from Securities issued on the Regional Government Securities Market and by loans and advances of EC$335.3 million, the Prime Minister said.

 

Noting that the 2022 Budget projections are based on a bold and deliberate strategy for economic growth, job creation, and transformation of the country, he said the projects and initiatives will be implemented this year to accelerate the pace of economic recovery and to give benefits to all citizens and residents.

The EC$1.64 billion budget is an increase of 9 per cent, or approximately EC$130 million, over the estimated total spend of EC$1.51 billion in 2021.

The budgetary and fiscal position points to an overall deficit of 2.6 per cent of GDP or EC$110 million with a marginal primary surplus for 2022.

Prime Minister Browne said the primary balance – the overall fiscal balance less interest payments on public sector debt – is an indication of the Government’s ability to meets its obligations in a fiscal year without incurring additional debt.

Recurrent revenue is estimated at EC$975.6 million for 2022 – EC$689.5 million in indirect tax revenue, EC$124.6 million in direct tax revenue, and EC$161.5 million in non-tax revenue – which is a 23 per cent increase over the EC$790.9 million generated in 2021.

The amount budgeted for capital receipts is EC$7 million, while grant funding for Fiscal Year 2022 is budgeted at EC$50.2 million.

A current account surplus of EC$14.5 million is projected for 2022.

The Government’s Capital Budget for 2022 is EC$181.8 million, more than twice the almost EC$80 million spent on capital projects in 2021.

“No economy that has experienced the constraints that ours has, consequent to the impact of the pandemic, can withstand further constraint if it is to grow and expand. We are opening up the country, opening up the economy, and opening up the opportunity for all to advance and prosper,” Browne said. (CMC)

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