After spending nearly seven hours in closed-door committee on Tuesday, the House of Assembly unanimously passed a motion approving a schedule of additional provisions, freeing up almost $12.6 million in additional spending.
The motion, which accounts for expenditures not figured into this year’s budget, includes a recurrent expenditure of $7,108,284, of which $1,800,600 is to be taken from the Reserve Fund. The move also includes $1,926,100 from the Miscellaneous Purposes Fund charged against the Consolidated Fund, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.
Additionally, capital expenditure of $781,900 is to be charged against the Development Fund and transferred from the Consolidated Fund. A capital expenditure of $1,743,500 — which includes $12,000 from the Miscellaneous Purposes Fund — was also approved.
This is the second time within three months that the HOA has shifted funds within the budget to meet economic demands. Dr. Wheatley noted that the original 2022 budget accounted for revenue streams that have not yet been established and that the budget estimates were inaccurate as a result.
“Expected collections from revenue initiatives such as gaming and gambling, asset mining and medical marijuana were included in this budget. But these initiatives are not ready to deliver revenues,” he said. “We have made a policy decision moving forward not to include any measures in the budget which have not realistically gotten to the point where revenues would have been realised within a short period of time.”
A reduction of import duties has also made a dent in the territory’s ledger. But strong tourism numbers have driven the economy upward in recent months.
“Notwithstanding the deduction of these revenue estimates, collections were trending slightly above budget expectations now estimated at $352,106,535,” Dr. Wheatley said. “This was attributed to the successful reopening of our tourism economy following the pandemic period, the increase of economic activity in our local business community, stamp duty from land sales, and a steady inflow of revenue from the financial services industry.”
He added that the territory is on the “road to recovery,” but he noted that significant changes won’t “happen overnight.”
Meanwhile, he said, other challenges are on the horizon.
“While there’s an uptick in revenue, there’s also increased expenditure due to the resources needed to manage the territory’s waste collection and disposal, the influx of illegal immigrants and detainees, funds transferred to the National Health Insurance to prevent the collapse of the scheme, the cost of reform, the increase in fuel prices, and the intended subsidy to assist residents with a reduction in their electricity bills due to the increase in global fuel prices,” he said.
Other deficits have come from the social assistance pro- gramme facilitated by the Social Development Department, according to the premier.
Dr. Wheatley said funding for the programme was in- creased by $1.3 million. Some of those funds came from the repurposing of the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s income support programme in the amount of $485,883.
“Financing the resulting overall deficit has resulted in even tighter control measures on spending for the balance of the year,” he said.
Though this shift in funds should take the government through to the end of the year, “revised scenarios” may be required to “match any further declines in collections and spikes in expenditure due to any unplanned events,” Dr. Wheatley said.
After a “lengthy exercise in committee stage” where HOA members discussed the transfer of funds, they came to a consensus and voted unanimously to pass the motion. No one else spoke about the motion except for the premier.