This is being done through the three-day 2019 Budget Estimates Committee Meetings which are being presided over by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris.
The Budget Estimates Committee Meetings are defacto meetings of the Cabinet at which time Line Ministries are required to present their plans for the upcoming Budget year, account for their performance or lack thereof during the current year and assure Cabinet that their policies, programmes and activities are being pursued with diligence, care and in accordance with the law and best practices.
During the opening session of the meeting, Prime Minister Harris stated that the Budget process is a very long and tedious exercise but one that is very necessary.
“Necessary because we have to manage the limited resources; necessary because we have to manage in the context that there are a number of things that can happen during the course of any year which alter the deliverables that we had intended. [For instance] our programme to do roads could be altered by adverse weather…and so we have then to manage well,” the Honourable Prime Minister added.
In preparation for the 2019 Budget, the Ministry of Finance prepared the customary Medium Term Fiscal Framework for the period 2019 to 2021.
Prime Minister Harris continued, “The Framework which we are working is based largely on the latest available information regarding the performance of the economy and the medium term outlook, and it sets the parameters within which the size and the structure of the Budget can be reasonably configured.”
Dr. Harris further stated that the Framework is also designed to maintain the good fiscal record which the Team Unity administration has achieved over the last three years. He referenced the findings of the latest report of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) which pointed to improvements in all economic indicators for the first half of 2018.
At his most recent press conference, Prime Minister Harris announced that surpluses on recurrent account, overall balance and primary balance are far in excess of the 2018 budget estimates by 115 percent, 243 percent and 116 percent respectively.
Today’s meeting saw presentations from the Office of the Governor General, the National Audit Office, the Ministry of International Trade, Ministry of Tourism, Department of Social Services and Community Development, Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour, Social Security et al.
After the Budget Estimates Committee Meetings, the Ministry of Finance is expected to fine-tune the 2019 Budget Estimates before the Minister of Finance and the Federal Cabinet review them further. The final exercise will be the preparation of draft estimates and the Budget Address for presentation by Prime Minister Harris for final action to be taken by the Federal Parliament.