Tight Budget Anticipated

Melissa Edwards, Senior Journalist | February 12, 2018 6:44 am MST
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
The government’s first budget since the September natural disasters is likely to feature several austerity measures.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria left the BVI with over $3.6B in losses, and a projection that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will contract by 40% this year from 2016 levels.

“There will be a bit of decrease, but we have to work with what we have,” Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr D. Orlando Smith told reporters last week at a press conference.

He said that they have not concretize the austerity measures but noted that there are many suggestions being considered for belt-tightening.

“That maybe possible. There are some things which we won’t necessarily be able to do. We have to look at cost overall; we have to look at ways to make government more efficient,” he stated.

He added, “We have been discussing many things but haven’t concretize those suggestions as yet. It will make government more efficient.”

In December, the House of Assembly approved the withdrawal over $100M from the Consolidated Fund to keep Government running until the 2018 budget is ready.

Premier Smith said that the budget which must be ready by April, will be prepared soon.

“We have to complete the whole process by the end of April,” he stated.

Premier Smith told the media that he cannot at this time provide a full image of what the budget will look like but said that government must look at the overall situation of the Territory before preparing and finalizing the budget.

He said that while there will be some constraints in revenue collection, the government has been actively implementing initiatives and measures to allow for economic activities.

The Finance Minister mentioned the financial services sector; grants provided to small businesses; duty-free import on certain items; and discussions with hoteliers.

“All that would contribute towards government coffers.”

Premier Smith said that there are a lot of activities at the ports and with the end of the duty-free import in March, government will return to receiving revenues from that area.

“Then we have to look at the budget on what we expect to collect in terms of constraints from government revenue; and what we need to do,” he said.

The 2017 budget was $323M, which represented a reduction in revenue forecast compared to 2016, which was the largest in history at $330M. The recurrent expenditure was in the region of $277M.
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