A. Introduction

6.1 Mr. Speaker, I would like to announce that there are no new taxes, fees, fines or other fiscal imposts in Budget 2001. I am sure that all will agree that this is a fitting way to start this new term of Government.

B. Private Sector Development

6.2 Mr. Speaker, during the annual consultation with interest groups for the budget exercise, several proposals for tax relief and tax reform were presented for inclusion in this year’s budget. I should like to compliment all of those persons who made submissions, written and oral, and assure them that we value their contributions highly. We have examined each proposal and have concluded that they do merit further consideration. Therefore, we will be collaborating with the private sector with a view of enhancing the incentives’ regime. Without prejudice to those discussions, I would like to indicate that the Government is prepared to offer increased concessions to support investment in areas such as information technology, eco-tourism, garment manufacturing, agro processing. We would also be favourably disposed to granting liberal incentives for the opening of new areas such as the intermediate savannah.

C. Measures to Protect Workers’ Income

6.3 Mr. Speaker, public servants were paid increases of 31.06 percent for 1999 and 26.66 percent for 2000. These increases effectively brought the incomes of these workers in line with many of their counterparts in the private sector for similar skills’ categories. In fact, for some lower grades, the salary paid in the public service is more than that of the private sector. The Government’s record of wage increases over the past eight years has been unenviable, and we will continue to reward labour so as to keep incomes from being eroded by inflation. Mr. Speaker, in spite of the negative growth performance last year, the problems being encountered by our major industries and political instability that affected economic activities, we have made provision for the payment of wages and salaries, and pensions in 2001.

D. Other Measures

1. Poverty Programme

6.4 Mr. Speaker, $500 million has been set aside for the implementation of various poverty programmes. This represents an increase of 113 percent and is in recognition, in part of the need to expand the programme to a number of distressed communities. This amount is additional to the $1.1 billion allocated under the SIMAP, the $188.4 million to be spent under the Poor Rural Communities Project, and the $100 million budgeted to be spent under the Basic Needs Trust Fund Programme.

2. Subvention to Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Municipalities

6.5 Mr. Speaker, $254 million has been budgeted to assist local government bodies in the execution of their programmes. A substantial sum has been budgeted for the City Council. The Government will insist that the money be used to improve the welfare of the citizens of Georgetown. A total of $753.6 million has been allocated under the Urban Development Programme to construct and rehabilitate infrastructure in the six municipalities. 

3. Housing and Squatter Regularisation

6.6 Mr. Speaker, an additional $538 million has been provided in this budget for the development and upgrading of existing housing schemes and the regularisation of squatter settlements in several areas of the country.