The 2020/2021 fiscal year will not be an easy one for the administration of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet who on Tuesday presented a $1.697 billion dollar budget for that year, scheduled to end March 31, 2021.
Even Chastanet recognized the coming fiscal year will not be easy when he stated Tuesday in the House of Assembly that the COVID-19 pandemic did not give his administration time to prepare for the onslaught, which has ravaged economies across the world, including that of Saint Lucia.
He gave a glimpse of what’s to come by stating that when compared to the outturn of the preceding year the recurrent revenue decreased by 137.4 million or 11.8 percent, a decrease that stemmed from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the recurrent revenue as well as the deterioration of the economic activity anticipated during the current fiscal year.
“The significant reduction in tax revenue is influenced by the anticipated downturn in economic activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the reclassification of revenue from the Citizenship by Investment Programme pursuant to the National Economic Development Fund Act,” Chastanet said.
According to the prime minister, taxes on income and profits are projected at $223.89 million, down by $42.9 million or 60% below the revised estimates of 2019/2020.
Chastanet added that taxes on international trade and customs duties are projected to decline by 9.1% to reach $221.02 million in 2020/2021, which is down from 243.15 million in 2019/2020. On the total amount to be collected from taxes on the international trade transaction; $118.85 million is expected to come from import duty, $103.88 million from excise tax, $3.67 million from import charges and $1.62 million from passenger fees.
The prime minister who has previously alerted public servants of pay grades seven to 18 of a readjustment in their salaries/wages to 50%, the other 50% to be given to them by way of bonds attached to a three percent incentive on maturity said his government, for the immediate future, would be operating under very trying circumstances.
But the parliamentary opposition is not in support of anything the prime minister says regarding the difficulties facing government in this COVID-19 era.
Opposition Leader Philip J Pierre, while claiming to understand the state the country is in at this time as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, noted that himself and other members of his team will forever preach about the poor financial management, the lack of accountability and lack of transparency of the Allen Chastanet administration.
Said Pierre, “The Covid-19 pandemic has found the government cor veed. It had exposed the lack of sustainability in the financial operations of the government, a government that has failed to match its work with actions but instead blames everyone for its failures. A government that knows we are vulnerable only in times of crisis. When things are going well it’s the government’s work, their hard work, their understanding of finance, but when things are not going well its everybody’s fault especially and particularly the opposition,” Pierre said.
Pierre believes the government has the resources, and if their priorities were right would have allowed civil servants to enjoy their salaries.
“The government, because of its attitude, cannot form willing partnerships,” Pierre said.