Gov’t exceeds 2019/2020 $1billion budget by over $100million

For the fiscal year 2019/2020 in which the government of Dominica presented to the nation its  highest budget thus far –one billion, twenty million, one hundred sixty-four thousand five hundred and forty-five dollars ($1,022,164,555.00)– parliament, earlier this week, approved over $100 million in supplementary appropriation expenditure.

At the sixth meeting of the first session of the tenth parliament, on April 26, 2021, the motion was presented to the House by the Ministry of Trade, Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Business and Export Development, Ian Douglas, who appealed to his fellow parliamentarians to approve the said bill which amounted to one hundred and thirty four million, eight hundred and forty thousand one hundred and forty two dollars and twenty cents ($134,840,142.20).

For advances made from the contingency fund for the period of July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, Douglas told the House that the 7% or $8,940,782.00 from the fund was met through grant funding whilst 92% or $123,899,360.00 was funded by local resources and 1% equivalent to $2,000,000. was financed by loan funds.

He declared that the government continues to be prudent in the management of public funds and the supplementary estimates details a clear indication of the government’s firm commitment to be “transparent in financial matters.”

Receiving the highest chunk from the supplementary appropriation was the Ministry of Public Works in the sum of $57,239,909.00 –57%.

Douglas said, of this figure, $47,249,977.00 was approved to meet the outstanding payments for road resurfacing works at 25 locations as well as the Cochrane road rehabilitation, Melville river wall and the Checkhall Valley road rehabilitation project.

An amount of $4,439,365.00 was also reported as payment made for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Tatan road whilst the balance of $5,550,567.00 was injected into the community enhancement component of the National Employment Programme (NEP).

The Ministry of Finance which was allocated the highest amount of the 2019/2020 budget also received additional funds to the tune of $16,046,855.00.

With respect to the Office of the Prime Minister the sum of $2,928,666.00 was appropriated whilst $2,048,844.00 of this figure was approved for payment of housekeeping and maintenance  services at the former Ross University facilities which was transferred to the government of Dominica.

An additional $74,595.00 was allocated towards remuneration for the committee tasked with the responsibility of executing the thanksgiving and celebration concert which mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria. Additionally under the Office of the Prime Minister, $531,904.00 was granted for the purchase of two vehicles for use as the Prime Minister’s security fleet whilst $273,323.00 was utilized to facilitate refurbishment works of the Prime Minister’s office.

Additional budgetary provisions were also granted to the Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security, amounting to $4,097,208.00.

Of this sum, the Parliamentary representative for the Portsmouth constituency disclosed that  $791,051.00 was required to meet expenses for court matters, mediation agreements and professional fees to various lawyers representing the state.

For the consolidation of the law of Dominica for the calendar year 2017, the government is said to have spent $547,200.00 whilst an additional $2,758,953.00 was also appropriated to facilitate payment to Canadian banknote for the continued maintenance of Dominica’s passport management system.

As it pertains to the 2019 general election, $1,811,886.00 was appropriated to defray expenses of the election, Douglas stated.

For his Ministry, the senior parliamentarian stated that an additional $22,086,381.00 was made available by the government “in it’s frost to continue to empower the youth and  provide social safety nets for our people.”

According to Douglas, the government is acknowledging the urgent social needs of citizens hence, $1,800,00.00 was transferred to the Rapid Response Social Recovery Agency to assist with emergencies.

A humanitarian contribution in the amount of US$100,000.00 was made to the government of the Commonwealth of Bahamas to aid in the recovery and reconstruction efforts following the passage of Hurricane Dorian.

The government also authorised $90,000.00 to be used to meet salaries and allowances of the National Authorizing Officer and $12,685.00 was authorized to address the shortfall in budgetary allocation for retirement benefits.

Parliament earlier approved an emergency order due to the emergence of the Covid-19 virus which took effect from April 1, 2020, and saw the partial lockdown of our economy.

Therefore, Douglas said, one of the stimulus measures announced by the Minister of Finance to assist small businesses at such time was a $5 million loan facility through the AID bank.

“The government of Dominica and the AID bank entered into a loan agreement in May of 2020 and $3 million of the $5 million was made available to the bank immediately for unlending to the MSME at an interest rate of only 1%. The balance of $2 million was budgeted for in this fiscal year.”

An amount of $8,879,471.00 was also approved for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

“In addition, the sum of $6,747,440 was approved under the grant component of the World bank funded Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience project. This amount was utilized to facilitate payments to suppliers for the procurement of agricultural inputs, rental expenses and other related expenditures,” Douglas explained.

With respect to the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development which received the second-highest allocation in the 2019/2020 budget, the sum of $7,585,323 was appropriated.

“In keeping with the Ministry’s vision of having at least one university graduate per household, the sum of $4,917,614 was approved as tuition fees for students pursuing higher education, Douglas explained.

With regard to housing, $19,200 was appropriated for the period July 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019, to provide rental assistance to the families of the silver lake community who were left homeless by a fire in December 2016.

Also $1,123,583 was approved for the rental allowance for the victims of Tropical Storm Erika and the extension of the displacement allowance for the said victims.

Payments of salary and traveling allowance in favor of the Coordinator of the Help Desk Tropical Storm Erika for the period July 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019, amounted to $1,142,783.

An additional budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health was also made to facilitate Dominica’s preparation for an immediate management of the pandemic to the tune of $4,980,956.00.

“In addition to this, an amount of $110,847.00 was approved to facilitate payment of expenses related to the handing over and opening ceremony of phase one of the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH) held on the 6th of December 2019…and $338,642.00 was dispersed into the National Health Commission which functions as an interim board during the transition period to the new DCFH.

In the case of the Ministry of Information, Science, Telecommunication and Technology, the sum of $6,644,375 was approved to meet outstanding payments owed to lime for the period January 2019 to November 2019.

With respect to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs the amount of $97,500 and $96,178 were approved for the purchase of vehicles for the Protocol and Consular Affairs department and for the Embassy of the Commonwealth of Dominica in Cuba respectively.

Additional budgetary provisions were approved in respect to the Cabinet Office in the sum of $1,184,832 while $287,102.00 was approved to facilitate payments associated with the hosting of the swearing-in of the Ministers of Cabinet and a retreat for elected members in December 2019.

As it relates to payment of LIAT 1974 Limited, $136,103.00 was paid to the company for chartered services for the Cuban Medical brigadier to assist with the management of Covid-19.

The government of Dominica also bore the cost relating to the official funerals of former parliamentarians in the sum of $126,734.00 for Pershing A. R. Waldron, Luke T. Corriette, Arnold C. Active, James C. Royer and Gertrude Roberts.

Cabinet also approved the provision of motor vehicles to all former Prime Ministers which totalled $296,250.00.