Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest delivers the Budget Communication in the House of Assembly.
DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed today that there will be a $900m drop in government revenues resulting in a national deficit of $1.3 billion by June next year, brought on by Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, delivering the government’s 2020/21 Budget Communication in the House of Assembly, Mr Turnquest said there will be no increase in taxes or public sector layoffs.
Also from the 2020/21 Budget:
• Government will allocate over $120 million to continue and expand the Tax Credit/Tax Deferral programme to provide cash directly to businesses to fund their payroll expenses to help keep people employed. $85 million will be allocated to the social safety net.
• Reductions across government ministries include the elimination of: red plate vehicles to ministers in order to utilise them in other areas of the public service; all international travel – except in essential circumstances; the practice of The House of Assembly providing breakfast and lunch.
• The Special Economic Recovery Zone (Relief Order) 2019 will be extended to December 2020, which will include all concessions currently available to the qualifying islands. For the period January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021, the concessions will be extended to cover building materials only.
• Economic support measures include $48 million for continued unemployment assistance; $17 million in increased social welfare spending and a temporary incremental monthly increase of $50.00 in the Old Age Pension; $20 million in contingency funding allocation for Public Health Sector Support; $30 million to expand the business support and continuity loan programme for Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses.
• Discussions have begun with the relevant unions for the pausing of all increments to permanent and pensionable civil servants, as well as temporarily suspending salary increases and deferring salary increases attendant to promotion exercises.
• The Government will provide for a ‘back-to-school’ VAT holiday on school supplies, clothing and select food items for the two weeks leading to the reopening of schools.
• There will be a reduction in duty for the agriculture and fisheries industry; farming equipment for the use of backyard farming; building materials and Personal Protective Equipment items.
• The tax-free transfer of land will be expanded where there is no change in beneficial ownership, with the approval of the VAT Controller.
SEE THURSDAY'S TRIBUNE FOR FULL COVERAGE AND REACTION TO THE 2020/21 BUDGET