Roseau, Dominica – July 15, 2008….In his 2008/2009 Budget Address, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, announced a package of relief measures to mitigate the negative impact of rising food and fuel prices on the population, while at the same time maintaining his government’s hard-won reputation for prudent fiscal and economic management.
In the 2008/2009 fiscal year, Government also intends to continue to invest heavily in housing, education, information and communication technology and agriculture and in the execution of its capital programme.
The Budget makes provisions for more financial assistance for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. Effective, July, 2008, allowances granted under the social assistance programmes will be increased by 10 percent. The amounts paid as public assistance will be increased by 50 percent, effective July, 2008.
All persons 65 years and older and as well as infants and young persons up to 18 years of age who are still at a formal education institution, will be exempted from the payment of hospital fees. The school transfer grant for needy children moving from primary to secondary school, will be doubled in this fiscal year to $500.00.
In response to rising food prices, exacerbated by the rising cost of fuel internationally, the Prime Minister announced that effective August 1st 2008, tariffs will be eliminated on fifty-two household items.
The Prime Minister also announced a decision by Government to set the customs service charge on petroleum products to zero percent. Government has also decided to remove the excise tax on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) into Dominica, resulting in a revenue loss of $1 million.
The second phase of the income tax reform programme was announced with the population expected to benefit from additional tax relief, effective, January 1, 2009. The cost of this measure for the period, January to June, 2009 is $4.9 million.
Despite the impact of Hurricane Dean which wiped out 20 percent of GDP, Government is projecting a current account surplus of $2.8 million for the 2007/2008 fiscal year and a primary surplus of $12.7 million.
In the 2008/2009 fiscal year, Government’s recurrent spending on education is projected to reach a record $52.5 million. An amount of $41.6 million (capital budget) has been allocated to the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructural Development, reflecting the commencement and continuation of a number of capital projects to include the Road Improvement and Maintenance Project (RIMP), the Roseau Road Reinstatement Project, the Canefield to Melville Hall Road, among other projects.
Through the Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Ports, work will continue on the Melville Hall Airport air access improvement programme in the new fiscal year.
The Housing Revolution programme will continue in this fiscal year with the completion of houses at Hillsborough Gardens, Belle Vue Chopin, Chance, Dublanc, Bioche and the Carib Territory, among other areas. In the 2007/2008 fiscal year, over 500 houses were repaired in twenty-eight communities island-wide. Several families benefited from low interest facilities at the AID Bank and the Government Housing Loans Board.
Government’s vision to fully exploit Dominica’s geothermal energy resources was underlined further when the Prime Minister announced a decision by Cabinet to approve the exploration of geothermal energy development through the efforts of West Indies Power Company, the Agence Francais de Development(AFD) and the French Global Environmental Fund(FFEM).
The draft estimates of expenditure for the fiscal year 2008/2009 amounts to three hundred and ninety-one million, seven hundred and fifty-five thousand, five hundred and seventeen dollars($391, 755,517),comprising recurrent expenditure of two hundred and forty-eight million, six hundred and twelve thousand, seven hundred and eighteen($248,612,718) and capital expenditure of one hundred and forty-three million, one hundred and forty-two thousand, seven hundred and ninety-nine($143, 142,799).