Mindful of the global outlook and the spectre of a recession next year, with expected negative implications for the country’s small economy, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dickon Mitchell is optimistic that his Congress government’s transformational agenda can be realised with the right mix of policies and programmes.
The Grenadian Leader has acknowledged that the war in Ukraine, high inflation, the continuation of supply chain disruptions, and the global recession are forces that “can make policy making very difficult” but he is optimistic that “the right policies can position Grenada to be prepared for whatever outcome has to be met.”
PM Mitchell made the remarks Wednesday as he addressed the first in a series of consultations on the 2023 Budget with various stakeholders and members of the public, as the Ministry of Finance commenced the deliberations on the annual document, which will be delivered in Parliament later this year.
The budget consultation process follows the presentation of the Throne Speech to both Houses of Parliament last week, which outlined the newly elected National Democratic Congress (NDC) government’s plans and policies in keeping with its transformational agenda for the tri-island state as outlined in the party’s manifesto.
“Our aim is to transform Grenada, and one of the critical measures in doing so is the prudent and strategic allocation of our scarce resources. It is therefore imperative that we implement the right mix of policies, projects, and programmes to enable the transformation that is so needed,” PM Mitchell said.
He pointed out that the 2023 budget presentation will focus on strategic measures that are in line with the sustainable development goals, including “strengthening our healthcare access, bolstering education, and training, building a resilient infrastructure, expanding the product and service sectors particularly in agriculture, agribusiness tourism and manufacturing, and diversifying the economic base, including (rolling) out the blue, green and yellow economies, accelerating digital transformation, renewables, energy transition, social protection, and empowerment of all citizens.”
Among some of the key initiatives, projects and programmes in the pipeline for the upcoming year is the “reform of public sector pensions with the goal of achieving an equitable and fiscally sustainable public sector pension system through engagement with stakeholders, and to systematically advance the regularisation of the public service in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Prime Minister Mitchell said, while the “attrition policy currently remains in effect critical positions will be filled across the public sector to improve governance and to rebuild the public sector institutions.”
“Reimagine the IMANI programme to provide industry-ready training and opportunities that would lead to sustainable employment, promote the creation of new micro-small and medium-sized enterprises and the expansion of existing ones through access to credit, training, and concessions to support sustainable job creation and economic empowerment, strengthen the procurement function within ministries and departments to increase value for money and to reduce wastage, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy by strengthening the legal framework and advancing key renewable energy projects, accelerate the infusion of ICT in the economy and strengthen data protection to increase trust in digital transactions,” are key areas, which the Prime Minister said, will be focused on in the coming year.
The Grenadian leader also spoke of “improving social security by advancing a permanent funded unemployment benefit insurance scheme, safeguard and enhance our safety net programmes, in particular, the coverage and targeting of the SEED programme, (and) accelerating the implementation of key infrastructural projects” will be among the pressing matters to be addressed.
He disclosed that “several major projects, which secured funding are delayed for various reasons (and) we must take steps to remove the bottlenecks, and to get these projects moving.”
The Congress administration has appointed South St George Member of Parliament, Andy Williams to the position of Minister of Implementation to deal with stalled projects.
Also on the agenda of the new Congress administration as part of interventions to build social and economic resilience, and support the transformational agenda, will be a plan to “relaunch the teaching hospital project, reinforce the link between agriculture and the environment, strengthen disaster risk management, implement climate change budget tagging and gender-responsive budgeting.”
The new government has also given a commitment to “review and revise the guidelines and performance standards for statutory bodies and state-owned enterprises with strategic intention of managing financial risk and improving financial and operational performance.”
Wednesday’s consultative session was chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Mike Sylvester, who indicated that the deliberations will take on the tone of “the recent macroeconomic developments both fiscal and real sector, assumptions that will form the 2023 budget numbers and so on, and the major material risk that will affect the outlook and how that will shape the budget for next year.”
PS Sylvester reminded the participants of their role to ensure that as a group the budget is timely, accurate, realistic, and credible.
In keeping with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, the 2023 budget must be presented to Parliament in late November to early December before the commencement of the new fiscal year.