#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday July 26, 2018 – The largest budget in the history of the Turks and Caicos Islands was passed on Friday July 13, 2018 and a reader-friendly version is now published online, said Premier and Finance Minister Sharlene Robinson today.
“This year we continued the Citizen’s Guide to the Budget and you can find it at www.gov.tc which is a short overview of the Budget’s contents and I present to you, this today, highlighting critical spending and projects for this financial year.”
The 2018-2019 Budget communication was delivered on July 10, 2018 and national spending for this fiscal period is put at $290,014,177.41. Absorbing the largest share of the new Budget are Health Care and Education, explained the Finance Minister in a media debriefing at her Providenciales office.
Despite commendation for the Turks and Caicos for presenting a bigger budget, there is skepticism from observers including the Official Opposition PNP, which charges that the PDM Administration did not deliver on its commitments during the last fiscal year and will fall short again in 2018-2019. The Premier however strongly disagreed.
“…we were very successful last year, we have 71 or 72 out of 78 projects and only eight projects were cancelled. So we were extremely successful last year and yesterday, we received a report from the Deputy Governor that over 90 percent of those have already reached the contract stage.” Hon Robinson admitted, “…it is an ambitious budget which is why we are introducing additional staff… so that we do have the manpower, we do have the money…”
The Budget is late; the Turks and Caicos fiscal year usually begins in April. Premier Sharlene Robinson explained that the catastrophic blow dealt the islands in the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season forced a delay in the delivery of the new financial year estimates.
“We had a very difficult time trending what our revenues, and I shouldn’t say difficult… we wanted to be careful, it is important to do that. Even though we are reducing our savings by $21m, we have to demonstrate that we are going to be able to replenish it. We also have to demonstrate that we will begin to look back at a surplus budget, because according to the Constitution, you cannot have a deficit budget. So we had to get UK approval for the Deficit Budget for the reduction or pulling money from our savings and proving how we are going to replenish it.”
The Premier, joined by Infrastructure Minister, Goldray Ewing during the media meeting, explained that again the PDM Administration is pleased with the projections for capital spending. Earmarked projects are priced, cumulatively, at over $36.6 million with major projects being road works in Providenciales, a seawall for Salt Cay and reconstruction at public education facilities.
“Included in our Capital Program this year is school repairs with Oseta Jolly as priority, the Community College, Helena Jones Robinson High School, Raymond Gardiner High school – all approved since February this year and of course Marjorie Basden High School and Iris Stubbs Primary School where works have already begun in South Caicos.” Premier Robinson added: “This Budget Year we have Ianthe Pratt, Enid Capron Primary, Mary Robinson primary school, Clement Howell High School and Eliza Simons primary school; they have also included furniture for the Long Bay High School new block.”
Getting double mention was the 8 percent increase in scholarship spending to $4 million; the extra money will enable the Scholarship Board to have more successful applicants. The deadline for requests has been extended to August 17, 2018.
“The scholarships have been increased to $4m and while that is an 8 percent increase we have a large number of students returning and so there is a considerable amount of money in this year’s Budget for scholarships.”
The Budget, which is the second for the PDM Party since being elected to office in December 2016, also projects a deficit of over $10m which will be covered by money in the country’s savings account.
“Of note is the fact that the Budget also projects a deficit and a drawing down of $21 million on the country’s savings, which is the second time since the storm; first in February in relation to the Supplementary Appropriation Bill that we had received the UK’s approval to draw down on our reserves and to run a deficit.”
The link to the six page Citizens’ Guide to the Budget 2018-2019 is below: