BUDGET 2016 – REBUILDING A Stronger, Safer and Prosperous Antigua & Barbuda

In January 2016, Prime Minister Gaston Browne presented the annual Budget, revealing that the Recurrent expenditure for fiscal year is estimated at $1.079 billion while recurrent revenue is estimated at $852 million.

Recurrent expenditure excluding principal payments is estimated at $732 million, which is about 5 per cent above the $699 million estimated in Budget 2015.

Accordingly, he said the government projects a current account surplus of $120 million for fiscal year 2016. This compares with a current account deficit of $49.3 million in Budget 2015.

Recurrent Expenditure comprises the following categories:

• Salaries, wages and allowances, budgeted at $319.6 million

• Contributions to Social Security and Medical Benefits, budgeted at $27.5 million

• Pensions and Gratuities, budgeted at $64 million

• Goods and services including utilities, budgeted at $127 million

• Transfers and grants, budgeted at $100 million

• Debt service payments, budgeted at $441 million

The Ministry of Finance is responsible for payment of utility services for all government ministries and makes the annual $6.5 million subvention to the Barbuda Council.

It is also this Ministry that has to oversee and encourage revenue earning initiatives such as the Citizenship by Investment Programme without which the current fortunes would be dim.

Summary of Antigua & Barbuda’s 2016 Budgetary Allocations

Ministry of Education Science & Technology

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology receives the second largest single allocation in this year’s Budget, amounting to $84.5 million.

Over the coming financial year, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology will pursue the following priorities and strategies:

i Increasing the number of trained teachers;

ii Providing training in leadership, management and administration to all units, departments and agencies of the ministry;

iii Establishing legislative standards for the operation of pre-schools;

iv Expanding the TVET Programme which focuses on Competency-based Literacy and Numeracy; and

v Pilot legislation establishing the University of Antigua and Barbuda.

Work on establishing the University of Antigua and Barbuda is at an advanced stage as the government seeks to create a new campus facility at Five Islands. In addition, funding has been secured from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to renovate and expand the secondary school plant, which will fully satisfy the requirements of the nation’s secondary school students.

The School Meals Programme will be expanded to include Barbuda and several million dollars have been allocated in the capital budget for school renovation and maintenance.

Ministry of Health and the Environment

The Ministry of Health and the Environment (MHE) is responsible for regulation, policy, guidance, human resource management, and delivery of all public health care services.

This Ministry is also responsible for all matters relating to environmental management and sustainability.

The budgetary allocation for this Ministry in 2016 is $81.5 million.

It is the third largest allocation.

The Ministry’s priorities and strategies include:

i Enhancing the Infection Prevention and Control Network to combat the most serious communicable diseases;

ii Enhancing the quality of academic programmes offered at the School of Nursing;

iii Improving the policy and regulatory services in the sector;

iv Implementing stricter non-communicable disease programmes to reduce the incidence of these diseases;

v Strengthening human resource capacity to deliver the environmental health programme; and

vi Executing Antigua and Barbuda’s climate change commitments and sourcing funding to support adaptation and mitigation.

Ministry of Works and Housing

The Ministry of Works and Housing has been allocated the fourth largest slice of the Budget resources at $70.8 million to carry out its mandate in 2016.

This ministry’s strategic priorities include:

i Continuing to maintain all the major roads into the city of St John’s and to upgrade critical secondary roads;

ii Developing a comprehensive plan for the upgrade and rehabilitation of the road infrastructure;

iii Establishing a vehicle maintenance arrangement with the Transport Board for the maintenance of Central Government vehicles;

iv Producing a National Housing Policy and Strategic Plan; and

v Procuring appropriate software for Engineering and Architectural functions.

Attorney General’s Office and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Public Safety, and Labour

The office of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Public Safety, and Labour, receives the sum of $70.5 million.

This Ministry is concerned with the safety and security of the people in their homes and businesses.

These resources will be used for a number of purposes including:

i Improving the efficiency of the Work Experience Programme;

ii Continued Development of the One Stop Employment Centre (OSEC);

iii Implementing a fire safety education strategy and plan for Antigua and Barbuda;

iv Developing a nationwide traffic law enforcement plan;

v Enhancing the investigative techniques of Police Officers;

vi Continuing to assist communities to establish and operate Neighborhood Watch programmes;

vii Ensuring Antigua and Barbuda remains compliant with international requirements by executing policies to prevent human trafficking; and

Viii Continuing to implement programmes for the systematic training of Prison Officers

In 2016, the Ministry will continue to execute programmes that will further improve its ability to tackle crime and boost national security.

In this regard, over $31 million has been allocated for the Police Force to execute its mandate in 2016.

These resources will facilitate training of existing officers and new recruits; help to enhance crime fighting programmes and increase the presence of officers in communities; continuing collaboration with other agencies; and introducing new strategies to identify and apprehend criminals.

Additional funds have also been allocated in the capital budget to ensure the Police Force is better equipped to effectively investigate criminal activity.

Also, the government will be purchasing two new, modern fire engines to join the complement of fire vehicles on the island. This will allow the Fire Department to respond to and resolve fire emergencies more effectively.

Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy

The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy has an allocation of $27.4 million.

It is a 41 per cent increase over the $19.4 million allocated in 2015.

This increase will supplement the 2 per cent marketing fund, thereby generating approximately $20 million for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) to market the destination.

The Minister responsible for Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy will provide a detailed account of the strategies and programmes to be pursued by this Ministry to ensure the goals and objectives for growth of Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product are achieved.

The following list summarizes the strategies to be pursued.

These are:

i Continuing to enhance marketing and product development programmes to increase the awareness and competitiveness of the Antigua and Barbuda brand;

ii Continuing to implement a plan to develop the Information technology-enabled services/Business Process Outsourcing (ITES/BPO) sector;

iii Re-branding and revitalizing the yachting industry;

iv Implementing the one – stop –shop (hassle free) business registration project; and

v Promoting the use of green technology and renewable energy to improve energy efficiency.

Ministry of Social Transformation & Human Resource Development

The allocation for the Ministry of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development in Budget 2016 is $18.3 million.

The ministry will use these resources along with support from external agencies to pursue a number of plans and programmes in 2016.

Among the priorities and strategies for the coming year are:

i Improving efficiency and effectiveness of Social Protection Programmes through enhanced coordination, targeting, policy formulation, legislation and monitoring and evaluation;

ii Embarking on sustainable livelihoods and entrepreneurial development initiatives;

iii Formulating additional legislation and regulations to support Child Rights Convention and Policy on Institutional Care;

iv Establishing a holistic Vagrancy Control Programme in collaboration with Faith Based Organisations, Community Based Organisations and the Private Sector;

v Updating and disseminating the Disaster Mitigation and Management plan;

vi Implementation of rebranding and modernisation initiatives to increase productivity in the public sector;

vii Reviewing legislation that governs the delivery of service to vulnerable groups; and

viii Improving training and capacity building initiatives for the public sector.

Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology

The allocation for the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology is $14.5 million.

These resources will be used to pursue a number of strategic priorities including:

i Creation of an eGovernment platform to include the digitization of all public records and the provision of services online to include: reissuing of drivers licence, business registration, land registry services; payment of APUA Bills, statutory contributions to MBS, Social Security and Board of Education, and Property taxes.

ii Improving the quality of the broadcast production and increasing the quality and quantity of local programming;

iii Optimizing the revenue opportunities that accompany the new programme content;

iv Establishing the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission;

v Developing a Gigabit Fibre to Home (FTH) network for Antigua and Barbuda;

vi Completing the rollout of the redesigned Government Wide Area Network (GWAN);

vii Procuring and installing new workstations across all government networks;

Viii Completing the evaluation and costing of an enterprise solution for the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force; and

ix Developing and implementing the national cyber security policy.

Allocations for other Ministries

Budgetary Allocations for the other Ministries are as follows:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade – $27 Million

Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries & Barbuda Affairs – $17.1 Million

Ministry of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation & Transportation – $7.2 Million

Ministry of Trade, Commerce & Industry, Sports, Culture & National Festivals and Community Service – $23.1 Million

The 2016 budget also includes allocations for:

Office of the Governor General $2.6 million

The Legislature $2.2 million

The Cabinet $3.5 million

The Judiciary $2 million

The Service Commissions $0.68 million

Audit $1.1 million

Pensions and Gratuities $61.4 million

Electoral Commission $4.3 million

Ombudsman $0.46 million

Charges on Public Debt $441 million

Finally, the budgetary allocation for the Office of the Prime Minister is $26.6 million while the allocation for the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance is $91.8 million – the largest allocation in the Budget.

Finance and Corporate Governance gets the largest allocation for several reasons, not least of which is the repayment of the nation’s large debt burden.

Those debts have to be serviced, while at the same time the government said it will to renegotiate and reschedule some of them.

Also, the Ministry of Finance is responsible for payment of utility services for all government ministries and makes the annual $6.5 million subvention to the Barbuda Council. •