Government considers austerity measures for 2021

The government is seriously considering introducing several austerity measures in the new year as the economy continues to suffer the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Gaston Browne, said the proposed measures have become necessary as the country has seen a sharp decline in revenues since the pandemic brought economic activity to a virtual standstill.

On this week’s Browne and Browne show, the prime minister said revenue generated in the first quarter of 2020 were set to set a national record, but the arrival of the coronavirus in the country at the end of March and subsequent lockdown crippled economic progress and slowed revenue generation significantly. 

According to the finance minister, revenues for the first quarter of this year outstripped revenues for the same period in 2019 by approximately $200 million. By the end of September 2020, however, revenues were $200 million less than in the corresponding period last year.

“What this means is that there has been a $400 million turn around in our revenues and while we fully anticipated that revenues will amount to over $1 billion by the end of the year, we will be happy if we are able to collect about $750 million by December 31,” he 3explained. 

He noted that at the end of September revenues amounted to just $562 million against the $765 million collected during the same period last year.

“We were on track to record one of the best years ever for the economy, but unfortunately due to COVID all our gains have since been eroded and this has been a severe strain on the level of government’s cash flow,” Browne explained.

Faced with the harsh reality of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s economy, and the possibility of further losses until a vaccine is widely distributed by the middle of next year, the prime minister said that the Cabinet considered the matter.

“We have no choice going into 2021 but to realign revenues with our expenditures. Last Wednesday, Cabinet looked at some options that we are contemplating to adopt into the upcoming year. There are no final decisions yet on these measures, but I feel that it is important to alert the public on these possibilities,” he stated.

PM Browne said whatever measures are put in place, they will not affect government bond holders as he is keen to ensure that confidence in the government’s security remains high. 

Similarly, arrangements with local banks will not be affected.

The measures include the following:

  • reducing real estate rentals by government from an average of 3 to 5 percent to 3 percent over the next 36 months. 
  • Reducing the rate of rental of heavy duty equipment, backhoe and trucks etc., to 33.33 percent.
  • Strengthening property tax collection by ensuring that all properties are captured. This is expected to significantly increase the yield.
  • Enhance the collection of all taxes. Focus on AnB properties ensuring that they pay their ABST
  • Reduce supplier-creditor credit by 50 percent including converting a portion to government bonds.
  • Consider swapping government lands to write off some debts in some cases.
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