2019 BUDGET ADDRESS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
AT THE SECOND SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION
OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Transitioning Towards Sustainable Growth
Mr. Speaker, I move that the Bill shortly entitled the Appropriation Act, 2019 be read a second time and, in so doing, I invite this Honourable House to extend its customary indulgence in permitting me to deliver the 2019 Budget Address.
It is with a heart of Thanksgiving to Almighty God, and a spirit of gratitude to the people of these beautiful Virgin Islands, who have afforded me the opportunity to stand here today to deliver this budget address.
Mr. Speaker, just about five (5) short weeks ago, I assumed the mantle of leadership of the Territory as Premier. Today, I stand before you, in my capacity as Minister of Finance to deliver the 2019 Budget Address, under the theme: “Transitioning towards sustainable growth.”
Mr. Speaker, over the several years of my life, in and out of this Honourable House, I have diligently prepared myself for this journey. I embarked on this journey confident in the fact that with grace and wisdom, which come only from God, along with the support of the people of this Territory – we shall transition towards sustainable growth.
Mr. Speaker, it is a constitutional and statutory requirement that the Annual Estimates be laid in the House in a timely manner. The Budget Document which encapsulates the Annual Estimates is mandated by the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act to be laid and debated by the House of Assembly on or before 31st December for the following year.
As is quite evident today, this year’s Annual Estimates (Budget 2019) is being introduced in the year to which it relates. There may be several reasons for this particular occurrence but suffice it to say, however, that the Constitution (2007 No. 1678) provides for this in section 105. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the affairs of the Government of the Virgin Islands during this interim phase, that is, the close of the previous financial year and the enactment of the 2019 Budget is provisionally being financed under a continuing resolution – the Provisional Appropriation Act (2019) 2018.
Mr. Speaker, it takes a great deal of effort to produce this Budget Document, even though it may be considered a mere routine exercise. This document reflects the past budgetary provisions and calculates the revenue and expenditure for the current year as a base from which to forecast future performance. As has been the case since 2013, the Budget presentation is done on a three-year rolling plan basis where projections for three years are shown, but the Appropriation Act will only represent those estimates for the current year.
Mr. Speaker, we consider this a TRANSITIONAL BUDGET. It is so because it is the bridge between the old order, and our determination to deliver on the change and renewal that the people of these Virgin Islands have demanded.
Over the next three years, our job will be to increase the efficiency and the quality of governance; seek greater local and international investments in the economy, particularly in tourism, marine industries, fishing, agriculture and Information Technology services; improve the education and other public infrastructure; build a secure environment in which to do business; support the development of small businesses and create additional entrepreneurial opportunities and sustainable jobs.
Our job is simply not just to balance a budget; but to help balance the lives of our people.
Because of the time constraints since taking office, and because of the constitutional requirement, aspects of this budget are, therefore a small down payment on these stated goals.
Mr. Speaker, this is a work in progress. And this Mr. Speaker is why it is a transitional budget.
Mr. Speaker, I have come to the sobering conclusion that given the magnitude of effort and time necessary to put the Budget Estimates together, not to mention the length of my tenure at the Ministry of Finance, I cannot now mould the current budget into the economic engine which my Ministers and I would have otherwise done. All is not lost however. During the coming months your Government will be massaging the Budget that this Honourable House will pass, to ensure that we get maximum benefits for you the people.
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