For some time now, the APNU+AFC Government has faced scathing criticisms about its record of increased public spending. Many within the political opposition have even referred to APNU+AFC’s time in office as the era of “squandermania.” In response, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said he is yet to see a shred of evidence that could support spurious claims of “runaway public expenditure”.
In his latest missive to the press, Jordan said that indeed, expenditures have increased. The economist stressed however that this is to be expected and must be placed into the context of strategic plans and developmental needs. The Finance Minister said, “Prudent financial management has ensured that our fiscal deficit, over the past five years, has remained within the bounds of what is expected of a country at our stage of development. The Government responded positively to meet the needs of our people, evidenced by the budgeted numbers for current expenditure growing by 30.1 percent and capital expenditure by 32.8 percent, from 2016 to 2019.”
Further to this, Jordan said that increases in current expenditure were largely attributed to increases in wages and salaries, old-age pensions and social assistance. In this regard, he noted that total employment costs increased by 40.6 percent in 2019, when compared with 2016, reaching $70.9 billion in 2019, with significant growth in the public sector minimum wage. He was keen to point out that the increases led to higher household income, particularly among those earning within the lowest income brackets, thereby reducing poverty. He said that discerning members of the public should also bear in mind that the public sector minimum wage increased by over 70 percent between 2015 and 2019, to reach $70,000. In addition to this, Jordan said that expenditure on old-age pensions and social assistance increased by 26.4 percent in 2019 when compared with 2016, reaching $14.8 billion. In fact, it was between 2015 and 2019 that old-age pensions increased by 56.2 percent to reach $20,500.
Taking these matters into consideration, the Finance Minister said, “The Government is unapologetic in pursuing a policy to redress the historical wrong and neglect of those most in need.”