Budget Focus 2008

2007 was the year of Cricket World Cup, the single largest sporting event ever held in Guyana. It was an event on which billions were spent by the Government of Guyana and the private sector, yet there has been no analysis of the returns and the extent to which expectations were met. Significantly, visitor arrival numbers were about 12% above the preceding year. With World Cup done, we do have tourism and infrastructure assets but the Stadium for example, which may have cost close to $10Bn to build, will have to be maintained at substantial annual cost.

Budget 2008 which had been planned for earlier in the year became a casualty of both the Lusignan (January 26) and Bartica (February 17) massacres. In the latter case the presentation was set for February 18th but the massacre on the evening before forced a cancellation. It was presented four days later on February 22.

Despite the extra days and the gravity of the situation only one paragraph on the Bartica massacre appears to have been added to the Budget Speech. The work of the Government and the nation must of course go on but the events of the weeks preceding the budget should have impressed on the Minister the pressing issues confronting the nation – crime, the increasing threat of flooding, inflation and the brain drain. To the extent that he dealt with any of these it was how many billions the Government was going to spend.

The ability of the economy to withstand the pressures of crime and spiralling prices will be tested in 2008 as Carifesta returns to Guyana. This and other significant events such as local government elections, the completion of the Berbice Bridge and the Skeldon Modernisation Project were the backdrop against which Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh presented a G$119Bn budget – 8.5% higher that the latest estimates of 2007.

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