Brief Budget Review

February 15, 2008

I’ve been skimming through the 2008/09 budget that was released today and have a few comments.

  • Government has put aside $143 million for the Ministry of Education. Like the Throne speech, I don’t see any concrete ways in which this money will be spent to fix the current state of our education system other than more reviews – this time of the current curriculum and internal communication procedures. 
  • I was particularly intrigued by some of the improvements set out by the Department of Immigration including the use of biometric identification using facial recognition and e-passports to ultimately automate passenger clearance at the airport.  I would think that facial recognition would be more useful if used in conjunction with CCTV (Smart CCTV) to cut down on crime?
  • I will be looking forward to the details of the free daycare programme to be released by the Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation in relation to the number of families government will give free daycare to and what ‘qualifies’ a family for free daycare. 
  • Similar to the Throne Speech I didn’t see any money budgeted for free public transportation…oh wait there is less than a sentence that mentions it will be a phased project at the bottom of page 2o, however no funds have been set aside for free transportation.
  • Social Insurance will be going up 6.75%
  • Looks like vehicle licencing will be going up again…
  • Airport Departure Tax will increase from $10 t $35 with the rationale that our departure tax is much lower than other Caribbean nations.
  • Duty on cigarettes is increasing for 15.5% to 18% and is considered to be a ‘health’ tax.  Interestingly, I saw no mention of any other money being budgeted for health initiatives.  
  • The Budget mentions an increase in luxury sailboats and motor boats and then states that the government proposes to increase the rate of duty from 35.5% to 55% purely as a revenge-raising measure.  I am unsure if this relates to the duty on boats or duty on everything…

At the beginning of the Budget there was an informing section on the importance of personal saving. It would be nice to see the government try to do a little saving – another deficit is forecasted for 2008/09. 

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