The ruling New National Party (NNP) administration has denied claims made by the major opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that it had approached the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) to help meet the salaries of public officers in April.
“There is no need to approach any institution to borrow money to meet our salary commitments”, said Minister for Economic Development, Trade, Planning, Cooperatives and International Business, Oliver Joseph.
The senior government minister was addressing members of the local media at the weekly press briefing as he responded to claims made by Congress Leader, Senator Nazim Burke.
During a press conference hosted by NDC, Burke said that he was reliably informed that government borrowed money from the state-controlled Lotteries Authority to meet last month’s wage bill.
According to Minister Joseph, the Member of Parliament for St. David, there is no need for government to borrow money to cover salary payments since its revenue collection has exceeded what was anticipated.
“For the first time, at the end of 2015, government achieved a primary surplus, first time in decades. Every month so far in 2016, government collected more money than projected. The Inland Revenue Department, the Customs Department collected more money than was projected”, he said.
“…Inland Revenue collected $800,000 more last month and that was the least amount we collected. In other words, before that they collected $1.2 million…so government is collecting enough revenue to meet its recurrent expenditure,” he added.
Minister Joseph told reporters that the Keith Mitchell-led administration has reduced the percentage of salary to recurrent expenditure from 70% in 2013 to 48%.
He said only 48% of the revenue collected by government now goes towards paying wages and salary.
“When the IMF told us that we have to bring the wage bill down from 70% to 50% by sending home workers, we said to them, we do not have to send home workers to achieve the targets – we would ask workers to make sacrifices by increasing taxes in certain areas to achieve the same objective and they have applauded the government for getting the wage bill down to under 50% without sending home a single worker and we are very proud of this achievement. We are at 48%,” he remarked.
In rejecting the charges made by Burke, Minister Joseph said the NNP government has been paying salaries on time, without having to borrow from any institution.
The Mitchell-led regime has resorted to an attrition policy in which only three out of every ten vacancies are filled.
The administration was forced to turn to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance with a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to address a severe fiscal situation that existed in 2013.
One month after winning the February general election, the NNP defaulted on payments due to the island’s US bondholders.