RJR News / The Government of Jamaica is projecting to spend $773.7 billion in the new fiscal year which begins on April 1. This is $31.8 billion less than the $805.5 billion budgeted for the current fiscal year. On the recurrent or house-keeping side of the new budget is $560 billion up from $515 billion in 2017/2018, while the capital budget is slashed from $290 billion to just less than $214 billion. There are sizeable increases for national security, education, justice, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation despite the $31 billion cut in the planned expenditure. As usual, the lion’s share of the expenditure will be to service the country’s debt, with $136.9 billion set aside for interest payments, down from $137.6 billion last year and $152 billion allocated for amortisation, a sharp reduction from the $243 billion allocated last year. Finance Minister Audley Shaw tabled the Estimates of Expenditure on Thursday afternoon, which will now be referred to the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives. “The new practice, of course, is that there is a period where the Auditor General gets to review the Fiscal Policy Paper and so the Standing Finance Committee will meet on February 27, February 28 and if necessary, March 1….and beyond that, the debate will commence with my formal presentation on the 8th of March,” he announced. There is a new feature of the 2018/2019 Estimates of Expenditure. The Estimates now contain six years of budget information rather than the usual three. The information encompasses provisional and audited actual expenditure for 2016-17, the approved and revised estimates for the current fiscal year 2017-18, estimates for the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19, as well as projected estimates for 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 fiscal years. Mr. Shaw explained that the projections for the additional three years are indicative of the level of spending which will be undertaken to continue the implementation of existing programmes and maintain government’s operations at current levels. He said the estimates will be revised each year “to ensure alignment of the expenditure with the forcasted resources envelope and government’s policy for priorities.” It will also indicate levels of growth achieved and the success in revenue enhancement, including enhanced tax compliance initatives. The added three years of spending in the Estimates of Expediture will become a permanent fixture in the estimates and will shortly be extended to the revenue estimates, Mr. Shaw indicated. Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding, has welcomed the new budget feature. “The move to rolling three year projections on the expenditure side is something that the Ministry of Finance has been working towards for some time and it is good that we have reached the point where we are seeing it in these estimates,” he insisted.