Gov’t providing $126m to help J’cans in need during weekend lockdowns

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke yesterday said the Government will be providing aggregate spending of $126 million to central and local government representatives to assist constituents during the three consecutive weekends of lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to Dr Clarke, the evolving nature of the coronavirus public health dynamics could have a significant impact on budgetary outcomes, and with uncertainties still existing, Sunday’s announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness of the new measures to contain the spread was a fulfilment of the reality.

“In light of the programmed triple-weekend lockdown, the Government of Jamaica will provide $2 million per constituency to support citizens requiring assistance across the lockdown periods,” he told the House of Representatives as he closed the 2021/22 budget debate.

He explained that the provisions will be disbursed to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) on April 1 for further distribution, as the uncertainties continue to increase the risks in the budgeting and fiscal forecasting process, and where prudence is required.

Clarke also accused Opposition Leader Mark Golding and his finance spokesman Julian Robinson of producing inaccurate data and false assertions in their budget presentations, adding that, in the interest of public discourse, he needed to address them.

He said much of Robinson’s thesis was grounded in “proverbially inaccurate and factually wrong” claims about Jamaica’s fiscal spend in response to the pandemic.

He began by tackling what he said were errors which originated in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, and which were reproduced by Robinson in his contribution to the debate. They included the issue of Government’s financing of the health ministry’s response to the pandemic, including the compassionate grants.