Tue | Mar 26, 2019

Big boost for crime fight - Billions more to beef up police, army; $1b for cop cars, $3.7b for aircraft

Published:Friday | February 15, 2019 | 12:13 AM

The Jamaican Government will be ramping up its fight against crime, rolling out new legislation geared at giving the security forces greater powers and allocating $9.2 billion more to the Ministry of National Security than fiscal year 2018-19.

The Government is projecting to spend approximately $803.2 billion in fiscal year 2019-20, which begins on April 1, about $700 million more than its revised Budget of $802.56 billion in fiscal year 2018-19, suggesting a comparatively flat Budget. Debt payments account for almost 34 per cent of planned expenditure, with $136.12 billion set aside for interest payments and $138.3 billion allocated for amortisation, or debt maturity.

On the recurrent or housekeeping side of the new Budget is $731.1 billion, up from $582.5 billion last year, while the capital budget is reduced from $220 billion to $72.1 billion.

Finance and Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke yesterday tabled the Estimates of Expenditure for 2019-20, which showed that the Ministry of National Security has been allocated $72.48 billion on the recurrent side of the Budget, $1.6 billion more than FY 2018-19, and $20.2 billion on the capital side versus $12.6 billion in year-on-year.

The military will get a 50 per cent increase in spending on defence services, from $8.5 billion to $12.6 billion, $3.7 billion of which will be used to acquire an aircraft and another $3.5 billion for equipment for the coast guard.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force will be bolstered by an 85 per cent increase in capital spending for the maintenance of law and order, up from $4 billion in FY 2018-19 to $7.4 billion. Of that amount, $1 billion will be used to acquire vehicles, $1.5 billion is projected to be spent on cybersecurity, and $1.4 billion for the Citizen Security and Justice Programme III, an Inter-American Development Bank programme.

An Enhanced Security Measures Act, slated for tabling in the coming fiscal year, will be part of a suite of legislative efforts upon which the Government will embark to add to the gains wrought by states of emergency and zones of special operations, which were attributed for a 23 per cent dip in murders nationally and a 70 per ce nt slide in St James, home to the resort city of Montego Bay, in calendar year 2018.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, in his one-hour Throne Speech, revealed that as part of the measures to further drive down the murder rate, the Government plans to complete the overhaul of the anti-gang legislation, which is now being reviewed by a joint select committee of Parliament. In addition, the Government plans to strengthen the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Firearms Act.

The Ministry of Finance has been allocated $391.3 billion, of which $5.7 billion is on the capital side.

The largest decline in allocation in dollar terms is the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which gets $18.4 billion on the capital side, compared with fiscal year 2018-19 when it got $29.55 billion.

Notwithstanding, it is that ministry through which, based on Sir Patrick’s Throne Speech, the Government will, in fiscal year 2019-20, undertake a comprehensive multiagency national survey of squatter settlements to accurately assess the problem. The survey will also provide critical socio-economic, demographic, and environmental information on those settlements that will inform the policy development process as well as intervention strategies. Approximately 900,000 Jamaicans are estimated to be illegal settlers.

The Ministry of Health gets $69.6 billion, compared with $68.4 billion in the previous fiscal year. The governor general had also said that the Government would continue its priority focus on the promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle to alleviate the effects of non-communicable diseases, which have proven to be a burden on the public-health system.

The Ministry of Education has been allocated $106.7 billion on the recurrent side, compared with $102.7 billion last year, and $1.2 billion on the capital side, compared with $1.69 billion in fiscal year 2018-19.

Though the next Budget is nominally flat, there was about $13.2 billion in one-off payments in FY 2018-19, including $7.1 billion in arrears to the Jamaica Public Service Company and $2.5 billion in specialised early retirement.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com