Friday, November 10, 2006

BVI Finance Ministry Offers 2007 Budget Considering Economic Growth on the Territory

Minister for Finance of the BVI Honourable Ronnie W.Skelton has reported that the BVI Government has ended the year with a surplus above recurrent expenditures in excess of $30 million. The announcement was made on November 7, when the Minister delivered the 2007 Budget address before a packed audience at the Legislative Council Chambers. He also named the two major factors which caused the surplus: first, Government's ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility and strategic management of the people's money, and second, strong and rapidly developing economy of the BVI, which this year posted an impressive growth rate over 7%.

Hon. Skelton also provided information on Government plans to contribute approximately $17 m to the BVI reserve fund and approximately $4.5 m for the pension, emergency and disaster contingencies, repair and renewal funds. He said that Government will still have $25 m left for major development projects including sewerage, roads and rehabilitation of schools.

Revenue collection for 2007 is expected to be at $254.02 million, while recurrent expenditure is budgeted at $222.39 million. That means that total revenue collection anticipated in the proposed 2007 budget is $20 million more than the 2006 figure.

The Finance Minister has also announced as a top priority of the BVI Government taking strong measures to struggle with the rising cost of living in the Territory, and the expansion of Government's tax-relief efforts, namely, increasing the tax-exemption level from $7,500 to $10,000.

Other Government measures will include implementing two steps to lower prices on goods sold at businesses. Hon. Skelton has informed on the expected introduction of two-tier customs duty system that will allow businesses to import goods at discounted rates and a special duty reduction on construction materials. He said that this measure will allow savings to be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. In support of this initiative, Government will establish a special Cost of Living Committee under the Ministry of Finance, in order to ensure that citizens are not adversely affected by rising prices.

Other Government plans include the continued upgrading the Territory's beach infrastructure, complete purchase of the Virgin Gorda Airport, constructing a visitor centre on Anegada lands and other projects.

Hon. Skelton defined the goal of the 2007 budget as submitting a record of achievement before the judgment of all, to ensure that the promises made are the promises that have been kept.

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