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Gov't pays off JPS debt; House approves third supplementary estimates

 THE Government announced Tuesday that it has now paid off its long-standing arrears with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company for street lights, and that it intends to keep payment current in the future.
“After today we will have no arrears for street lighting from the JPS,” Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke announced while piloting the third supplementary estimates through the House of Representatives.
Dr Clarke explained that the new estimates included a payment of $2.1 billion to the JPS which, added to the $7.2-billion payment made in January, has now covered the Government's debt to the power company of $9.3 billion.
He said, too, that by paying off the street light arrears, the Government has now put the country in a very strong position to bargain with the JPS in respect of the company's provision of electricity to the country.
“I don't think we have been in this position to be current with the JPS in a very, very long time,” the minister commented.He informed the House, however, that the funds for the payment of the light bill, as well as several other services addressed by the new supplementary estimates, would not affect the total $802.5 billion budget which was approved in January when the second supplementary estimates were approved by Parliament.
“The revised estimates for 2018/19 indicate there is no deviation between expenditure outturns projected in the second supplementary estimates, approved in January, and the third supplementary estimates, which are before us now,” Clarke noted.He said that the third supplementary estimates, instead, represented a reallocation of expenditure from areas where allocation has been made, but the funds have not yet been spent with only five days to go to the end of the current fiscal year 2019/20 next week Sunday.
He explained that, in addition to paying off the JPS arrears the unused funds – $577 million – would be used to pay off arrears to suppliers of goods and services to Tax Administration Jamaica, which will allow the agency to clear substantial arrears going into 2019/20.
He also announced that a $1.5-billion allocation which is included for contingency for natural disasters, with Jamaica scheduled to end its precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, which included disaster risk contingency.
This will increase the Government's contingency funds in the estimates for possible disaster risks to $2 billion. The funds will be held by the Accountant General in the Bank of Jamaica purely for support in the event of major natural disasters.
Dr Clarke said that the increased provisions would be transferred to the Contingencies Fund established under Section 13 of the Financial Administration and Audit Act (FAAA) and held by the accountant general in the Bank of Jamaica. This is in keeping with the provisions of the FAA Act 's Fiscal Responsibilities Framework, which requires the Government to make budgetary provision for weather-related risks.
In response, Opposition spokesman on finance Mark Golding said that his side was pleased that the budgetary arrangements within the fiscal year were in place, so that the country can start 2019/20, on April 1, with an approved budget with all the necessary tidying up for the current fiscal year completed.
“It is showing a certain maturity in our public financial affairs, which is where it needs to be at this hour,” Golding said.
The House then passed the estimates.


Source:Jamaica Observer