Finances stable assures Financial Secretary
WITH a strong economy and the contribution made in particular by the fishing industry, along with farming, construction and in normal years tourism, the finances of Falkland Islands Government remain stable, the Financial Secretary Tim Waggott assured Members of Legislative Assembly at this year’s Budget session on Tuesday.
Photo: £24.6m for health and wellbeing – the hospital Stanley Falklands
He cautioned: “We do, however remain mindful of the continuing global challenges of the moment.
“Stability and continuity are at the heart of the Falkland Islands Government Budget for 2021/22,” it was noted in a later press release. The two themes were essential in the time of continued uncertainty stemming from the global COVID-19 pandemic and the work on global recovery, it was emphasised.
Mr Waggott broke down the total Appropriation Bill of £102.9 million to show what it covered in different expenditure categories: Departmental operating expenditure £69.6 million, Islands Plan investments £6.1 million, oil development £0.3 million, transfers to pension funds £2.3million, transfer to the Capital Equalisation Fund £25.9 million.
Of particular note in this year’s budget he listed:
• Electricity prices to be reviewed each quarter but this budget assumes they will rise to 23 pence per unit with effect from July 1, 2021.
• £25 increase in annual service charges to reflect refuse costs and £15 per month for furniture hire in government housing.
• Winter fuel allowance will be increased to £700
• Minimum wage will increase from £7.13 an hour to £7.26 an hour from January 2022
• Some increases in customs duties – alcohol by 3% and tobacco by 5% in line with public health policy.
The operating budget for 2021/22 is £77.0 million (excluding internal recharges) and a capital programme of £53.5 million, with the main areas of investment for the coming 12 months including:
• £24.6m for health and wellbeing
• £10.1m for education and training
• £11.6m on radio, transportation, infrastructure and communications
• £8.0m on protecting the environment
The overall commitment to capital projects in 2021/22 continues with the major initiatives proposed in the last Budget for the development of new housing, replacement port facilities, the Tussac House extra care facility and further surfacing works to the MPA Road.
MLA Roger Spink, Government Service, Legal and Regulatory portfolio holder, said: “The Assembly in our last Budget emphasised its foundation on focusing on the wellbeing of people across the Falkland Islands and the negative impact of Covid-19 on our day to day lives. That is why we continue to focus on protecting local services that are important to Falkland Islanders.
“We have like the rest of the world, experienced a significant financial impact as a result of the global pandemic, which was completely unforeseen and has had a knock-on effect on our original projections and estimates, yet we are still delivering a surplus in the current year.
“Our decision to have a ‘no growth’ budget means we have structured our spending in a way that ensures we have the amount needed to fund current programmes and operational costs, yet remain prudent in our approach to public finances. This approach allows us to concentrate on the essentials.
“We are still feeling the economic impact of the global pandemic and, as such, we need to ensure that we maintain a careful focus on how we invest public money in the year ahead.
“Our long-term social vision of giving our children and young people the best possible start remains unchanged, we cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future…”