The Andrew Holness administration has allocated an additional $1.5 billion for the maintenance of secondary roadways for the current fiscal year.
Further, the Government has increased, by $1 billion, the budgetary allocation for what it described as islandwide disaster mitigation.
At the same time, another $1.7 billion has been slashed from the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project, an ambitious undertaking through which approximately 110 kilometres of roadway between Harbour View in east Kingston and Port Antonio in Portland is to be rehabilitated.
The revised spending was included in the Second Supplementary Estimates for the current fiscal year, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
It projects an $11-billion increase in the 2018-2019 Budget, with just over $10.2 billion going towards recurrent or housekeeping expenses and $1.3 billion going towards capital projects.
According to the Second Supplementary Estimates, the Government now plans to spend just over $802.5 billion this fiscal year, compared with the $791 billion that was projected in the First Supplementary Estimates and the $773 billion that was projected when the Budget was passed last March.
Clarke indicated that the latest estimates will be reviewed by the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
A breakdown of the additional $1.5 billion allocated for the maintenance of secondary road shows that $1.2 billion has been set aside for the “islandwide Special Road Repairs Programme”; $200 million for the clearing of drains; and $150 million for the removal of landslides, patching “and other repairs to roads affected by rain events”.
However, Opposition Spokesman on Works Mikael Phillips told The Gleaner late yesterday that this allocation needs to be explained.
“Is this money owed for work done or is it for a new programme? We would expect that the details of the programmes would be shared with the public,” said Phillips, the Member of Parliament for North West Manchester.
According to the Second Supplementary Estimates, the additional $1 billion allocated for islandwide disaster mitigation is to cover the costs of bushing and the cleaning of drains and gullies, among other things.
Phillips said this, too, needs further clarity.
When the Budget was approved by the Parliament in March 2018, $3.6 billion was set aside to carry out the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project. The allocation for the project now stands at $490 million following cuts of $1.4 billion and $1.7 billion in the first and second Supplementary Estimates.
The Second Supplementary Estimates attributed the reduction to “slower than programmed project implementation”.
For Phillips, the decrease raises questions.
“The further reduction in the amount set aside for the Southern Coastal Highway Project leaves us to ask the question whether the Government was ever in a position to start this project in this financial year,” Phillips stated.