Teachers took industrial action this month after the Baldwin Spencer administration failed to pay the November salaries as scheduled.
But as he delivered the 2012-13 national budget on Monday, Finance Minister Harold Lovell said that payment of salaries and wages for December have already been sent to banks.
“The December wages and salaries will not be late. In fact I am pleased to announce that this morning we started paying December salaries and two banks have already been paid…and we will ensure that this is completed and so persons will have no fear.
“I also want to say that we have been able to maintain regular consistent payment with respect to the government pensioners and that is something we will ensure is never compromised.”
He said with respect to Social Security pensioners, there was a notice indicating they would be paid after the Christmas, but Lovell said that he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Spencer and payment will be made soon.
“We are resolved whatever it takes this must not happen. Those persons who have laboured in the vineyard, who have done their time, paid their dues, must ensure that whatever has to be done, they must be paid before Christmas,” he said to loud applause from government legislators.
Lovell also announced that Antigua and Barbuda is expected to record a positive current account balance indicating that the current deficit is expected to improve by 99 per cent following from EC$78.8 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) in 2011 to one million dollars in 2012.
“This was made possible by strong performance in the revenue sources such as the ABST (Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax) which increased by 12 per cent compared to 2011.”
He said personal income had also increased by 27 per cent and stamp duty by 41 per cent.
“On the expenditure side wages and salaries amounted to EC$267 million, which is about one per cent more than 2011. It is still however below the EC$299 million that we were spending on payroll in 2009.
“So that figure is budgeted, a lot of it depends on cash flow. What we have to make sure is that we have sufficient revenues coming in to meet those commitments when they become due”.
Lovell said goods and services grew by 11 per cent compared to 2011 and reflected increases spending on road maintenance and payment to contractors and suppliers.
He said the Baldwin Spencer government is also working to ensure that it does not default on its international financial obligations in 2013.
“Antigua and Barbuda is now moving in a direction from 140 per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which is not sustainable. We are moving towards what the ECCU (Eastern Caribbean Currency Union) has set as a target for 2020 at 60 per cent.
“When you are at 60 per cent it means your interest payments are going to be manageable, it means you are not going to be choking out your other payments. The other payments that are so essential for the well-being of your people.
“Not only that when you borrow and you just ignore for 20 years what you are saying to the generation that is coming after, is that you will spend and they will pay. How can that be right, that cannot be right,” he told legislators.
(Re-printed from Caribbean360)