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On the weekly Government Information Agency (GINA) television programme `Centre Page' aired over the weekend on GTV 11, he said security measures to combat the current crime wave which began early last year, have had to be increased.
"Criminal activities caused a lot of problems in terms of resources which had to be diverted (from other areas of the economy) to aid in crime fighting", he said.
Since the February 23 jailbreak, there has been an upsurge in criminal activities which has led to the deaths of a number of law enforcement officers and civilians.
For 2003, priority will be given to security "to enable the crime fighting forces to be more professional," among other things, the Finance Minister explained.
The 2002 Budget did not provide for the current amount of spending in crime fighting and security measures.
As a result the Government has had to divert funds from key sectors of the economy to boost crime-fighting measures.
Additionally, businesses on the whole did not perform favourably in 2002 and this was due in part to the current crime wave.
Minister Kowlessar noted that many businesses have had to close their doors.
"Many of them had to rearrange their whole systems and work schedule", he said.
Many privately owned businesses also had to divert funds that were initially set aside for commercial use, to implement additional security measures, he pointed out.
According to the Finance Minister, a combination of these reasons made 2002 a very difficult year for the economy.
Notwithstanding these constraints, there was a positive economic growth rate, he said.
Meanwhile, routine consultations with stakeholders leading up to Budget presentations are to commence shortly.
Last year, the Ministry of Finance presented a $68B budget that was to be funded through revenue collection and international lending agencies. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY - GINA)