Headline — 28 February 2018 — by Glenn Tillett
Barrow administration “a sinking ship!” says Opposition

The Curacao registered tanker “Syrtos” awaits word of payment from Belize before discharging 300,000 gallons of fuel

Reports are that 14 fuel tankers have arrived from El Salvador to help avert disaster

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 26, 2018– Characterizing the Barrow-Faber administration as “a sinking ship”, PUP party leader and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, at a press conference this afternoon, laid out a raft of concerns such as the shooting death of a 12-year-old, the criminal conduct of the security forces which resulted in two deaths in recent days, and the Government of Belize’s poor fiscal performance and its consequential effect on Belize’s social and political economy.

The PUP leader opened his remarks by saying that the nation was being beset by a number of troubling trends and expressed being very perturbed by the beating death of Orange Walk resident Arial Salazar, allegedly at the hands of the Belize Special Assignment Group.

He said he was further disturbed to have just learned that another person had allegedly been killed in Dangriga last night, again at the hands of the police.

For Hon. Briceño, the troubling issues did not stop there. He expressed his dismay at a leaked memo from Financial Secretary Joseph Waight demanding that the CEOs of various ministries stop “trolling” the various government accounts for money because while there may be money on paper, no money no deh, he said emphatically.

Briceno said the memo and the affair confirmed what they had suspected all along, that Belize’s public debt had soared to 100% of GDP.

He went on to say he had spoken to the Financial Secretary, who had tried to allay his fears, but at this point, he clearly fears the worst.

It is alarming, he told the media, that in the midst of all this he has received reports that government ministers continue to try and get their hands on money from the education budget to engage in vote- buying. He said that he has spoken to a school principal who is hearing from parents who are asking for letters that they can take to UDP ministers, presumably to receive money for “school assistance”.

Briceño said he wants to alert families “to go get your letter”. He wants there to be fairness and equity in this disbursement of public money largesse.

Even with all that, Briceño noted, it just does not seem to end. He pointed out that a fuel tanker is currently in the Port of Belize, refusing to unload because the company has not been paid for the last “5 shipments”.

He said that as he understood it, GOB pays Puma, who in turn pays the Venezuelan company, PDVSA, but GOB has not paid Puma, who in turn has not paid PDVSA. He said that there has been a rationing of diesel fuel for some time now, and it is hurting the productive sector. Our economy is already on its knees and this does not help, said Briceño.

The PUP party leader ended his summary of the troubling issues by noting that the Barrow-Faber administration continues to be embroiled in litigation that is costing Belizean taxpayers millions of dollars. He noted that Prime Minister Barrow, when he was in the Opposition, was always easily available to the media, but now one must wonder why he is avoiding the press.

He accused Mr. Barrow of “hiding the budget” from the voters, since the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has stated that he will not present the budget before the March 7 municipal elections. He assumed, therefore, that it must be a bad-news budget.

In answer to a question, he said that he had never seen a memo from the Financial Secretary before demanding that public officers stop spending money because it could lead to a default.

The Barrow-Faber administration is guilty of massive mismanagement, he said, and it is now a sinking ship.

Reports at press time this evening is that a convoy of 14 fuel tankers with 1,000 gallons each of gasoline and diesel have arrived in Belize from El Salvador. The shipment averts what was a pending severe shortage of fuel which would have been catastrophic to the social and political economy of Belize.

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Deshawn Swasey

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