BELIZE CITY, Wed. Oct. 14, 2015–Independence Hall, the home of the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), barely had standing room this morning, as twenty-nine members of the PUP Team’s 31 standard bearers for the general elections, along with dozens of their supporters decked out in the party’s blue and white colors, gathered for the release of its “Governance Agenda, The Social Contract with the People.”
The PUP Leader Francis Fonseca was the first to address the gathering, and he elaborated on his party’s social contract with the people.
Fonseca said that the Belizean people have lost trust and confidence in the structures of governance.
“The Belizean reality in 2015 is waste and corruption in government, a hotbed of corruption at the Lands Department; widespread corruption at Immigration, resulting in the scandalous and shameful sale of our national identity by Cabinet ministers; the erosion of the rule of law, deepening inequality in the allocation of economic and social opportunities, the very dangerous philosophy of UDP first and Belizeans second,” he said.
Fonseca added, “The system needs to be changed for ordinary Belizeans to get fair opportunities. This Social Contract that we present to you today does not stand alone; it stands beside our Health Reform Agenda, our Education Reform Agenda, our Social Justice Agenda and our Women’s Agenda, so it complements these very important agendas,” he said.
Fonseca said that very shortly the PUP will launch its Economic Agenda and the party’s Manifesto.
“For eight years Belize has been subjected to the power of one man, who has said no to the 13th senator, one man who has said no to the Integrity Commission; one man who has said no to the Public Accounts Committee; one man who has protected and defended corruption and incompetence among his ministers; one man who listens to no one. Our Social Contract is about the power of the people,” Fonseca said.
Julius Espat, the PUP’s standard bearer for Cayo South said, “The Prime Minister has not been able to respect the rule of law.”
Espat said the economy cannot move forward if we cannot solve our basic governance issues.
“For too long we have seen how ministers abuse their powers. For too long we have seen that we have laws written in place, but there are no penalties that we can enforce,” Espat said.
Espat went on to read the United Nations’ definition of poverty – poverty is hunger, poverty is lack of shelter, poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor, poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read, poverty is not having a job, poverty is the fear of the future, poverty is losing a child as a result of unclean water, poverty is powerlessness, poverty is the lack of representation, he said.
Espat said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Dean Barrow we are in poverty.
“We …will form the next government,” Espat told the gathering.
Among the bullet points of the PUP’s Social Contract are the disbanding of the Gang Suppression Unit and the repealing of the draconian gun law, as well as the prosecution of acts of abuse by persons in authority. The Social Contract also includes a commitment to build the forward operating base on Sarstoon Island and Hunting Caye, and an additional outpost in Chiquibul. The PUP additionally pledge in the Social Contract to appoint the 13th Senator, and require Senate confirmation of key appointments of senior public officers, the Auditor General, Contractor General, DPP and judges.
The PUP’s Social Contract also includes a pledge to reconfigure and empower the Public Accounts Committee to include the social partners and to provide independent oversight of public finances.
It further includes pledges to exempt thousands of workers from paying income tax, provide tax relief for small businesses and adequate tax credit for losses to businesses, and simplify the customs duty laws.
The PUP is promising an Upliftment Fund from out of the proceeds of the Venezuelan Petrocaribe Fund, and in its first 100 days, the party pledges to raise the minimum wage and increase social security benefits for workers and pensioners. They will also appropriate adequate funds in the national budget to ensure free education from pre-school to sixth form, and will also provide scholarships to the University of Belize and other tertiary institutions for students who maintain a grade point average of 3.5.
The PUP’s contract additionally includes the rolling out of National Health Insurance (NHI) across the entire country.
Following the presentation by Espat and Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, all PUP candidates present signed onto the Social Contract.