Photo: BCCI information session
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 25, 2023
Campaign finance reform is once again a key matter being discussed in the private and political arenas as the Briceño administration outlines its Medium-Term Development Strategy for 2022-2026. The call for Good-Governance in Belize has been sounded by various institutions, from a number of NGO’s to the Cabinet itself, and there has been a general consensus, across party lines, that a law needs to be introduced to govern the acquisition of funding by political parties and candidates. A bill, however, has yet to be brought before the National Assembly.
Campaign finance reform legislation was outlined by the current administration, when it was the Opposition, prior to the 2020 general elections in the PUP’s “Plan Belize” Manifesto, which pledged to bring the draft bill before the National Assembly within the first hundred days of their administration, if they won the elections. Over two years have passed, however, and the PUP still has the legislation on their to-do list. According to their mid-term strategy, the GOB is working to “introduce a Campaign Finance Reform to regulate the timing of elections and campaigning, register political parties, provide public resources, include transparency in mobilization of private funds, and prevent vote buying.” However, the PUP has now set a deadline of 2026 for the introduction of this reform, which extends beyond the duration of their current term in office.
When asked about the Medium Term Plan in regards to campaign finance reform, Cabinet Secretary and Chief of Staff, Stuart Leslie commented, “The party has remained committed to satisfying all the objectives outlined in our manifesto, including our plans to enact good governance. Campaign finance reform is only one part of that agenda and has never escaped our attention. So far, what we have been able to accomplish at the mid-point of our term speaks to the level of work the party has been doing, and the work continues. We fully intend to deliver on all the objectives of the Plan Belize manifesto.”
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry has reportedly drafted their own Campaign Finance Reform bill, which was penned in-house by Chief Policy Analyst, Dyon Elliott. Last week the Chamber held a meeting with their members and presented a poll to determine whether they should proceed to have the draft bill introduced to the Senate via the vote of the Business Senator. The majority of participants in the poll voted in favor of advancing the draft bill.
On Wednesday, the Chamber invited the media to an information session at which they presented the draft bill and shared their stance on Campaign Finance Reform and good governance overall. The BCCI’s president, Marcello Blake, was the first to deliver remarks at the session and emphasized the Chamber’s mandate to advocate for such reform.
“We met with our members last week to open the dialogue on the advantages of Campaign Finance Reform … it came as no surprise that a large majority of our attendees called for the BCCI to pursue the passage of Campaign Finance Reform legislation through the Senate in accordance with section 48 of the Standing Orders of the Senate. Afterall, these are the same stakeholders who continue to fuel Belize’s economy yet have to endure unexplained situations where they are denied a license, whether to import or otherwise, without regard. The same innovators who have to compete on an unlevel playing field depending on the administration of the day. And the same Belizeans who are disenfranchised within their markets because they remain on the wrong side of campaign financing,” Blake said.
Following these remarks, Mr. Elliot presented key aspects of the Chamber’s draft bill and invited members of the media to give their feedback. Blake then granted the media an interview, during which he shared the Chamber’s intent to assist the GoB however possible with the progression of the reform legislation:
“As you would know, the government launched their medium-term development strategy on Monday. We actually met with our members last week Thursday to make a presentation and to get the feedback from our members as to how we move forward with campaign financing reform. Happy to say that our members gave us a resounding nod of approval for us to move ahead with this. So, today’s session was to inform the media of the intricate elements of what campaign finance is, looking at a draft bill that we’ve put together and sharing what could be put into law, and of course we will then see how we can work with the government in order to ensure that this is passed,” Blake said.