BELMOPAN, Sat. May 29, 2021– In the most recent sitting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño announced plans to improve the passport system in Belize. The Prime Minister said during his address to the House that the existing system is outdated and inefficient. His administration thus intends to allocate $10 million Belizean dollars over a course of 5 years to improve the system, and align it with internationally recognized standards.
“It’s going to cost 10 million US dollars over the next 5 years, and it’s going to cost that much also because it will include the blank passport that we’ll be getting, modern passport books that will be embedded with microchips in it. Now, we are going to put all of your information in your passport. It will have all the security features, so that when you go anywhere in the world, like for instance the European Union. They are saying they are prepared now to accept our passports as being secured,” explained Prime Minister Briceño.
Referring to the passport system that is currently in place, the Prime Minister said, “It’s falling apart. There are no parts for it. There is no servicing for it. The cameras are not working. They’re telling us sometimes you have to take 5-6 pictures for it to be able to get one good picture. Our citizens living in the United States and living in the UK and other areas could no longer apply for a passport. They have to come all the way to Belize, simply because the UDP Government was not prepared to do what is right, which was to upgrade the passport system.”
Prime Minister Briceño further lamented the fact that the improvements to the system had not been done earlier by the previous administration. “There was a Cabinet paper — I think it was in 2018, when the Minister of State brought the paper, explained to them what was happening. But, they decided to do nothing about it. Now, because of their negligence, we have to try to find monies, after you done already squandered everything — monies that we could have used to get people back to work, the children back to school, and to be able to pay our public officers, we have to be using this money to upgrade a passport system that is absolutely necessary for us to do,” he said.
The members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, however, stated at the House sitting that this initiative is needless and comes at an inopportune time. Hon. Briceño countered their arguments by stating that $2 million dollars annually for 5 years can do no harm. He remarked, “Where will 2 million dollars put you? When, as it is right now, with all the cuts, we are still going to be short in our recurrent budget, $100 million dollars.”
He then pointed to the critical role that a functioning passport system plays in our economy. “If our passport system crashes, then nobody cannot travel. Nobody cannot come in. Nobody cannot come out. Then it will make business even worse,” he said. This step is essential to ensuring a fluid source of income, the PM further told the members of the House.