BELMOPAN, Fri. June 26, 2020– Earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Dean Barrow revealed that government’s revenue was completely dried up and that “I would have to borrow until I can’t borrow no more.”
In his capacity of Minister of Finance, PM Barrow introduced and steered four loan motions, totaling $60 million, through all their stages at the sitting of the House of Representatives today.
Government has approached the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank for the loans, which amounts to $30 million U.S. dollars.
A loan of U.S. $12 million was approved by the IDB to provide assistance to low income workers who are presently displaced due to the pandemic; then, there is a loan of U.S. $15 million to assist the government in its debt service obligations; the CDB also provided a U.S. $1 million dollars loan to assist cane farmers in the north. The International Fund for Agriculture Development Bank also approved a U.S. $1.9 million for the Resilient Rural Belize Project.
The government’s loan motions drew blistering from Opposition People’s United Party parliamentarians, beginning with the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, who expressed concern that the Prime Minister’s term is nearing its end and that the country is approaching an election period.
Hon. Briceno also said that the Opposition had brought a no-confidence motion against the government in March, and that it was brought on behalf of the people of Belize, who, he said, “has lost confidence in the government.”
Hon. Briceño said, “… during the debate of no-confidence … at no time did the Prime Minister address the fact that the member from Cayo South and myself had successfully brought before the Chief Justice a case that the government has violated the constitution and had unlawfully spent over 1 billion dollars without the prior approval of the House.”
Hon. Kareem Musa (Caribbean Shores) also spoke to the media about the case. He said that we have to look into the reason why the Chief Justice’s contract was not renewed – was it because of this landmark case, he asked. We are talking about 1.5 billion dollars that he spent illegally, Musa said.
The Opposition says they will keep following the case and plan to appeal all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ.)
In the oral decision in court, CJ Benjamin had declined to grant the injunction the PUP claimants were seeking as remedy for the government’s breach, but had given the government 6 months to fix the illegal and unconstitutional spending.