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LOO says the budget is “bogus”

PoliticsLOO says the budget is “bogus”

BELMOPAN, Fri. Mar. 25, 2022– At last Thursday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, members of the House took part in the first portion of a two-day debate over the contents of the 2022-2023 Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, during which the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Moses “Shyne” Barrow, referred to the $1.3 billion budget as one of wastage that neglects the masses. Throughout the course of his hour-long presentation, Hon. Barrow criticized the Government for poor prioritization of public funds in what he referred to as a “bogus budget”—highlighting a lack of focus on poverty alleviation as well as a questionable amount of budget cuts, including an estimated $10 million cut to the funds allocated for the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Mesopotamia area representative also took great issue with the proposed $20 million capitalization of the Central Bank of Belize.

“The problem is inflation. The problem we have is a housing problem. The problem we have is a poverty problem. Those are the problems we have. The Central Bank has had the same capital for the last 40 years. It has not been a problem. You could have taken those 20 million dollars and invested it into education…,” said Hon. Barrow.

In response to this, Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Cordel Hyde told Hon. Barrow that he “should know better,” and went on to point out that the capitalization of the Central Bank is “absolutely necessary.” Hon. Hyde further stated that he considered dismissing much of Barrow’s criticisms — citing the fact that his debate presentation resembled a campaign speech.

During his presentation, the Leader of the Opposition also elaborated on his view that the budget does not take the masses into consideration, pointing out that, despite Government’s proclamation that the economy has been rebounding tremendously, the purported economic growth is not reflected in the quality of life of most Belizean citizens.

“Despite what the SIB says, despite these Shakespearian declarations of a booming economy and this Herculean recovery—that is not what the Belizean people are saying. And I’m not going to trust the statisticians that you are relying on. I’m going to trust what the Belizean people are saying. And they are suffering,” he said. Hon. Cordel Hyde responded by pointing out that the current administration has had to contend with what it inherited: a broke government.

“The truth of the matter is, Madam Speaker, that the former Prime Minister, and perhaps it was only the former Prime Minister and his inner circle who know what a bucket of slop he was leaving for us. The problem with that bucket of slop, Members, is that we can’t pay to take it out. We have to take it out ourselves,” he remarked. Reiterating his sentiments was the Minister of Education, Hon. Francis Fonseca, who admonished Hon. Barrow for bemoaning the challenges currently faced by the people of Belize while not acknowledging that many of those challenges existed during the UDP administration’s 12-year reign.

On day two of the debate, Hon. Tracy Panton expressed her own disappointments with the budget, criticizing the government for not allowing a full two-week window (the customary time period) for members to review the estimates.

“Only 1.8% of the budget is allocated to the Ministry of Human Development,” she pointed out, noting—much like Hon. Shyne Barrow before her—that the lack of funding being provided to such a “key ministry” contradicts the current administration’s description of the budget as fair and inclusive.

At the end of the two-day debate, Prime Minister John Briceño, in his concluding speech, responded to some of the criticisms made against the budget, particularly those made by Hon. Barrow. The Prime Minister called out the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the entire United Democratic Party, for boasting about their consecutive three terms in Government while having done little during that time to tackle issues such as poverty.

“Over those 13 years, his [the member for Corozal North, Hon. Hugo Patt] UDP government spent over 14 billion dollars, more than an average of 1 billion dollars per year. And what does the country have to show for it? Poverty is at a historic high. In 2018, 52% or more, measured by recent estimates. That’s 1 out of every 2 citizens are considered poor. What was the rate in 2008? It was around thirty-four percent. But, your people spent 14 billion, and yet, poverty increased by almost twenty percent. All factual records show that the poverty rate increased from 34% to over 50% during their 13 years in office and after spending 14 billion dollars,” said the Prime Minister, who also remarked that it was difficult to take the Leader of the Opposition’s critiques seriously, because they lacked “shame and common sense”.

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