Highlights — 20 March 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
Opposition leader blasts Barrow’s budget as “flat and uninspired”

BELMOPAN, Fri. Mar. 15, 2019– Although the budget debate is set for next Monday and Tuesday, the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño, did not wait for debate day; the area representative for Orange Walk Central tore into the budget on Friday at the meeting of the House of Representatives, describing it as “flat and uninspired.”

“We know what’s going on with all of these projects; that is why more and more people are referring to this government as the kick-back government. In effect, this is a kick-back budget; there’s nothing for the productive sector, there is nothing for our ordinary citizens of this country.

“When you think about it, this government has spent approximately 11 billion dollars. Ask yourself, are we better off today? Has poverty gone down? Has crime gone down? Has unemployment gone down? Has productivity gone up? By all the metrics that you take, this is a government that has failed the Belizean people. This budget is an empty budget that was presented today to the Belizean people,” Hon. John Briceño remarked.

Hon. Briceño was asked if he was excited about the paving of the Corozal to Sarteneja road.

“Well, it was about bloody time, don’t you think? This government is about projects and we need a government that is about people,” he replied.

“While you described the budget as a flat budget, the Prime Minister has not announced any new taxes, and he’s made a big deal of that. What’s your comment?” Hon. Briceño was asked.

“Well, what he’s not telling you is that he is going to collect more taxes; he plans to collect at least 44 million dollars more in taxes because what they’re doing is that they’re going to tax every single body and trying to squeeze even what they don’t owe. Yesterday, fuel gone up again; that’s a tax, that’s a direct tax on the pockets of the Belizean people.

“So don’t let the Prime Minister try to fool you that he’s not implementing any more new taxes; he’s squeezing out more from the Belizean people,” Hon. Briceño said.

In the House, Hon. Briceño was unrelenting in tackling the figures the Prime

Minister announced for the road works in the north.

“They are saying that this amount right now is just covering 64% of this portion of the road. So they have to borrow another 36%; that 36%, Madam Speaker, is another 11,250,000 US dollars that has to be borrowed yet. There are so many other pressing needs in this country, Madam Speaker. Look at our small farmers, we need to be able to assist them … they can’t get access to affordable funding; they can’t get access to not even the local markets; their roads, whenever it rains, it’s impossible — we need to be working with the productive sector, Madam Speaker,” stated Hon. Briceno.

“Yes, we want the tourists to have a nice paved road – yes, nobody denies that, but we have more pressing needs, Madam Speaker. Look in San Pedro, San Pedro don’t have a hospital. How many budgets they promised a hospital in San Pedro? Every year they promise that they are going to build the hospital,” Briceno further lamented.

PM Barrow responded to the criticism of his budget by saying, “I really am speechless.”

“I thought that going to Caracol was a kind of national ‘desiderato,’ if I can use that term. The benefits in terms of tourism … and the member for Cayo North East described it as wilderness.

“Man, as I understand it, some of the most pristine, nationally beautiful areas you can find in our entire country, and what is happening out there, or what can happen in terms of tourism, the lodges that we will put, plus there is a security element to it as well.

“But if they don’t agree that doing the road to Caracol is in the national interest, Madam Speaker, I can’t argue with them,” Barrow responded.

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