BELIZE CITY, Fri. May 8, 2020– Last month, the mayors in the nine municipalities of the country were all informed that they should cut their operating costs. The mayors were hoping that after the lockdown is over, they would be able to get some kind of assistance from central government.
There was no response to their correspondence on the question of assistance from government, and as the easing of the state of Emergency measures begins to take effect, the municipal bodies are returning to work to find that the lockdown has devastated their finances.
At his virtual press conference this morning, Prime Minister Dean Barrow painted a gloomy picture of government’s finances. Prior to this most recent press conference, Barrow had been sounding the alarm that government has no money and will have to borrow its way through the crisis.
With the country’s external debt hovering close to 100 percent of GDP, borrowing may become a challenging proposition for the government.
Barrow was asked today what assistance municipal bodies can look forward to from the government.
“Government’s revenue collections are collapsing, have collapsed. We have to borrow to keep the public service [running]. But we do that and at the same time have to then reject the calls for help from the private sector, including in particular, in this case, for the airlines, and that is why you will forgive me for having become so [incensed] at the fact that the Public Service Union does not want to put this thing in perspective. It can’t be that everyone else must suffer to a huge terrific degree, but that a slight concession on your part, Mr. PSU, is not to be entertained,” Barrow explained.
Since the PSU has apparently gotten the attention of the Prime Minister, he was asked by a Plus TV reporter, “What guarantee, if any at all, can be given to the Public Service Union and their members that this is perhaps a one-time sacrifice that is being asked to be made during these difficult challenging times?”
Barrow replied, “The only guarantee is the one I have given, that I will borrow until I can borrow no more. But everybody must realize that beyond that, there can be no absolutely fail-safe on any… guarantee. The Central Bank will not be able to print money until ‘thy kingdom come.’ If there comes a time when there is simply no more money, then we’ll have to examine the circumstances.”
Feature photo: Prime Minister Dean Barrow