Office of the Prime Minister
Prime Minister's Address to the Nation
18 August, 2004 - Belmopan
My fellow Belizeans,
A year and a half ago, in March 2003, Belizeans, in an overwhelming show of confidence, entrusted the management of the affairs of this country to the People's United Party. I was given the honour, and the task of leading our government, and it is a responsibility that I intend to fulfill with vigour and with confidence, relying on the support of you, my fellow citizens.
Confidence is critical. No nation, no people can today achieve security and prosperity in the present global climate of general instability, without the will and strength to ensure that we respond in a rational and reasoned manner to the challenges that we are faced with. In times like these faith and trust are essential. In what do I trust?
I trust in an almighty and an eternal God who protects and preserves our beloved country. I also trust in the confidence placed in my leadership by Belizeans, and even more fundamentally, I trust that our nation is one, firmly founded in a democracy that our fathers - and mothers- struggled to give us as a proud heritage.
I have confidence that our nation is rich in those essential resources -human, economic and spiritual - as well as in national and international support, to overcome any difficulty that faces us whether territorial, economic or social, external or internal.
The true test of any democratic and independent nation is the way that the leadership chosen by the people in a free and fair election deals with issues of democratic governance when divergence and differing points of view manifest themselves. Any leader steeped in the principles of compromise and consultation need never fear dissent B it is only natural. It is human, healthy and necessary.
Public debate and freedom of expression is the lifeblood of any democracy. Its vigour demonstrates that our democracy is alive and well. False prophets of doom and gloom would have you believe that a leader should be frightened of contrary opinions and of making tough choices. In their hysteria, they want to bring about a climate that leads to the abandonment of the charge placed on the government by its people. What do these opportunists want you to fear? And why? Put in this very position, what would these cynics do? Choke dissent? Muzzle opinion?
I will never accept that this should be so. I am not made in such an image and likeness.
I have listened to the call of the people. I have considered all opinions carefully with all due respect and consideration for the rights, duties and responsibilities of those involved. My task is simple it is this, and this alone to do that which is in the best interest of the Belizean people and for the nation.
What I consider to be best is that we move ahead with the task you entrusted to us last year B to create economic opportunity, to generate jobs and to provide a dignified standard of living for all Belizeans. It is the duty of a responsible government to do everything in its power to eliminate poverty and to combat the social ills that plague our society.
Our nation is facing serious challenges. We must embrace the tasks at hand and meet these challenges with confidence As a young developing country; we have been buffeted by many storms that have brought devastation to our economic and social infrastructure in recent years. We held the course. We did not weaken.
Yes we had to borrow. Yes we were forced to incur additional debt in order to secure funding to provide for our people in their time of great need. In such a time we had to provide shelter for those who had lost homes. We had to attract investment capital in order to protect jobs generated by the commercial sector and agro-industry. We had to rebuild streets, roads and bridges, hospitals and health centres, schools and centres of learning. How could we not?
Today we face new challenges such as the steady escalation in world oil prices, the reduction of world market prices for our exports and the serious threat of removal of preferential access for our traditional products, in particular bananas and sugar. Despite these circumstances the national economy continues to grow, jobs are being created and our social investment in education, housing, health and water continues in fulfillment of our manifesto promise to the people.
Now we must consolidate our achievements. Whatever changes have to be made to chart the way ahead will be made. The stability of the Belizean dollar has never been in question. The international financial institutions have confirmed the solidity of our currency just recently.
My Government recognizes and appreciates the need for good governance, as well as for broader consultation, accountability and full transparency in the management and oversight of the work of the government particularly in regard to the adoption and implementation of fiscal and monetary policies. We will do that which is required to maintain full confidence in Social Security funds and public finances.
We have heard and will heed the call of our social partners who are willing to work with us on an agenda of action aimed at growing the economy and creating a more just society.
On August 12th, I outlined to the nation a nine-point plan of action, which I am committed to achieving before the end of fiscal year 2004/2005 on March 31st, 2005.
Over the next six months my Government will work with renewed focus and a sense of urgency to restore any erosion of public trust, which may have resulted from the events of the last few weeks. I will hold public consultations with the Belizean people in each district in the weeks and months ahead and continue the dialogue with social and economic partners at home and abroad.
In recognition of the critical importance of the challenges that our nation must face, I will assume full responsibility for the Ministry of Finance as a pledge of my personal commitment to meet and deal with them effectively. Minister Ralph Fonseca will be functionally responsible to pursue the bond issue with the authority of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
I will take on the tasks ahead with your support. I maintain full confidence in all those whom I have appointed as ministers to serve in my new cabinet. Together, we will work as a team to advance our agenda of growth and development, which since 1998, has brought tremendous advancement to our beloved Belize.
The Cabinet will comprise the following:
AUGUST 18, 2004
Hon. Said Musa: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Defence and the Public Service
Hon. John Briceño: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
Hon. Vildo Marin: Minister of Health and the Environment
Hon. Ralph Fonseca: Minister of Home Affairs and Investment
Hon. Assad Shoman: Minister of National Development
Hon. Mark Espat: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Enterprise
Hon. Francis Fonseca: Attorney General and Minister of Education and Culture, Youth and Sports
Hon. Godfrey Smith: Minister of Foreign Affairs and NEMO
Hon. Jose Coye: Minister of Works
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
Hon. Cordel Hyde: Minister of Housing and Transport
Hon. Marcial Mes: Minister of Local Government and Labour
Hon. Servulo Baeza: Minister of Agriculture
Hon. Sylvia Flores: Minister of Human Development
Hon. Eamon Courtenay: Minister of Foreign Trade
Hon. Mike Espat: Minister of Fisheries, Cooperatives and Commerce and
Hon. Ainslie Leslie: Minister of Energy and Communications
MINISTERS OF STATE
Hon: Dave Burgos: Minister of State in the Ministry of Works
Hon. Ismael Cal: Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture
Hon. Rodwell Ferguson: Minister of State in the Ministry of NationalDevelopment
I thank you, the people of Belize, for the patience and forbearance that you have shown during this period of uncertainty. Now that this period has ended, I give you my assurance that the cabinet that I have named will work together with me to pursue the one goal that unites us all to safeguard and promote the well-being of all Belizeans as we move forward, resolutely and confidently to build a better Belize.