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#328233 - 03/13/09 10:15 PM PM Presents Budget Report ‘09-’10
Marty Offline
Last Friday, the Prime Minster of Belize, Honorable Dean Barrow made his second budget presentation since taking office in 2008. Before tabling his budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, PM Barrow explained that despite the many difficulties faced by the international financial crisis; the 2008-2009 budget has exceeded expectations and that this year his UDP lead government is bound for a fruitful year.
PM Barrow first explained that the Statistical Institute of Belize reported that the economy grew by 3.8% during 2008. But while the economy grew, PM Barrow also pointed out the shortfall faced during his first year in government. PM Barrow explained that there was a reduction in the unemployment rate to 8.1% from 8.5% in 2007 citing that it can be attributed to all the infrastructure jobs that were created. The PM stated that growth in consumer price contributed to an inflation rate of 6.4% from 2.3% in 2007. While the PM reported that generally citrus and banana saw a slight growth, annual papaya production was down 12.7% to 63.7 million pounds. The 2007/2008 sugarcane deliveries declined by 18.4% to 980,114 long tons, compared to the 2006/2007 crop. PM Barrow attributed those shortfalls as a result of tropical storm Arthur and the froghopper infestation faced by the cane farmers. The fall in sugar output to 78,235 long tons, the lowest output in the last twelve years, was even sharper at 19.5% due to a 2.9% worsening in the cane/sugar ratio, meaning of course that more sugarcane was required to produce a ton of sugar.

But those were not the only figures that were bad news; PM Barrow went on to explain that this year was not good for tourism. “Tourist arrivals declined as stay-over visitors fell for the first time in 12 years with a 2.4% decrease to 236,926 persons, and the number of cruise ship disembarkations also fell for a fourth consecutive year, with a 4.1% reduction,” stated PM Barrow adding that it is a direct result of the global recession.

But while the global economic downturn will continue to affect some sectors like tourism and the international prices for Belize’s exports, the Statistical Institute of Belize is still projecting G.D.P. growth to be between 2.5% and 3.0% for 2009.

But PM Barrow made firm on his commitment to “a better way,” stating that he will address areas of priority. “Government is holding high its commitment to the education, health, social and physical wellbeing of the Belizean public. To this end, we are allocating additional budget expenditures to those priority areas of education, health, food security and the physical infrastructure,” outlined the PM.

And how does the government plan to make good on their commitment? The PM stated that a part of it will come from Tax payers in the $1.00 increase at the fuel pump. “There has been as long a spell of incredibly low pump prices as we could possibly have managed. I also note that the increase we are proposing is only $1.00 per gallon on gasoline and diesel. This amounts to less than one half of the taxes that were removed over the last year. It will still keep diesel at below the $6.00 per gallon mark. This single step will yield thirty million dollars and that took us half way to closing the financing gap. Government’s economic diplomacy did the rest and we are now, so to speak, home free,” announced the Prime Minister. The economic government diplomacy that the PM was referring to came from a number of sources, stated the PM, “This financing requirement will be met from the following already secured sources of financing: 1) Draw downs of approximately US$28.8 million in project related loans already committed for the Capital III Program. 2) Drawdown of US$7.5 million from a new IDB Social-Fiscal Policy Based Loan. 3) A drawdown of US$20 million from a new Republic of China (ROC) Budget Support Loan, and 4) a moderate amount of domestic financing equivalent to US$5.2 million drawn from balances in the Petrocaribe Fund.”

For 2009-2010 the Prime Minister is budgeting over eight hundred and seven million dollars in revenues and grants, with eight hundred and fifty-nine million in expenditures. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, People’s United Party will get a chance to debate the budget on March 19th.

San Pedro Sun

#329298 - 03/20/09 12:51 AM Re: PM Presents Budget Report ‘09-’10 [Re: Marty]
Short Offline
Sparks Fly and 'Big Lick Throw' in Budget Debate

The Budget was presented two weeks ago – and as was noted at the time, it featured very little in the way of political plums or progress on the UDP’s manifesto pledges. The Prime Minister himself conceded that expectations have had to be scaled back in the midst of a global crisis. But today in his response to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition called that making excuses.

That salvo should have led the charge for a sustained and focused attack from the opposition on a mostly unremarkable budget, but, alas, it wasn’t to be, because three of the PUP’s best debaters did not participate. And for the opposition – which already only has six members – the absence of the three best took the wind out of their sails. And when the government side revealed that it had seen the Leader of the Opposition’s speech before he read it and prepared a detailed, point-by-point response, it all but devastated the opposition bench. But, all that would come to pass later on in the day’s proceedings...we start with that promising opening salvo.

Hon. Johnny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition

“We are a society living in fear and on a path to chaos. On the streets people bawl under the crippling rise in the cost of living while the business community’s confidence is eroding as fast as their line of credit. There are some symptoms of increasing poverty for when days are dark, it is those at the bottom who are first in line to feel the pain. As elected representatives, we must address the needs of our poor in our society before we even face more sorrow.

Our cane farmers who before the dawn put their shoulders to the task only to earn less and less even as they work harder and harder, I am compelled to acknowledge their commitment and their willingness to die to protect their way of life. And all those people who have had to put food on the table, pay the rent, pay school fees, and meet the demands of a family. Of late, too many of them have had to work too hard just to make ends meet. From the farmhand to the handyman, from the domestic to the day earner, from the barber to the bicycle delivery person and from the teacher to the social worker I rise to make representation and I do so with a full sense of the moment.

The Prime Minister set the tone for his budget presentation by listing a number of challenges or should we call them what they are, excuses for not delivering on his most important promise to the Belizean people; to bring down the cost of living no matter what. The people expect their government to perform and to deliver on their promises. In this case the promise of 5,000 new jobs, 1,000 new homes, shares in the oil company, and all those other 21 pledges they proclaimed during their campaign. It comes therefore as some surprise that in their second budget, we see none of these bold pronouncements about new job creation or no $300 education grants for second formers or tuition grant for first year sixth formers. Indeed no promise of plenty. In fact, not even cheaper corn beef or viennna sausages.

What we need to know Mr. Speaker is what happened to the stimulus package. Where is the stimulus? Where is the package? Is this $200 million separate from the approved $175 million for the 08/09 budget or separate from the $163.5 million proposed for the 2009/2010 budget? Or is this $200 million as many now suspect all smoke and mirrors?”

Hon. John Saldivar, Minister of the Public Service

“The Honourable Leader of the Opposition said in his presentation that he was surprised that in our second budget there is no promise of plenty, no silver lining, no cheaper corn beef and Vienna sausage. This guy is a joke Mr. Speaker. Is he still living with the old PUP mentality? He does not get the sense that the people are tired of the old PUP tricks. The people want the truth and if we cannot afford to buy or get something, we must tell the people that we cannot afford to do it.

How come now he wants us to use his government as an example. How can we use his government as an example and he said, ‘the PUP, and I quoting from his speech,’ the PUP in its time in office delivered on its promises and grew the Belizean economy, created jobs, achieved growth, kept people working, kept the lights on, blah blah blah.’ Doesn’t he realize Mr. Speaker that the PUP is dead? In Belmopan they are not even the second party. In Belmopan they are not even the opposition.

The Leader of the Opposition spoke about some feeling of some full sense of the moment. I don’t know what moment he is talking about Mr. Speaker but perhaps it is the sense of the moment that this is his last presentation as Leader of the Opposition because with his massive defeat on March 4th, Member for Albert has already signalled everything is on the table. They are coming for your head.”

But the news that deputy leaders Mark Espat and Cordel Hyde made today was not coming for their leaders head, but walking out on him. The deputies were there for their leader’s address, but left shortly after without making a presentation – leaving the opposition bench – which was also absent Said Musa – almost completely depleted.
The only other news from the bench was Orange Walk east Represe4ntaitve Marcel Cardona’s new position at the dark end of the back bench.

But the biggest news from the floor was Saldivar’s revelation that he was eminently prepared to respond to the leader of the opposition because he’d seen his speech beforehand.

Hon. John Saldivar,
“I hope he has thanked the former Governor of the Central Bank who wrote his speech along with a certain former Ambassador and I can say that Mr. Speaker because I do have a copy verbatim of your speech intercepted through the email. So I know it was not written by the Leader of the Opposition and the least he can do Mr. Speaker, if he wants to become the leader of this country, is to learn to write his own ideas.”

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Freetown Area Rep.
“He seems very proud of the fact Mr. Speaker that somehow he has intercepted an email belonging to the Leader of the Opposition. He seems to be very proud of that fact and I don’t think the people of Belize will be very proud of him for announcing and making this public pronouncement that he is so proud of, that he has intercepted a personal and private email of the Leader of the Opposition. That is a very serious matter. If they can do that to us members of the National Assembly, imagine what they can do to the people of Belize out there, the ordinary man and woman out there. It is a very serious matter and I want to ask the media to ask the leader of the this country, the Prime Minister, you ask him if he supports that action on the part of one of the members of his government and one the part of his party.”

And from that challenge to a moment of levity as Rural North Representative Castro became the first member ever to bring a live fish and other assorted produce from his division into the House – turning the Chamber into something reminiscent of a marketplace.

Hon. Edmund Castro, Belize Rural North Area Rep.
“We have the proof here in the House today. I would like, with your permission, to exhibit tilapia. Things are happening in Belize Rural North. 2) cabbage – great things are happening in Belize Rural North. Mr. Speaker we can’t depend on imported goods. If we don’t produce, we will simply get to a part that we cannot buy because we cannot… it come from Belize Rural North PM. Exhibit c, C for celery. Sweet pepper, cilantro, sorry, my bad. Big tilapia, big cabbage, big sweet pepper – all organically grown right there in Belize Rural North.

These products came from the seeds that we delivered, we had received, partners with the Ministry of Agriculture, over $10,000 worth of seeds and we have the product today here to show you that the stimulus package is working well in Belize Rural North.”

After the meeting, the two pound Red Tilapia fittingly went to Mace-bearer “Yellowman” Audinett and the organic vegetables were distributed among the National Assembly staff. Castro received special permission from the Speaker to introduce the items on the house floor.

With the absence of three opposition members, the debate which had been scheduled to go for two days finished at around 5:30 – considered a very brief session. And what happened to the opposition? As we said, PUP Deputies Espat and Hyde left the floor area soon after their leaders’ speech, but we are told they were in the members’ area at the back until around noon – and left sometime after that. As for Fort George Representative Said Musa, we do know that today March 19th is his birthday – so possibly he didn’t want to spend the day being heckled across the floor – but that’s just a theory.

As for the ethics of the email intercept of the Briceno speech, Prime Minister Barrow addressed it when he wound up the debate, saying that the speech was not intercepted by any government agency, it was done by a third party who passed it over to Saldivar.

Live and let live


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