PRIME MINISTER DEAN BARROW SAYS COUNTRY MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

In his Independence Day address Prime Minister Dean Barrow said the advances made by Belize despite the global crisis came as a result of a creative and resourceful productive sector and a government determined to enable the economy by increased investment spending plus concessions, incentives and access to credit for the national drivers of growth and development.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“So it is true that our independence and sovereignty do not exist in a vacuum, isolated from international circumstances and it is equally true that those circumstances can be constrained. But whatever limiting factors there are must never be seen as any overarching deterrent. They must never set off our appreciation of the value of nationhood, of the preciousness of political autonomy, of the ultimate worth of freedom. Freedom to seek our own way and make our own fight against whatever odds, size and location and geography might throw up against us.”

Prime Minister Barrow spoke of the debate over the issue of how sovereign we really are after 29 years of independence.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It is true that it can be grand and inspirational and scale the heights after all it is informed by history and the Battle of St. George’s Caye which long ago taught us that great obstacles are no excuse for surrender. But our patriotism is also practical and functional, it is as much represented by today’s farmers and workers and nurses and policemen as by the spirit of the Baymen. Thus, under resourced, and over challenged though we may sometimes be, we fight and claw always to lift this nation up to protect it from xateros and illegal fishers as well as from poverty and violence and underdevelopment. So we repeat to the world our nationalism is both devotional and realistic, both soaring and scrappy, both triumphal and incremental and we wear it with pride. The property of an indigenous ethos that will be never be deterred from moving this country forward even if it is sometimes inch by painful inch."

The Prime Minister went on to list what is being done to advance the social, economic and political agenda. Even though the economy is on a growth path, unemployment is still too high and government is determined to create jobs.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We continue to see the key here as being, from a public sector point of view, our spending on infrastructure. The contract for the new lots of road reconstruction work in the north of our country will be signed imminently thus $25 million will begin to be spent now on the Orange Walk to San Lazaro Road and the Orange Walk to San Estevan to Progresso Road. Government has negotiated with the contractors so that the villagers will be given piece and sub contract work and in each district town and capital City Belmopan, $5 million per area will be spent on drainage and street works as part of the Municipal Development Project that the World Bank Board approved just last week. In the south the multimillion dollar Kendall Bridge winning tender has now been chosen and Government is providing a quarter of a million dollars to the Ministry of Works for urgent remedial attention to the Toledo roads damaged by recent floods. Also the bid for the construction of the $50 million dump to Jalacte Highway were opened on September 15. In Belize City the last portion of the Urban Rejuvenation Fund is being disbursed and by the time that has been spent, phase two of the Southside Poverty Alleviation Project will kick in. Apart from more money for home repairs, this will see the entire length of Central American Boulevard hot mixed, Faber’s Road refurbished and Neal’s Penn Road, Ben Bow Street, Amara Street and a number of others paved. The value of this second tranche of OPEC funding is $22 million and the point of all this is that infrastructure is on the move all across this land and there will be more jobs countrywide.”

Prime Minister Barrow said not much is being done for the private sector by way of affordable financing. He announced that in November President of the IDB Luis Alberto Moreno will be leading a team to Belize to help address the problem. He went on to say that Government is making three million dollars available for loans to small business through the Development Finance Corporation.

During his address Prime Minister Barrow also spoke of the nationalization of BTL.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“And today on this anniversary of our Independence, the wheel is coming full circle for in making my final announcement I wish to tell you that the prospectus is ready and that the sale of shares to the Belizean public will commence on October 15, 2010. Now this is in all respect a triumph for our country, it has been a most salutary thing to demonstrate with utter clarity that we will not tolerate anyone to come here and disrespect us, abuse our hospitality and violate the rules of comity and good corporate citizenship. But psychological uplift apart there are great practical benefits that this nationalization has conferred. Thus it is lovely to be able to say it that under local ownership connectivity is being greatly increased and at cheaper rates for all Belizeans. As an example BTL will now reduce the price of their internet service by providing all customers with twice the band width at the same cost. In the case of schools this expanded band width will of course continue to be absolutely free. How sweet it is, this magnificent victory achieved with steadiness of nerves and fidelity of purpose.”

OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS MUCH MORE WORK NEEDS TO BE DONE

Today marks the 29th anniversary of Belize’s Independence from Great Britain. Official ceremonies were held across the country. The national ceremony took place in Belmopan. In his address leader of the Opposition John Briceno said that Belizeans deserve much better that they are getting.

John Briceno – Leader of the Opposition

“But while we take pride in the achievement of political independence and while we honour the great work of our forbearers we must focus on what we have made of their legacy. Independence Day is a time when Belizeans crave unity and rightly want to celebrate our nationhood. Independence Day is also the right time, and it is our responsibility to address the state of our nation. Today we are shackled by an economic recession whose untrammelled effect is being felt in every settlement, village, town and city in our jewel. Every day businesses are forced to fold and more Belizeans continue to lose jobs. Our very infrastructure is breaking up before our own eyes. Too many of our children are out of school and our youth have little hope. Rampant crime and violence, hate and fear stalk our beloved land, causing us to live and prisoners in our own homes. Never before in the history of our country have we been forced to mourn so grievously and so often. Everyday there is news of more tragedy. 97 Belizeans have been murdered already this year with the grim certainty of yet more to come. We are killed in our homes, killed in the streets, mothers, fathers, families, weeping over the bodies of loved ones while our prison overflows. Never before have there been so many failed investigations and prosecutions or so little justice for Belizean families. Never before have so many Belizeans been so poor all over our jewel, so blessed by nature. Our farmers struggle, working harder, earning less. The problem faced by nearly every sector of agro industry, sugar, citrus, banana and papaya and aquaculture faces disaster. In the services sector business is increasingly precarious and in tourism the number continue to decline threatening the very survival of our small hotels and tour operators. Throughout the health system things seem to be coming undone; babies dying due to lack of doctors in the hospitals, children dying from dengue, doctors and nurses threatening to go on strike, the delivery of NHI services being reduced instead of enhanced. We were asked to imagine the possibilities and this is the reality; telephone, water and light bills have not gone down, the cost of living continues to rise unabated, gas prices are skyrocketing, more taxes have been levied on already burdened Belizeans. Everywhere across the jewel there is fear and trepidation and even despair. Many families survive on noodles and steak is beyond the reach of most. So much of what we have struggled to build is now being destroyed. We can do better than this, we all deserve better than this, we are better than this.”

The Opposition Leader went on to say our leaders need to meet the needs of its citizens.

John Briceno – Leader of the Opposition

“It is the responsibility of our government to ensure that each of us has that opportunity. Our leaders must develop and nurture plans to keep us moving forward. It is the responsibility of government to keep our citizens safe. And so on the 29th anniversary of our independence, let us be brave like those before us were brave. Let us determine that we will not give in to fear, that we will not allow anyone to take from us our right to live in peace, our right to live in a society where justice and liberty prevail over fear and vindictiveness. My friends, I am not afraid of the future, I am not afraid of the challenges before us. I am not afraid because I believe in you. I believe in the determination and strength of the Belizean people and now more than ever, united and proud I believe in Belize, long live Belize, que viva Belice, happy Independence Day Belize.”

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