Emil Arguelles

While the Prime Minister got to stand and speak solo for several hours during the budget presentation, the room wasn’t all quiet. There was no debate, but it sure had the appearance of one when the area rep for Fort George asked for tourist arrival figures and dollars for 2010. But instead of the ruling party, it was the Speaker of the House that became testy with Said Musa.

Said Musa, Area Rep., Fort George

“I don’t see the honorable Minister of Tourism or…”

Emil Arguelles, House Speaker

“There is provision honorable member for an acting.”

Said Musa

“Well will the honorable minister say the number of tourist arrivals in Belize for the year 2010? The number of stay over visitors and the number of cruise ship visitors for 2010?”

Gabriel Martinez, Acting Minister of Tourism

Gabriel Martinez

“Mister Speaker, Belize’s Tourism Industry was hit hard by the global economic downturn in 2008—the effects of which lasted throughout 2009. However, statistical data for the 2010 illustrate a slow recovery for the industry based on certain key indicators. Overnight sector: in 2010, there was an overall increase of two point five percent in overnight tourist arrivals compared to 2009. There was a four percent increase in three of Belize’s major market sectors, namely: the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, respectively. The number of overnight tourist arrivals for 2010 totaled two hundred thirty-eight thousand, one hundred and sixty. Although this figure is less than the pre-crisis figures of 2008, it shows that the recovery is underway.”

Said Musa

“Will the minister agree that these figures show a significant reduction from the high of 2005?”

Emil Arguelles

“Honorable member, the facts will speak for themselves. He has stated the numbers.”

Said Musa

Said Musa

“Mister Speaker, it’s a simple question. Why he no want answer it? Mister Speaker. I was asking a follow up question, Mister Speaker. And if you will disallow that, it gives me the opportunity to ask, why is it that you also disallowed the question that I was asking the Prime Minister which is to state the unemployment figure for the end of 2010? I know you referred according to the letter to standing order 21-9 which speaks about the figures are available from official publications. In fact Mister Speaker, there are no figures available since 2009 for eighteen months. No unemployment figure. So I can’t see why the Prime Minister cannot answer the question.”

Emil Arguelles

“Ok. Honorable member for Fort George, yes I did disallow that because like what the rules say is like you have point out, questions must not be asked for answers that are available in public official records. I follow the rules, if the records are not up to date, that is not my concern. My concern is following the rules that were written by your W. H. Courtenay forty-five years ago. You had a chance to change that at any point you wanted to. In any event, I almost never allowed this question because those figures are also able to be found in official publications. But since I did not want to disallow all your questions, I allowed that one.”

Said Musa

“With all due respect, can I make the point that I was asking for the figures for 2010. That is not available in any publication.”

Channel 5