PRIME MINISTER BARROW ADDRESSES ISSUES OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

Prime Minister Dean Barrow today held his quarterly press conference. The
Prime Minister tackled a number of issues affecting the nation. He spoke
on BELís rate review exercise and the impact it could have on the Belizean
consumers.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
ďItís now been agreed that the rate review exercise will commence. How it
operates is that BEL makes its submission to the PUC. BEL will do this by
1st of December, by the first of next month thereafter the PUC should have
a preliminary decision by January, by early January. If there are no
objections to the PUCís preliminary decision, that decision will become
final within 10 or 15 days, I am not sure of the exact time frame. We hope
to have new electricity rates, new tariffs agreed by the end of January
2012. Now, clearly this exercise is an objective one and I canít
presuppose and I canít interfere with the discretion and authority of the
Public Utilities Commission; but you donít have to be very bright to know
that I certainly would not have insisted that the process be put in train
if I did not feel very confident that contrary to what Fortis was saying
this rate setting exercise can produce a lowering of electricity rate for
Belizeans.Ē

On the issue of crime, the Prime Minister said that there has been a
decrease in gang related murders in Belize City.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
ďLadies and gentlemen I am very happy to report that since we signed that
gang truce there has not been a single gang related murder occurring in
Belize City. As a consequence of a neighbourhood dispute, or perhaps more
than a dispute between Kelly Street and Victoria Street somebody was killed
but we didnít know Kelly Street and Victoria Street to be the locus of
gangs; that just seems to have been a rivalry between these respective
areas, certainly nobody from Kelly Street or Victoria Street was involved
in the gang truce. The plain fact is that no entity that was part of the
truce, no affiliate of any of those entities has broken the truce and it is
now two full months since that truce has been in effect and so far so good,
so far so very good. As a consequence while in the first part of the year,
monthly we saw the murder statistics being in double digits, for September
and October of this year, the murder statistics countrywide was 7 and 8 as
compared to September and October last year when there was something like
19 or 17 at the date. Clearly the dip, the very welcome dip in the murder
rate is due principally to the gang truce. All the government kept its
side of the bargain, all the neighbourhood groupings that were involved in
the truce have been given work to do, there have been neighbourhood
improvement projects that Government is funding and those have created
employment for a significant amount of young men involved in this
lifestyle. So of course it has come at a cost again, these are unbudgeted
funds that we have had to find, but we have been very happy to find those
funds, we have been very happy at the outcome of the result that this
funding has produced. We will continue with these programs, with these
projects and we hope and expect that the young men will from therein
continue to hold it down; so we are very, very pleased with how that has
been developing.Ē

The Prime Minister also spoke on the state of the economy.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
ďGovernment revenues are strong; our expenditures are by and large what
they should be. If there are excesses in terms of what was budgeted, those
excesses take place for the reasons I have just talked about, things like
having to find extra money for infrastructure, things like having to find
extra money to sustain the gang truce program. I know that the media has
been having a look at the public information notice sent out by the IMF as
a consequence of the Article four consultation, thatís what it is.
Basically I am here to tell you that what the IMF says doesnít much matter
to me, we have job to do and their insistence on fiscal consolidation at a
time of recession when Government needs to spend more to drive the economy
because the private sector is in the doldrums, I donít really want to hear
about fiscal consolidation but to the extent that they have had to
acknowledge that again our revenue expenditure program, certainly on the
revenue side, we have been doing extremely well as a consequence of a
number of factors, that is good to see that weíve wrung that, we have been
able to wring that out of them.Ē

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