Prime Minister Dean Barrow Addresses thousands of supporters
The United Democratic Party launched its Action Plan for the term 2012-2017 on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 and the pledges that the party is making demonstrates that it will continue to be all and always for the people. This launching was done in front of a room packed with supporters at the Biltmore Plaza. Before the pledges were revealed, Hon. Patrick Faber, UDP Chairman, shared some of the accomplishments of this government in its first four years.
In just four years, the United Democratic Party Government paved the Placencia Road and completed the Southern Highway. The Corozal and Dangriga Airstrips were rebuilt. Over 26,000 new land leases were issued with almost 20,000 going to first time landowners. 5,412 housing grants were issued to deserving homeowners. Mortgages for 10,374 Belizeans were written off. DFC was revived and its lending program restarted. Interest rates for mortgages at the commercial banks decreased from 14% to 8%. 7,500 new jobs were created and thousands more saved. More than $10 million was provided to save the sugar industry from collapse. Over 5,500 more Belizeans are exempted from income tax as the threshold was raised to $26,000 a year. Hundreds of items are sold free of taxes. Agriculture is on the rebound as stakeholders are receiving better prices for crops and the country has seen significant increase in vegetable production as a result of investment in irrigation and greenhouses. The Healthcare system has improved tremendously. 2011 saw zero maternal deaths for the first time in our country’s history. National Emergency Response is as organized and effective as ever. Relief was provided to thousands of residents and farmers following major weather events. The education system has seen the greatest transformation. Over 16,000 students receive a $300 educational grant annually. That has resulted in a record enrollment in school and better grades. Examination results have improved remarkably. The most recognized accomplishments nationally were the reacquisition of BTL and BEL. The government enshrined in the Constitution that utility companies should always remain in the hands of the people. National ownership of the utility companies has led to a 6.14% reduction in electricity rates, a 7.2% reduction in water rates and an even greater reduction in telephone rates. While national ownership of utilities may have been the most recognized accomplishment, in Belize City the gang truce holds the number one slot. Since the inking of the gang truce, the murder rate has decreased by 47%. An even greater reduction has been seen in gang violence and the sense of security is the highest it has been in this century.
Upon being elected on March 7, the UDP government will establish a national bank to provide fair interest rates to Belizeans. A mortgage guarantee scheme will be established to assist first time homeowners with covering a down payment of 10% on mortgage loans up to $100,000. The education assistance to high school students will increase from $300 to $350. The teaching of Belize’s culture, history and politics will be emphasized in primary and secondary schools. In terms of infrastructure, the UDP government will rebuild the Northern Highway from Haulover Bridge to the Boom Junction. A comprehensive drainage project will be executed in Belama and the Northern Highway. A new road will be constructed and a bridge will be built at Chetumal Street. The stretch will feature a new police headquarters, sporting complex, administration building and national bus terminal. All major access roads to tourist sites will be rebuilt. A new Belize City Airstrip will be constructed and another Belize City infrastructure project will be launched. 15,000 more house lots and farm land will be issued to first time landowners. Outpatient service will be extended at all polyclinics to a full 12 hours, including weekends. New public hospitals will be constructed in San Pedro and Punta Gorda Town. An insurance guarantee program will be established for exports and the imports duty regime will be reviewed with a view to rationalize it. VOIP will be free up for residential customers in the next few months with the plan to eventually extend the service to mobile customers. Shareholders’ income from private companies grossing more than $5 million will be exempted from income taxes.
The government’s pro-poor programs will not only continue but will also be extended to benefit thousands more Belizeans. The Conditional Cash Transfer Program, codenamed Operation Boost, where single mothers are given cash to ensure that their children go to school and access other developmental programs, will be extended to the rest of the country. The food pantry program in which residents receive a basket of groceries for half the price will be featured in the six districts of the country as well. Prime Minister Barrow also announced that the loan write offs will continue and the D.F.C. will be looked at next. Mortgage and student loans will be written off at the D.F.C. The most important promise that Prime Minister Barrow made is that he will “bend over backwards to ensure that we continue to walk the path of political righteousness.” Anyone that falls out of line will be reprimanded.