Brace up because the worst is yet to come. That’s because the economy is not a dark cloud looming over the Barrow administration, it’s a potential hurricane on the horizon. Prime Minister Barrow admitted that Quote “The upcoming fiscal year will be the hardest of the UDP term.” End Quote. And that is because there is a shortfall of sixty million dollars in the budget for the next financial year, beginning April first. Where is that money to come from? And which ministries and services will be affected if the millions aren’t found soon to bridge the shortfall? The budget has to be debated and passed in the House of Representatives by the end of March, but in his quarterly press conference today, the P.M. bought time and said he won’t disclose where the funds will come from, until he discusses it with the rest of Cabinet next Tuesday.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I’m not pretending that going forward things won’t be hard. The upcoming fiscal year will be the hardest of the UDP term. Well the numbers aren’t good. We’re looking at a deficit of about sixty million dollars and we’ve been working overtime to see how we’re going to close that deficit. We’ve been looking at all sorts of suggestions, we go to Cabinet on Tuesday for the exercise that will then see ministers and members of the National Assembly way in what will then be the final shape of the figures that we will take to the House. In that context, I will tell you that I have seen an initial costing. Remember that the government and the unions have been at odds over this question of costing. I have seen an initial costing done quickly by the Ministry of Finance where what the unions are asking for will cost a hundred and twenty-two million dollars over three years. That is only off the top increases in salaries and emoluments. They are asking for various things with school, which will also have a cost. But that’s their headline number, one hundred and twenty-two million dollars in three years. Again I am not here to quarrel with them. I am here to say simply that is an impossibility in the current circumstances. I hope that they and the Belizean people will understand. I pause to make the point; they can’t look at us and say, as happened in the past, but you are squandering the money. As far as is humanly possible, we have run a tight ship, we are in problems with the numbers as a consequence of the slump in global trade and the super bond, the horrible debt profile, and in those circumstances, we will come to the people of this country and ask for their patience and their understanding.”
The budget for the current financial year, 2009-2010, stood in revenues and grants at eight hundred and seven million dollars and in the expenditures at eight hundred and fifty-nine million. The deficit of fifty two million dollars was projected to be covered through the fuel tax, Taiwan funding as well as the Trinidad petroleum fund.