Today was budget day in Belmopan and coming right off a long weekend, the politics of the day seemed muted in the House of Representatives. Sure, there were a few protesters outside, but inside the chamber, the Prime Minister rolled through a budget that promised stability, not sugar plums. Jules Vasquez reports:

Jules Vasquez reporting
Dubbed "Stability in a Time of Change" - Prime Minister Dean Barrow's ninth budget presentation was a study in conservative optimism:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"At the current and forecast state of the public finances of Belize are both sturdy and stable."

Stable doesn't mean growing by leaps and bounds - GDP growth is forecast at a modest 1.5 to 2.0, and the only thing really growing is the deficit which ballooned to 5% of GSP in the 2015 - 2015 fiscal year, and the wage bill which will surge to 400 million dollars in the new fiscal year.

Bur Barrow was proud of three years of record wage increase for teachers and public officers:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The salary augmentations amount, with this the third consecutive year of increase which I proudly declare now will take place, those salaries increases altogether then will amount to almost 25 percent, in fact a little bit more than 25 percent when you factor in the annual increments. That, by any measure and in comparison with any country anywhere, is absolutely spectacular."

And on the deficit, he said it was not election spending but utility mostly settlements:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"First, included in these numbers is the extraordinary payment of just over $97 million dollars in respect of the settlement of the International Arbitration Award related to the British Caribbean Bank Loan to Belize Telemedia Ltd. And, second, is the additional spending of almost $55 million on the National Road Rehabilitation Program and some $15 million more on Sport Facilities."

And while some may call the infrastructure spending electioneering, Barrow called it transformation:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Is the unremitting swell of public investments in national infrastructure such as streets, drains, roads, bridges, sporting facilities, parks and playgrounds. When assessed in its totality over the nine budget cycles, this will have surpassed $1.5 billion and will have touched the lives of citizens in every corner of the country."

But, that's in the past now, looking forward the projections is modest:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Looking ahead, it is currently estimated that GDP growth will moderate to between 1.5 to 2.0 percent in 2016. I think CDB said 2.5, but we are being conservative, as the primary sector contracts further and activity in the secondary sector is unfortunately flatlining."

Government will be getting more revenue from taxpayers on increased import duties on fuel:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"That is the only revenue raising measure we are taking. The technocrats spoke to us about GST, about moving from zero rated to taxable, about moving from exempt to full taxable. We are determined even in a time of change, not to burden our people. We feel completely justified that in pulling back just that small portion of this huge savings so that government can continue to operate fully and effectively and so that we burden nobody with any tax increase. We have done remarkably well."

And expenditure will focus on the usual big ticket items:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"In education there are further amounts for the transfers to schools under the education sector reform program. In health we are budgeting more for the provisions for medical supplies and for the new 24 hour service of the San Pedro Polyclinic and also for the establishment of a new clinic in Benque Viejo del Carmen. The National Security will provide in increase for the number of officers in both the Coast Guard and the police force."

And while there were no groundbreaking new programs, Barrow still finished with a flourish:

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"In current circumstances this is a bold budget. It is the budget of an Administration determined, no matter what, to keep faith with Teachers and Public Officers, with poor people and the middle classes, with Business and Labour."

"No matter the obstacles, no matter the challenges, no matter the trials, we-the Government, the people, the nation-will together achieve what is due, what is just, and what is deserved for our beloved Belize."

PM Barrow also mentioned that social security pensioners will be getting an increase.

Channel 7