FOR TODAY'S BELIZE WEATHER, CLICK HERE
Click for our Daily Tropical Weather Report.
Specials and Events
Last night's TV news on Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVETV, PGTV, West Vision (Cayo) and CTV 3. Also with the most recent Open Your Eyes, and other specials
The San Pedro Sun
Passport Office experiencing Technical difficulties
The Government of Belize advises the general public that the Passport Office in Belmopan is presently experiencing technical difficulties with the passport printing process. Effective since March 1, 2017, temporary passports will be processed within one week at the normal fee of $30, and will be valid for one year. The Immigration Department will be providing temporary passports in emergency cases for persons whose passports are exhausted, lost (six weeks waiting period does apply), damaged or mutilated, and who demonstrate a need for urgent travel.
Cyberbullying on the rise among San Pedro’s youth
According to Officer in Charge of the Coastal Executive Unit, Assistant Superintendent Henry Jemmott, reports of cyberbullying have drastically increased. “There’s a lot of issues being reported through schools, with minors sending degrading messages through Facebook and other social media outlets. The San Pedro Police Department recently dealt with a case where we could have charged a whole group of primary school students for disorderly conduct, but with our laws regarding minors, we couldn’t because they were 12 years-old,” said Jemmott.
Emil Vasquez, Principal at San Pedro High School (SPHS), agrees with Jemmott, stating that many students are being cyberbullied because the internet is conveniently accessible. Vasquez stated that the effects of bullying can be long lasting, leading to low self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts in minors. “Cyberbullying and bullying in general has always been an issue within schools. It is a subject that all schools are discussing, and the Principals’ Association is looking at how to deal with it. The Ministry of Education is even embarking in an anti-cyberbullying policy. SPHS is also looking to deal with not only cyberbullying, but issues related to social media. It’s something new, but it is our reality and we need to adjust to it because it can effect a person’s image or mental health,” said Vasquez.
Successful Blood Drive held in Caye Caulker
For the first time in Caye Caulker Village, the Belize Red Cross San Pedro Branch (BRCSPB) held a blood drive, on Saturday, March 4th, collecting 21 pints of precious blood. The event also included an educational session about the importance of blood donation and a dollar drive that yielded over a thousand dollars in donations.
Members of the BRCSPB, and the Belize Blood Services travelled to La Isla Cariñosa from Friday, March 3rd, for a reunion with Noelle Gray and the Caye Caulker team who assisted in the organization of the event. At the gathering, the importance of donating blood and the requirements for a successful donor was explained. The BRCSPB is starting a pilot project in their continued efforts to maintain a healthy blood supply at the blood bank, so that in case of emergencies, the blood can be available without the need to look for donors at the last minute.
Belize celebrates International Women’s Month 2017
Every year, the global community commemorates March 8th as International Women’s Day in celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. While the month observes the achievement of women, Belize also takes the opportunity to reflect on the progress made in gender equality. “Empowering Women in a Changing World: Planet 50:50 by 2030” sets the theme for this year, and it focuses on the impact technology and globalization has and can have on the status of women.
In addition, the Government of Belize (GOB) has made some progress towards promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation continues to fight the embedded inequalities that hinder the achievement of equality and equity for women in Belize.
WWF Celebrates Another Successful Year
Friday, March 3rd, 2017 marked the third anniversary of World Wildlife Day, a day dedicated to celebrate the precious animals and plant life that share our planet. WWF is taking this opportunity to reflect on the five greatest successes for wildlife over the last year.
Five of the greatest success stories for wildlife (March 2016-2017):
- Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history
- Pandas are no longer classified as ‘endangered’
- All trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal
Road to Caracol Maya Site to be Paved to Benefit Chiquibul Area
A Consultancy Services agreement was signed on March 7th, between the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Works, and Dr. Nabeel Abdul-Raheem Consultants of Kuwait at US$736,150.
The Government of Belize has received a Technical Assistance Grant from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development to assist in financing the services of consultants to prepare a technical and economic feasibility study and detailed designs for the Upgrading of Caracol Road Project (Georgeville to Caracol Archaeological Site).
Misc Belizean Sources
FORMER PUP STANDARD BEARER AND ATTORNEY AT LAW PHILLIP PALACIO PASSES
At about 2 am Tuesday morning Attorney at Law Phillip Palacio passed away after a battle with brain cancer.
The popular attorney and former politician underwent emergency surgery a few weeks ago after getting the surprising news that he was chronical ill with stage 4 brain and lung cancer. However, the late stage cancer had already taken a devastating effect on his body which resulted in his untimely passing this morning.
Mr. Palacio from all reports was a well liked and popular attorney. Before going into private practice he served the Belizean community as a member of the legal aid team which offers legal services to persons whom cannot afford private representation.
GOB TO GO AHEAD WITH VOTERS RE-REGISTRATION AHEAD OF REDISTRICTING?
Hot Off The Press has been reliably informed that the Government has agreed to move ahead with a voters re-registration exercise before conducting redistricting of the electoral map.
Readers may recall that the Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Mr. Doug Singh, had advised that re-registration before redistricting may result in problematical administrative difficulties.
There have been mixed signals coming from the Opposition party, with the Leader of the Opposition calling for re-registration to be done before redistricting while their most senior official on the Election and Boundaries Commission has voted against such a move.
DID GOB REALLY LOSE A US$22M COURT CASE TO GLENN GODFREY? APPARENTLY NOT
Last week it was widely reported that the Government was order by US Courts to fork over US$22M to Glenn Godfrey after he sued for monies he claimed was owed to him for equipment he sold to the Government. HOTP has since acquired and reviewed a copy of the US Court of Appeal order and it turns out that a decision in the case has not been made yet; the latest Court ruling is that Godfrey’s claim can proceed to trial - an order overruling a District Court decision in GOB’s favor.
The claim, GDG Acquisitions LLC (Glenn D. Godfrey) v GOB is in relation to monies Godfrey claims is owed to him for equipment he sold to GOB after his company, Intelco, failed. Readers may recall that the 1998 – 2008 PUP administration had secured several loans on behalf of Godfrey, a former PUP parliamentarian. After the company failed, the administration at that time went ahead and entered into a lucrative contract with Godfrey, for the rental of the former INTELCO equipment that were widely rumored to be faulty and out of service. The contract, described as “the pension plan for the boys” was not honored after the UDP assumed office in 2008, resulting in Godfrey suing.
Ministry of the Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities Signs Contract for Installation of Solar-Powered Streetlights
On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, the Ministry of Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities and Hubert L. Usher & Sons Construction of Dangriga Town signed an article of agreement for the installation of sixty (60) solar LED streetlights.
The allocation of the streetlights is as follows:
San Ignacio Town – ten (10).
San Narciso Village, Corozal District - ten (10).
Belize City – forty (40).
Ministry of Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities Signs Agreement with Solar Energy Solutions Belize
The Ministry of the Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities and the Solar Energy Solutions Belize (SESB) of Belmopan signed an article of agreement on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, to establish power service connections in the Cayo District.
The service connections will be for power stations to 40 houses and installation of wiring of the said 40 houses in La Gracia Village in the Cayo district.
National Agriculture and Trade Show 2017
The National Agriculture and Trade Show (NATS) Committee under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development hereby announces the dates for the NATS 2017 as the 28th, 29th, and 30th of April. The event will be celebrated under the theme “Let’s Get Growing”.
Preparation of the grounds is currently under way and the committee informs all interested persons that the reservation and sale of concession stands, food stalls, open spots and commercial booths have commenced. Right of first refusal will be granted to 2016 lease holders and as such those vendors will have until March 17, 2017 to confirm their desire to re-establish their booth leases. Those vendors are being asked to contact the Ministry for information on deposit of payment and signing of Lease Agreement. This preference exists EXCEPT where there was a reconfiguration of the grounds and/or removal of booths, in which case that space is no longer available for sale.
EXPORTBelize, BELTRAIDE holds Seaweed Cultivation Training in Little Water Caye
EXPORTBelize, a unit of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, held a Seaweed Cultivation Training from March 3rd – March 5th in Little Water Caye; which provided both a theory session along with hands on experience to fishermen in seaweed farming and cultivation. This initiative was one of many activities under a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) signed in November 2016. A key objective of this MOC is to support fisheries diversification through the development of a sustainable seaweed industry in Belize.
The participants included representatives from Toledo Fishermen Association, Sarteneja Fishermen Association, Wabaffu Fishermen Association and Turneffe Seaweed Farmers. The training included seaweed cultivation techniques, farm building and designing, harvesting techniques and the drying process.
Chaa Creek wins National Geographic Travel Award
Our very own Mrs Lucy, Co-Founder of The Lodge at Chaa Creek on the big stage in Berlin representing us and all of Belize - accepting the "Engaging Communities" award and giving her acceptance speech!
A great Ambassador to the Garifuna Music and Culture!
AURELIO and his Garifuna Soul band are flying over the Pacific en route to Australia, they are playing March 11 and 12 at Womadelaide Festival.
This is the first time they bring their music to Australia, another proud moment for Garifuna music. Safe travels
Child Stimulation month in Corozal
Activities celebrating Child Stimulation month continue in Corozal with this bike ride from the infants of Methodist Primary School.
Belize Fishing Report: Feb. 27 thru Mar. 5, 2017
Lots and lots of bonefish landed this week. The Bonefish Bonanza hosted by Orvis was just that, and the entire group caught fish. A host of other guests also landed plenty of bonefish. Brenda landed a nice bonefish on her way to a grand slam! What a great week of fishing regardless of the gusty winds.
Jan Brown, taking care of Marco Gonzalez Maya Site
Marco Gonzales may not be the easiest site to care for, but we are glad we have someone with heart and spirit to share the beauty and importance of it. Thank you Jan Brown for your tireless efforts and dedication to Marco Gonzalez Maya Site.
Road to Championship: La Ruta Maya 2017
Women's Day: Belizean Archaeologists
The landscape of Belizean archaeology has seen and continues to see a lot of strong women who have become trowel-blazers in their own right. While too numerous to mention, we highlight a few of those women who have forever left a mark in our understanding of Belize's history.
MARCH EXCITEMENT AS THE BHA PREPARES FOR SEVERAL INTERNATIONAL TRADESHOWS
The Belize Hotel Association is gearing up for a busy and exciting month of tradeshows where we will be representing our members and actively promoting Belize as a vacation destination to new and enthusiastic markets. At these events we meet with hundreds of attendees, who are highly interested in visiting Belize or learning more about what the country has to offer them for their future vacation plans.
Denver Travel and Adventure Show- March 18, 19, 2017:
The Travel & Adventure Shows are The Largest Series of Travel Shows in The United States. Over 13 years and 68 events, the Travel & Adventure Show Series has connected over 1.25 million travel enthusiasts with over 3,100 unique travel marketers in a professional setting that facilitates face-to-face conversations and has impacted over $2.4 billion in travel bookings. Beneath the Sea- New Jersey- March 24, 25, 26, 2017
This consumer Dive Show held in Secaucus, New Jersey attracts both divers AND non-divers by broad advertising across the Northeast region AND throughout the industry. Beneath The Sea delivers the lucrative North-East region which has the U.S.A's wealthiest and largest concentration of consumers who are all within easy travel distance of the show. Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show- March 25, 26, 2017
Ottawa is Canada's capital city: home of the federal government, embassies, three universities and the center of Canada's high tech industry. With a population of over 1.2 million Ottawa has the 2nd highest per capita income of all major Canadian cities.
BARTENDING FLAIR SHOW BY ALEXSANDER SHTIFANOV THURSDAY, MARCH 9TH AT RAIN RESTAURANT
AT 10PM. PRETICKETS: USD$15; USD$20 AT THE DOOR; CALL 226-4000 FOR DETAILS, OR EMAIL: [email protected]
Join us this week at Crazy Canucks Beach Bar to paint paint "Rosetta Spoonbill."
$25 u.s $50 bz a person
Vacancy Belize Electricity Limited San Pedro Branch
Customer Care Representative
Reef Swim San Pedro
Let's get together on Reef week and show that we really care about our Barrier Reef in the biggest reef clean up yet!
Sunday, March 12 at 7 AM - 10 AM, Isla Bonita Yacht Club
The World's #1 Flairtener, Alexander Shtifanov, showcasing his talent at Banana Beach Resort
Tickets Available. March 10
Deon McCaulay signed by Atlanta Silverbacks
The Atlanta Silverbacks posted to Facebook this week, "The Silverbacks have signed Forward Deon McCaulay for the 2017 NPSL campaign! The Belizean star joins the 'Backs for a second stint."
Art in the Park, Corozal
Next week March 18th, 2017 is the monthly Art in Park in Corozal. It will commence at 5pm until.
Flaming Heart Ball in Placencia March 11
Available now at the Tipsy Tuna... Tickets for the Flaming Heart Ball! Raffle tickets are also available! 5pm until ..... Food served 6pm-8pm.
Border guard opening in Santa Elena
IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT PUBLIC NOTICE - Be advised that the Immigration Department at the Santa Elena border is now accepting applications for the digital border card from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
SAVING WILDLANDS FOR WILDLIFE
Here is an amazing opportunity to help us protect critical tropical habitat in Belize. This vital habitat is home to rare and endangered species such as the jaguar, tapir, yellow-headed parrot, and the elusive stygian owl!
TBZ and its partners are teaming up in an effort to protect nearly 3,000 acres of wildlands in Central Belize. Part of our protection plan is to purchase 945 acres of habitat surrounding the Zoo.
Follow the link to our CrowdRise fundraising page to learn more and contribute to this exciting new campaign!
Happy International Women's Day to all the beautiful, strong compassionate, powerful, and hard working women of Corozal
Happy International Women's Day to all the beautiful, strong compassionate, powerful, and hard working women of Corozal - "International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women's Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women's rights.
The earliest Women's Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers began, covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in Soviet Russia in 1917. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations" - Wikipedia
Photo of Gwendolyn Lizarraga, Belizean Social Activist
Chiquibul Challenge Marathon
The Chiquibul Challenge Marathon is this weekend. Sunday is the actual race, and the 70+ participants will be running through the Chiquibul. The event will help raise awareness of the Chiquibul, and how important it is...plus, it makes up around 8% of Belize. Thanks, BWRC!
"We wanted to raise awareness about this amazing protected area co-managed by Friends for Conservation and Development, to increase fitness and enable Belizeans as well as visitors to experience this truly unique gem of nature, geology and history, and possibly establish a fundraising mechanism with this in the future.."
Exhibit Opening “Belize’s Heroes, Patriots, and Benefactors”
FDCD meets with farmers in the Vaca Forest
Today the Forest Department, GIZ and FCD conducted a meeting with farmers in the Vaca Forest Reserve to among other things, present the criteria for legalization of their stay in the reserve.
BTB at the Virtuoso Global Forum - Mexico City
Sherry Gibbs, Dean of Arts and Science is helping to train future archaeologists and anthropologists
Through her efforts at Galen University, Belize! Thank you for educating our future archaeologists!
Belizean Eco-Resort Chaa Creek Takes Top Honours At National Geographic’s 2017 World Legacy Awards
The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s first place honours at National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards highlights how working with local communities results in mutually beneficial, truly sustainable tourism, the popular Belizean eco-resort’s owners said.
Mick and Lucy Fleming were speaking at the 2017 World Legacy Awards (WLA) ceremony held 8 March at the ITB convention in Berlin where they accepted the award in the “Engaging Communities” category.
“All of us at Chaa Creek are particularly honoured to receive an award that celebrates the bond we have with our local Belizean communities, and Mick and I are gratefully accepting it on behalf of our 160 staff members and the countless Belizeans who, through hard work and a dedication to providing exceptional service, have taken Belize from a relatively unknown little country to the world class destination it is today,” Mrs. Fleming said.
Eric Chang Gives His Side Of The Story
Ever since the Won Hong Kim passport scandal broke back in September of 2013, 7News and the entire media - for that matter - had been trying to get an interview with Eric Chang, who was the Deputy Mayor of Belize City at the time.
While Citizen Kim was an Elvin Penner production, Chang's activities while in Taiwan at the time, brought him under suspicion as one of the main brokers of the deal to get the South Korean Fugitive Won Hong Kim a fraudulent Belizean passport.
But Chang never commented, ignoring repeated requests. And even the Senate Inquiry had a difficult time getting him and Patrick Tillett to show up and testify. Eventually, they had to compel both men to show up, which they finally did today.
Eric Sets The Record Straight
The Auditor General's report goes on to explain that according to Ambassador Cherie Nisbet, Alejandro Young, Charge ‘d Affaires of Honduras, brought the original passport which was issued to Won Hong Kim, and the original Nationality certificate.
The Audit team couldn't ascertain how the Won Hong Kim passport ended up in Taiwan, but in our coverage of the Senate last Week, we erroneously reported that the Audit Team said that Eric Chang was the courier for the passport.
In his testimony today, Chang took on this station for that error:
Eric Chang - Former Deputy Mayor of Belize City:
"I no see my name brought up in the auditor general's report in terms of I da the carrier for Wong Hong Kim passport, I didn't see that here but it repeatedly mentioned in I believe it was Channel 7 News saying I'm the carrier for Mr. Wong Hong Kim passport. Channel 7 alleged me was the carrier, I no see how I can carry the passport that I learned that the passport was issued, I learned that from the report that the passport was issued the 9th of September and I was in the summit and represented at the time. I no see how I can be at two place at the same time, I don't know how they put me as a carrier for the passport to Taiwan or to Mr. Wong Hong Kim. I have no shape or form, I never ever see or hold Mr. Wong Hong Kim passport, I never see the passport, I never see the certificate."
Patrick Tillett's Visa Service
We now turn to the next big witness who testified this afternoon in the Senate Hearings on Immigration. That's Patrick Tillett, the former Financial Controller for the Belize City Council, who had to explain how he came into possession of 6 of those 8 visas which were stolen from the Immigration Department's Benque Border Station.
He gave an extraordinary testimony telling the Senate that he charged 6 Chinese nationals $6,000 each to help them get their Belize Visas. Now, if you're wondering how lucrative this operation was, Tillett laid it out for the Senate Select Committee. He said that in his brief visa operation, he used $3,000 out of that sum to pay an Immigration agent he knew as Mr. Middleton, and paid 2 thousand dollars toward the Government of Belize, as the face value for the Visas. The remaining one thousand dollars, Tillett said, was his fee to run the operation. Here's how he broke it down:
Young Woman Killed In Western Accident
A young woman was killed in an accident in the West. Last night around 11:15, 21 year old Kendra Mejia was driving her van from Benque to San Ignacio. Her brother Hector Mejia and her sister in law 17 year old Lizzemy Guiterrez were along with her. When Kendra approached mile 70 near the Calla Creek Junction she lost control of the vehicle causing it to flip violently and land in a ditch. The massive impact killed Kendra while Guiterrez complained of pain to the back, hip and right foot while Hector received a cut wound to both feet, right knee, a cut to the left eye and upper lip, and bruises to the left side. Kendra’s body was taken to the morgue while both Guiterrez and Hector were taken to the KHMH. Guttierez is stable and Mejia has been discharged. Reports are that the accident may have been caused by a blow out.
Another Traffic Fatality
And there was another fatal accident but this time in the South involving a baby. On Saturday afternoon around 3:00, 43 year old BDF officer Lawrence Lorenzo was heading to Sittee River in his Toyota Rav4 when he collided into a motorcycle. The Motorcyclist 52 year old Ernest Lincoln Andrews Jr. died as a result of the impact. Also travelling along with Andrews were 25-year-old Rosalyn Logan and his 2-year old baby Eamon Edmond Andrews. They were both taken to the hospital for treatment. Lorenzo has been served with a Notice of Intended Prosecution.
Breaking Down The Bottom Line On The Bond
The government of Belize is expecting that it will get 75% of the holders of the Superbond to agree to a consent solicitation offer by end of business on Friday. That would seal the deal on Superbond 3, and to hear the government tell it, it's the deal of a decade.
The Prime Minister and his team of financial advisors held a press conference today to lay out the details of the negotiation and the final package.
Basically, as we've been reporting, the deal is that the interest rate, which was set to step up to 6.767% in August of this year, will actually step down to 4.9375%. That alone will save Belize 36 million dollars in the next two years.
And then, principal repayments which were supposed to start in 2019, have been pushed back for 11 years, meaning that Belize gets away from paying of 64 million US dollars per year, from 2020 to 2038. Instead, the heavy payments are deferred until 2030, freeing up 11 years of cash flow. The Prime Minister says they had to renegotiate the bond because Belize just does not have this kind of hard currency:
Government Drove A Hard Bargain
And the seriousness of that threat to simply not pay is what may have given government a slight upper hand in negotiations. We say upper hand because somehow the creditor committee has accepted final offer without Government committing to a standby arrangement with the IMF. Instead government has committed to fiscal targets, namely a primary surplus. Here's how the PM put it:…
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"We resisted the insistence of the then creditor committee that we enter into an IMF programme and we have so resisted again. People don't seem to understand that we have agreed that if we don't meet certain targets we will consult with the IMF, that takes the matter no further, we consult with the IMF every year. We're not suggesting that we will simply ignore whatever advise the IMF will choose to give; all I'm telling you is that our agreement in the context of this last renegotiations that we will publish what the IMF says, we will consult with them - represents not an iota, not one wit of change from what currently obtains. So basically we've given up nothing in terms of what was the original demand of the creditor committee that we enter into an IMF standby arrangement which is what I have sworn to the Belizean people will never happen for as long as I am here. Unfortunately that's not going to be for too much longer."
A Deal That Didn't Come Cheap
So that's the broad outline of the deal, except for one not so minor detail: the fees. First off, government has to pay the Creditor Committee's costs, which is in the millions of dollars - even though it was just a four month negotiation. Add in success fees for government's advisors at Citibank and lawyers, and it's well above five million dollars just to get the deal done. The Prime Minister said he hadn't added it all up yet:…
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"We are probably going to be up to $3 million odd US dollars, maybe closer to 4, in terms of our fees on our side. Everybody worked on a success bases so that if we had walked way and there was no deal, city would not have been paid. The success fee bases, there is a formula that I certainly haven't worked out yet, calculated when you apply the formula to where we ended up what then will be the final figure for city but it will be a few, certainly more than $2 million US dollars. It is going to be fairly hefty."
No New Money, Renegotiation Averts Likely Default
And while that is the opposition's take on it, government says it is saving 18 million dollars in interest payments in the upcoming fiscal year alone. So then that means free money, right? Well, not so fast. Turns out that government didn't have the money to pay in the first place. The Financial Secretary explained:…
Jose Waight - Financial Secretary:
"It's not new money but we have saved, we don't have to find that but it's not new money to spend so the situation remains the same."
"Would we have been able to pay it in the normal course as things were going?"
"Short answer, no."
GOB Will Not Retrench Or Raise Business Tax
So then, government never had the money to pay the stepped up interest rate anyway. It's sort of like they went from being bankrupt, to just being broke. So instead of free money, or milk and honey, the years ahead will be a time of belt tightening and austerity. Government will have to increases revenues through taxes, and cut spending at the same time. So, what's on the table, and what is not? The Prime Minister told us only what is not:…
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"No public officer will be retrenched, no increment freeze. The last instalment of the salary increase which I and I won't embarrass anybody but others would have liked to see turned into a health insurance scheme for public officers and teachers but which the BNTU was having none of. That 3% which we put off because of the hurricane last year will be paid together with the interest and so while consolidation there will be, while tightening there will be, while revenue raising measures there will be, while spending slashes there will be. We will present a budget that will leave intact and preserve our public officers and teachers and the working man and woman, no rollback has been suggested by the IMF of the threshold for income tax relief, no business tax increase."
Fin Sec Says GST Won't Be Touched
But what taxes will increase? The media asked if it might be new sin taxes on cigarettes and liquor, or an increase in the GST. The PM said wait until Monday:…
Isani Cayetano- Reporter:
"There is a speculation that sin taxes will increase in terms of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes and what have you. Would you be able to speak on that?"
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"The budget is on Monday so there's no long time to wait. I won't tell you what will happen, I will tell you what will not happen and I think I said it earlier, not a civil servant going home, not kind of increment freeze, no kind of rollback of the income tax threshold, no kind of increase in business tax, I will leave it there."
What Areas Will Budget Cuts Affect?
But when the new budget is presented on Monday, it might be called "Sharing the Pain." That's because there will be significant increased revenue from taxes, and there will be budget cuts. The PM didn't say what would get cut, but he did mention it in passing today:…
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"On the revenue side, we are committed to finding something like $70 million dollars more in revenue and on the expenditure side we are committed to slashing expenditure by $30 million dollars. I will tell you this, we had a cabinet session yesterday and although ministers were presented with the stark evidence of what those cuts mean for their individual ministry, not one of Minister protested."
"We know that education is the largest single part of the budget, how much of that slashing will affect the Ministry of Education?"
Barrow: GG Didn't Win Against GOB
The Prime Minister also used his platform at today's press conference to beat back media reports that Glenn Godfrey had won a 22 million US dollar judgement against the government of Belize.
Godfrey is suing government in US courts, over an Intelco contract but the PM stressed he hasn't won, he simply got jurisdiction to have it argued in a US court.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"Godfrey indeed has sued on the basis of another stink agreement made between him and in particular Ralph Fonseca, but presumably the entire PUP administration, over INTELCO, what your boss Michael Ashcroft called the pension plan for the boys. They went asunder and Godfrey, they agreed that Godfrey could sue in the states and so he brought suit in Miami. We challenged that and said: no, you have to come to Belize. The US courts have no jurisdiction because, although Ralph agreed- and Ralph neva had the authority to agree- we won and then he appealed. Ultimately now, the appeal court sent it back to the law court, and what you saw on Friday or Thursday, was a judgment saying that: ok, Godfrey wins on this question of jurisdiction. The government's initial victory which said this matter can't be tried in the states at all is reversed; it can go now to trial in the states. Whether he will win and get $22 million or anything is still to be determined after evidence and a full trial."
Ashcroft Alliance: Barbarians At The Gate
So while the Glenn Godfrey matter is still held at bay, the barbarians are at the gate for the Ashcroft Alliance. Government has to pay the second half of the compensation award ordered by an international tribunal. That was supposed to be paid in Belize dollars. But, first the agreement was that the Alliance has to exact its expenses. The PM says the proposed figure for those expenses is outrageous:…
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Minister of Finance:
"I am now being told that since the agreement also said though that out of that second portion, that is to come to the people of Belize, he is entitled to deduct his expenses incurred in trying to recover the money. I am now being told that those expenses will amount to something like at least 75% of the second payment."
Camille Still In Coma
Yesterday we told you about Camille Munnings, the mother of two who was shot along with her common-law-husband and another man. Tonight, she remains in critical condition at the KHMH with a bullet lodged in the back of her head. We spoke to her family earlier, and they told us that she is still in a medically induced coma to ease the pressure on her brain. Her sister told us that the family will speak with doctors tomorrow to figure out what's next.
Women's Day, Plotting A Way Forward
Today is celebrated as International Women's Day and a forum was held at the Biltmore called "Plotting a Way Forward: A Critical Look at the Women's Movement and Gender Based Violence". Now there has been significant progress made as it relates to the Women's movement, women's rights and their independence, but a lot of women still face a troubling reality every day as it relates to abuse. And all those topics were discussed today. POWA which stands for Productive Organization for Women in Action is based in the Stann Creek district. The coordinator Michele Irving told us more about the organization and the alarming plight of women in the South.
Michele Irving - Coordinator POWA:
"Our main work focuses on HIV support, gender based violence support, ending stigma and discrimination, issues of child abuse and violence and basically looking at gender equity and equality."
Cops: Linsburg Shot Brandon
Yesterday Kevin Flores was charged with aiding and abetting Linsburgh Clarke in the shooting of Brandon Bennett on Belcan Bridge last Friday. Today, Clarke appeared in the Magistrate's Court and was charged for attempted murder, grievous harm and use of deadly means of harm with intent to cause grievous harm. No plea was taken because of the nature of the offense, and Clarke was remanded into custody until May.
Solar Solutions Light The Future
The Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Public Services signed two articles of agreement yesterday. The first was with Solar Energy Solutions Belize, who will begin work to establish power service connections to 40 houses in La Garcia Village in the Cayo District. The second agreement was made with Hubert L. Usher and Sons Construction, who will install 60 solar LED street lights throughout the country. 10 lights will be set up in San Narsico in Corozal, another ten will go to San Ignacio and 40 will be installed in Belize City.
The articles of agreement were signed by the CEO of the Ministry, Dr. Peter Allen. Instillation is set to begin this month.
Belizeans and Poultry: "Tea, Dinna, Tea"
Whether its that egg, you had for breakfast, that stew chicken you had for lunch, or that fried chicken you're trying not to eat tonight, Belizeans consume poultry products morning noon and night. And the Belize Poultry Association would like you to do it as an afternoon snack as well! That association is holding its 21st Annual General Meeting in Belize City right now and Chairman, David Reimer told us every Belizean consumes an average of 190 eggs per year:
Reimer also told us that the recent HACCP (HACAP) certification will help Belize to market our poultry products in other, larger regions.
Efforts at diplomacy between Belize and Guatemala may be going through a rough patch, but our friends in PG don't need diplomats, because they have dominoes!
Last weekend, while much of the nation watched canoes race across Belize, the Punta Gorda Dominoes Team hosted their friendly rivals, the Labuga Livingston Guatemala Dominoes Team. The teams ignored whatever malice their governments harbour for each other, and instead went head to head in the popular pastime. While the PG team took home the winner's trophy, both teams walked away from the dominoes table smiling.