At midnight on December twenty-first, the U.S. Government initiated a partial shut-down and it has stretched on to be the longest shut down in that country’s history. Because President Donald Trump rejected a congressional budget compromise that triggered the shutdown, suggesting that it could “ last a very long time” unless he get the funds to build his wall. As a result, hundreds thousands of federal workers have not been paid and thousands of others sent home. But how does that affect Belize and the rest of the world? Well, the partial shutdown has global implications on humanitarian assistance and foreign aid because no new funding commitments or obligations can be made during a shutdown except for the protection of life and property. This shutdown also has a big effect on not just who goes to work, but also what work is being done. Although the State Department says that it will keep issuing passports and visas, it warned that those activities will remain operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations. Non-exempt workers may end up not getting paid, which holds true for persons contracted to do work for the U.S. government. The shutdown is already being felt at the U.S. Embassy in Belmopan. An email from one of the Public Affairs Unit says, “I am not in the office because of the furlough resulting from the lapse in U.S. Government appropriations. If you need assistance on an urgent matter involving excepted functions, please contact Debbie Lingwood. Excepted functions include those necessary for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, and those necessary for activities essential to national security, including the conduct of foreign affairs essential to national security.” Now, it is not clear how many of the staff members are not working and if consular services is affected, but the U.S. Embassy has declined comment on all other queries.
The Belize Embassy Facebook page is not being updated during the shutdown.
US government’s partial shutdown affecting local staff at Embassy in Belize
Today marks day 24 of a partial shutdown of the US Government, which is affecting some 800,000 federal workers, many of whom are still working without a paycheck, while some have been furloughed.
Closer to home, the Belizean staff at the US Embassy in Belmopan has begun to feel the pinch of working without getting a paycheck on payday.
We called the Embassy today, Monday, to find out how many Belizeans are employed there and are affected by the shutdown, but the person who answered our call said that they have been instructed not to provide any information.
Therefore, we are unable to ascertain how many persons employed by the US Embassy in Belize have been furloughed, or have been working without a paycheck since the shutdown started, a little over three weeks ago.
Apart from payments to its local staff, however, it is reasonable to assume that the Embassy is unable to pay for other services in the country. The shutdown, therefore, is having an economic impact in other sectors in the country.
The row in Washington has been triggered by the Republican President Donald J. Trump, who wants the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives to approve almost 6 billion dollars to fund a wall at the US Southern border with Mexico.
President Trump had pledged during his campaign that “Mexico will pay for the wall.”
The Democrats, who took over the US House of Representatives earlier this month after making historic gains in the November 2018 US midterm elections, are not budging from their position that they will not fund the president’s border wall.
So the shutdown is continuing, with no immediate end in sight, and the president had said earlier this month in a meeting with US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that the shutdown could go on for months or even years, until Congress provides the funding for the border wall.