Cabinet Ministers from the Briceno Administration met today with representatives the of National Trade Union Congress of Belize for a budget consultation on the fiscal year 2020-2021.
As we've reported, it's part of the Government's canvass of the social partners to get their views on how best to rescue the country's finances from a massive shortfall in revenue, and a debt that increases daily.
Today's talks were led by Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde, Education Minister Francis Fonseca, and Henry Charles Usher, the Minister of Public Service. The NTUCB was represented by President Luis Martinez, and the other members: Ella Waight, Garry Yearwood, Timothy Dami, and Hubert Enriquez.
The Government also noted in a press release that they met yesterday with the Belize National Teachers' Union and the Association of Public Senior Service Managers. GOB says that all their meetings so far with these different unions have been, quote, "...productive and [they] focused on meaningful ways of working together to find practical, equitable solutions", end quote.
2 days ago, they met with the Public Service Union in Belmopan, and last week, they met with the business sector groups. You'll remember that several days ago, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry wrote to the Prime Minister, telling him, basically, that if he decided to cut public wages, they wouldn't object.
This morning, we got an opportunity to speak via teleconference with the Vice President of the Public Service Union. That was a 59-minute conversation, and during that interview, we asked him about the possibility that public officers may face wage cuts. Here's how he answered that one:
"What would it take for public officers to stomach that very bitter pill to take, let's say, for example, a 10% cut in their salary, or a 20% cut if the government has to take that last resort option?"
Dean Flowers - Vice-President, PSU
"It has to be looked at in the context of the impact that it will have 1, on public officers and their already low morale, as well as 2, the impact that it will have on the general economy. If there is a cut, what will it be used for? Will be placed in a sinking fund, so that when those bullet payments come, we have money there to pay? Or, will it be used to meet the government's excesses that currently exist? Then, we wouldn't be realizing any savings? As we speak, we still have not been told how much savings were realized from the cost-saving measures that have been in place since April o year. Is it 1% of GDP as perhaps - I don't know if that is what the Prime Minister was alluding to when he said that our cost-saving measures would only yield 1% GDP, I don't know. If it is that, then that would translate to what, 18 million, 20 million dollars, somewhere around there? What are we going to use those 20 million dollars for? Is it being set aside for debt servicing? Or is it being set aside now to continue meeting the excesses of the Government? Or will be diverted, perhaps, into a food pantry to help people. You cannot just throw a blanket statement out there, that we'll cut people's salaries without having a clear plan of action."