Government of Belize decides to “tighten belt”
(and refuses IMF assistance)

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 22            June 2, 2005

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Hews heard around the country last Friday, shocked many, but still surprised none. The Government of Belize decided not to accept the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) assistance in the crisis the country is currently facing, but decided to follow their advice and “tighten the belt.”

    In the press briefing held on May 27th, 2005, Ministers Godfrey Smith, Jose Coye and Johnny Briceño, stated that they where confident that they could meet their commitments. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honorable Smith, IMF recommended an $88.7 million adjustment, but after the technical team evaluated the plan, they realized that only a $70 million adjustment was required. He went on to comment that after two hours, a deep scrutiny was made into all the ministries and contract officers, not including the Judiciary, Magistracy, Legislature and a few others, and the decision was taken to cut $3 million worth of contract officers, which at an average salary of $60,000 a year, works out to about 50 contract officers.

    In this briefing, Minister Coye admitted that although the People’s United Party administration had criticized the Value Added Tax (VAT), “The VAT mechanism is a better mechanism, there is no doubt,” he commented. Other examples of cuts in the capital areas are that the Technical Vocational Training Program will be postponed. The Marion Jones Sports Complex, a $5 million program will also be sidelined.

    In other Government of Belize news: Assad Shoman who currently serves as a Senator, a Minister, Chief Foreign Affairs Representative and non-resident Ambassador to Cuba and Spain, has informed Prime Minister Said Musa that he plans to leave Cabinet, according to a Channel 7 newscast. Reports are that this course of action will happen sooner that later and his reasons are that he strongly supported the position that Belize enter a standby arrangement with the IMF. According to Channel 7 News, Shoman’s position was that under the sway of the still influential former Finance Minister Ralph Fonseca, government will have difficulty meeting its targets.

    In March of this year, Shoman made his position clear when, as Minister of National Development, he spoke at a conference on poverty explaining that the rich of this country have too much. He stated, “The gap between the rich and the poor is bigger today than it was 10 years ago.” However, six days after that presentation on March 9th, Fonseca spoke at the opening of the Princess Hotel in the Corozal Free Zone and managed to tip the scales in his favor.

    The one question pending now is, once Assad Shoman leaves the cabinet, will he stay on as Chief Foreign Affairs Representative and Ambassador to Cuba and Spain?
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