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Jan 26, 2005

Talk turns positive as agreement reached on reforms

Story PictureIf what you are hoping for is a successful resolution of the various conflicts now besetting our country then there is some positive news. In a common sense process that seeks to separately address the three concerns of political reform, taxation and salary hikes for teachers and public officers, it appears that the issue of reform has been substantially settled. While the details have yet to be worked out, a marathon negotiating session between union, private sector and government representatives that lasted from nine fifteen this morning until four thirty this afternoon, has produced accord on a framework for a comprehensive package of political and financial reforms. They range from constitutional amendments to the overhaul of archaic rules and regulations. At a press conference this evening Ministers Godfrey Smith and Joe Coye were joined by business representatives Godwin Hulse and Kevin Herrera and union rep Paul Perriott. Here’s what they had to say.

Godfrey Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs
?There is no issue of reform that has not been addressed. From here what will happen is that some drafting will occur. The amendments that we went through for the finance and audit bill for instance will be drafted. It will be given to the social partners, the chamber, the union etc. And maybe as early as this weekend we will be meeting again to revise them to ensure that we are all in agreement. So in principle we are in agreement subject to the drafts that will come forward in relation to all of the reforms. We consider it to have been a very good and productive meeting. It doesn?t end today. We will continue working to see the reforms through.?

Godwin Hulse, Private Sector Negotiator
?So the meeting today was simply not to get only from Government a commitment to deal with them, but to work them through in their minute detail and how each one will be addressed by constitutional amendment, by act and or by amendments to the standing orders to give effect to these provisions. And as of this point in time, we are satisfied that this has been done. What remains to be done now is to see that actual text that will be going before the National Assembly for approval and seeing the actual changes that will be made so that we can conclusively determine that these reform points have been all addressed and there will then be in place to achieve the results we look forward to.?

Paul Perriott, Union Negotiator
?We had formed a coalition and we had put out the recommendations that we wanted amended constitutionally. This is the beginning of that process and I think it is favourable so far. With regards to our other issues, which we do have as a partner with the B.C.C.I. (Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry) also the tax increases and other things that will be affecting us as workers. We have asked the workers to see if maybe we could have some meeting set up to discuss that side of it. We have some recommendations again to make in regards to the tax increases. We are expecting some response from them.?

Godfrey Smith
?Solicitor General was with us in the meeting taking careful note of the ideas that we are trying to capture and we have projected that by the end of this week, by the close of business on Friday the adjustments, the re-drafting would have been completed and put into the hands of the social partners. We have also agreed that if necessary–well not if necessary–we have agreed that we will make ourselves available to meet on the weekend to then go through the exercise again to ensure that we are on the same page.?

Godwin Hulse
?We are talking strictly about the reforms at this point in time. There are two different issues: the budget matters are monetary and financial matters for which they will be further discussions. Our position emanated from a stand that before we have any kind of talk we need to look at the reform proposals. This is–if you like–the structures in place to go forward and that is what we addressed today.?

Perriott told the media that Union representatives would be meeting tonight to decide on their future course of action. It must be noted that while all concerned expressed cautious optimism at today’s developments, sources in all three camps acknowledged to News 5 that the issue of reform was always considered the easiest problem to solve.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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