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Jan 25, 2005

Senate passes budget by 7-6 vote

While government and union negotiators met in the nation’s capital, the National Assembly reverberated with the debate of the thirteen-member senate. While the outcome was never really in doubt, the level of discourse was, as usual, several notches above the more democratically constituted House of Representatives.

Noteworthy in the debate was an impassioned address by Minister of National Development Assad Shoman. Shoman, the oldest and closest friend of Prime Minister Said Musa, chose to defend the P.M.’s budget by…ignoring it. “Our economy is broken and we must mend it”, he said, and called for a fundamental change in our economic system. Shoman wistfully recalled the 1960′s when Belize and much of the Third World embarked on a path of development that he claimed valued people over profits. He lamented the reversal of that policy in favour of a U.S. dictated thrust toward the “fever of privatisation”, stating unequivocally that “privatisation has been bad for Belize”. The only problem with Shoman’s speech was not his historical analysis, but the fact that the party that presided over all the evils he described–particularly privatisation–was his own PUP. After all his lofty words Shoman voted in favour of his government’s budget and related tax bills which passed by the thinnest margin of seven votes to six. The vote broke down along straight party lines with the three independent senators–Hulse, Chen and Gomez–joining the Opposition minority. The budget awaits the signature of the Governor General to become law. Joining the senate today was a new member on the government side, Charles Galvez. Galvez, who heads the PUP’s youth wing, replaces former senator Eamon Courtenay, who was asked to leave the cabinet by the Prime Minister and later resigned from cabinet.

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