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Dec 29, 2004

Cabinet changes trigger concern from B.T.I.A.

Story PictureThe hot topic of the day was definitely politics as the details and possible impacts of the latest changes in the Musa Cabinet reverberated throughout the country. While some went “public” on the local talk show circuit to express their opinions, it seems most are holding their breath to see which corner will react first. No other issue of the Amandala newspaper has ever been so eagerly anticipated, after all two of the canned cabinet ministers are relatives of the paper’s publisher, Evan X Hyde. Former Minister of Housing and Transport Cordel Hyde is his son and former minister of Tourism and Culture, Mark Espat is his son-in-law. But for now, the silence is deafening. Efforts to contact Hyde and Espat proved fruitless but reports to News 5 are that meetings were held throughout the day with their advisors and party colleagues. For his part, Prime Minister Musa appears to also be watching and waiting, declining an interview this morning with News 5. However, in his New Year’s message PM Musa referred to his reason for the decision.

Prime Minster Said Musa
?We must maintain that hard won economic growth in the face of heightened competition in a market-driven global economy while concentrating on two things: reducing the cost of government by living within our means, and ensuring that those who have not yet benefited from the economic growth are afforded greater opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty.

In this context, I have downsized the Cabinet and will ask members of the National Assembly to agree to a reduction in our salaries. At the same time, I am sure that those of you who have benefited from the economic growth will agree to share the burden, so that any further adjustment that may become necessary should not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the working poor.

I know that we still have a way to go but I am clear about how to get there.?

While political cynics are quick to argue that “any further adjustment that may become necessary” is a hint of tax increases in 2005, the rest of us will have to wait until the budget is read.

In reporting the new Cabinet line-up on Tuesday, one portfolio that was noticeably absent was that of the position of Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, held by Deputy Prime Minister John Briceño and Minister of Works and Public Service Jose Coye. That post had been created on August nineteenth, and had been generally perceived as the public version of a private promise to ensure that there was a proper check and balance system for the country’s finances. On Tuesday, the understanding was that the Minister of State in Finance no longer existed. However, today Cabinet Secretary Bobby Leslie told News 5 that there had in fact been no change and the omittal from Tuesday’s press release had been human error.

But while the politicians are keeping quiet, members of the tourism industry are tonight expressing “disappointment and concern” that their governmental leader has been ousted. In a press release issued today, the Belize Tourism Industry Association says the move threatens to interrupt the tremendous strides the sector has achieved thus far. B.T.I.A.’s Executive Director Andrew Godoy explains.

Andrew Godoy, Executive Director, B.T.I.A.
?Well certainly it?s not that we feel we can?t work with any other ministers or benefit for that matter. But we are looking at our past history working with Minister Espat and all that we have accomplished so far. In fact when you look at the past few months we have had our differences with the BTB, with the Ministry of Tourism but with all that we managed to maintain open transparency. In fact it was Minister Espat who upgraded the seat of the B.T.I.A. on the BTB Board from an unobservant status to that of a voting status.?

?We are concerned because we?ve–like I said–worked with the Minister of Tourism, he has kept us informed all along on all the developments within industry, within his ministry. In fact when we have a sudden move like this, something overnight, we look at tourism; tourism was not just stumbled on overnight. Yes, it is the right of the Prime Minister to reshuffle or change his Cabinet as he sees fit but when we have something going as the relationship, the synergy that we?ve experienced with the BTB. Like I mentioned all the positive developments within the industry and his work speaks for itself. It?s not just my standing here, the B.T.I.A. putting out a release and saying oh we?ve enjoyed this with Minister Espat. But when we look at all the developments and all the he has accomplished over the last six and a half years that in itself speaks for itself. So when we look at a decision such as this, magnitude overnight, it does have us wonder because we are looking at all the investments, all the hard work that our industry have put in to developing this industry.?

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