P.M. Focuses on Economic Recovery for New Year
The Prime Minister’s annual New Year’s message is being aired elsewhere in this newscast. PM Barrow highlights the achievements of his government throughout the course of the calendar year and also sheds light on various socioeconomic challenges. While 2016 has had its ups and downs, the past twelve months have seen a contraction in the local economy. It has also seen a rather strained and often times hostile relationship with Guatemala. The PM’s summary of the year that was, looks at a number of those issues, including a forecast of the economic rebound that is anticipated in 2017. The following are excerpts from that address.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Ultimately, 2016 was in fact a year which illustrated the truism that things are never other than a mix: good with bad, progress with problems, advances with setbacks. But whenever the balance goes more to the minus side, I assure you that we will be Churchillian in our optimism that we can make opportunities out of difficulties. Thus it is that we march into 2017 certain that the next twelve months will produce a full national recovery. First, the Central Bank of Belize expects an economy-wide expansion of three point five percent, driven by dramatic growth in tourism and services and a robust recovery in farmed shrimp, corn and bananas. Second, our public servants, teachers, soldiers, nurses and police officers will receive a three percent salary increase with interest. This is the final Collective Bargaining Agreement remuneration installment and, together with increments, will total an unprecedented twenty-three percent global raise over four years. Third, Government expects to improve the state of public finances and public debt by amending the currently unaffordable terms of our inherited Super Bond. The overhaul will also involve the implementation, after broad consultations, of a Budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 that cuts spending and boosts revenue. There is fat to be trimmed and there is money to be collected. But this will be done without weakening our pro-poor programs and without sacrificing investments in education, health and security. Accordingly, there will be no diminution in either Food Pantry or BOOST, and in fact the 2017 start to Southside Poverty Alleviation Phase Three will bring additional relief to targeted communities. Likewise, two polyclinics and three health centers for Corozal and Cayo will all be completed in the coming year. And the IDB-funded Education Quality Improvement Project will see the building of dozens of new classrooms in the rural areas. Contributing to the economic rebound forecast by the Central Bank will be the massive five year, four hundred million dollar capital investment program of the public utilities B.T.L., B.E.L. and B.W.S.L. Another big driver is the menu of Central Government and Private Sector projects either in the planning or early implementation stages. These include, but are not limited to: the Caracol Road; the link road and bridge joining the Philip Goldson and George Price Highways; the new Haulover Bridge and the multi-lane expansion of the carriage way between the PGIA and Belize City; the bulk cargo and cruise port in Belize City; the Coastal Road; the Belmopan to Benque rehabilitation; and the new Macal River bridge that is a feat of local engineering.”