G.O.B. Shakes Down Statutory Boards for Budget Money
Belizeans are bracing for the 2017-2018 Budget, which is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives on March thirteenth, and to take effect April first. The presentation to the House is later than past budgets, because G.O.B. is looking everywhere to come up with revenue. Financial Secretary Joseph Waight has said that higher taxes are inevitable; while Prime Minister Dean Barrow has confirmed that everything is on the table. Whatever the case, one thing is certain; the government is broke and scrambling for funds. Ministries have already been asked to shave off at least five percent of their spending. We also know that the Government of Taiwan is providing fifty million Belize dollars to supplement the budget. The Social Security Board will be purchasing fifty-five million dollars in shares in the government-owned B.T.L. and B.E.L. That’s already a hundred and five million dollars. And now after years of extravagant spending, including the Petrocaribe money, the cash-strapped government is knocking at every door. At its sitting on Tuesday, Cabinet approved what it calls Rationalization and Streaming of Statutory Boards and Establishment of Financial and Reporting Guidelines. A confidential paper states that “Cabinet agreed to require all Statutory Boards to allocate ten percent of their annual budget to the government consolidated fund, while Cabinet considers a more in-depth review of the recommendations of this paper. In pursuance of Cabinet’s further study, a smaller group of Cabinet members was appointed to recommend the ways forward. The members of the study group are: Honorable Doctor Carla Barnett, Deputy Prime Minister, Honorable Patrick Faber, Honorable Manuel Heredia and Honorable Tracy Panton.” Examples of such statutory boards include the Belize Tourism Board, the Central Bank of Belize, Protected Areas Conservation Trust, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, and others such as the Pesticide Control Board and the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute. It is not clear exactly how much funding will be raised from this new initiative or if all these measures will cover the expected financial shortfall. From what we know, this is the first time that statutory boards are required to cough up a percentage of their revenues for budget support. But a broke treasury, we suppose, calls for unusual measures.