At Senate, Lizarraga Questions Government Spending for Budget
Just before seven-fifteen this evening, a division was called in the Senate on the 2017-2018 General Revenue and Appropriation Bill. The Bill, also known as the Budget, passed by a single vote, seven to six, mostly along party lines. Senator for the Churches Ashley Rocke was the deciding vote, breaking with fellow Social Partner Senators Mark Lizarraga for the business community; Elena Smith for the trade unions and civil society; and Osmany Salas for non-governmental organizations. Of the billion-dollar package of revenue and expenditure, some one hundred million must be borrowed to balance the budget, increasing Belize’s national debt. There were projections on the expenditure side of close to five percent, but the final figures are closer to a fraction of that. In his presentation today, Senator Lizarraga said that whereas the Government talks about responsible budgeting, there is no evidence of truly cutting the fat in this year’s budget. He questioned that after all the money and shouting, whether Belize appears to be any better off than we were before.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community
“All this Government borrowing and spending has not made us as a private sector and a country any more competitive, nor has it enhanced our governance. Our governance institutions still remain weak; there is no projection or plans to improve spending in these areas, even after these new taxes. What you have done is made us less competitive, not more competitive, as your plan purports to want to do. Did you take us out of poverty? On the contrary, you made us poorer; we owe three point one five Superbonds, not counting all the debts from the Ministry of Lands and all the other departments. Are our borders and territory safer and more protected, after all this spending? Is our nationality more respected and to be trusted, our nationality documents? Do we have a better healthcare system? Do we have a better educational system? Do we have less crime? Do we have more efficiency in solving crime and bringing innocent persons to freedom or the guilty persons to judgment? Are our foreign reserves and Government savings higher or lower; is our cost of living higher or lower? Where is the sustainable growth in employment and housing and industry, Mr. President? Have we seen the housing situation in this country improve after all these spending? Do we see less persons losing their homes in the newspaper every week? After all this unprecedented borrowing and spending, who has really and truly benefited, Mr. President?”