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Mar 28, 2017

Hulse Hails Agriculture Rebound, Promises Tight Reins on Spending

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Godwin Hulse, wrapped up debate on the General Revenue and Appropriation Bill around news time on Monday evening after a full day of discussion. He opened with a review of the state of affairs in agriculture, which has been blamed for the slight economic contraction reported in the past fiscal year but is already showing signs of the rebound the Prime Minister made note of in the Lower House. As to passing the Bill, Hulse asked senators to consider that there was very little that could be conceivably cut, and that the Government is keeping a close eye on what is actually spent during the course of the financial year.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business

“Citrus, not looking bad; if you go and look at the new nurseries that C.P.B.L. has put up in Red Bank – fantastic, and they’re doing an awesome job; they’ve put a lot of research into that to try to see how we can get on top of the greening. And again the greening: the greening is something that I think we have to attack, and I have tried to do that in the short time I have been Minister of Agriculture, because there was too much infighting in the industry. That infighting even resulted in a branch-off and a new association being formed; they went to court, the attorneys in here are well familiar with those cases. In fact, the sugar people went to court first. And there was a ruling of the Court, under the Constitution, that freedom of association exists; you can’t force nobody to join an Association. As a result of that, the citrus people did the same, and Citrus Mutual was formed, so you have two associations – very unfortunate but working too. Government didn’t bring in Banks [Holdings]; again, Banks is a company which negotiated with the CPBL and negotiated with them as a private sector deal. The only thing Government did with ASR – didn’t do it with Banks, did it with ASR – was give them a concession that runs out this year; a limited concession. When you look at fish and fish products, a new company called Rainforest has just inaugurated a state of the art processing plant in Independence where they are now shipping finned fish all over the world; and I understand that the demand in Asia for Belizean fish is high. And they are doing lobsters too – whole lobsters, with the head cooked, pre-cooked; all sort of things they’re doing and they are buying from local fishermen. I have a lot of pictures where the fishermen crowd ‘round me to show – ‘yes, boss, we happy, we good and we could sell’ – it’s a Jamaican company, but it fits in under the CSME thing and it’s working. The biggest part of this Budget is to do personal emoluments and pensions – that is the biggest part, you’re already at sixty percent. And guess weh happen – nobody will slight the old people for having worked so hard and now they get their little pension. The rest is goods and services – yes, we could turn off light here and there but goods and services you have to pay. And then of course, you have the debt service interest  – you will have to pay your interest; and then you have your subsidies – subsidies are basically, if you look in the Budget, you will see what they give to schools, put it under the Church-State program. So if you’re going to oppose the Budget or not support it, you are saying well, man mek wi stop that. Yes, I understand there are some numbers here and there, but it is heads that you are approving and these monies are allocated, and what it says, it gives the Ministry the authority to use up to so much, and if they use beyond that, they have to come back. But then, that is done through finance officers and through Smart Stream systems and through the Financial Secretary and there are a heck of a lot of controls. It’s not like a free for all. In fact, I could tell you, from having been in Government I have learned some serious lessons; because I had thought when this was budgeted that this was given to us to spend – noh work so at all! There are times you have to go to the Financial Secretary and you have to beg and plead and ih only give you a quarter of what you’ve got because he can only release money as they are getting in money; so sometimes you are ‘luffing up’ there. Many, many times, you will see budgets not completely spent by the time the financial year come around for two reasons: one, you couldn’t get the thing done or two, you couldn’t get the money. So that is what we are asking: we are asking Senators today, given all that has been said and done – this is not Government revenue, this is Government spending; where the law says – Finance and Audit Act and the Constitution – says before the Government spends any money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, it needs to get the permission of the National Assembly; that’s what we are doing.”

 

The Budget having passed, it now goes to the Governor General for his assent.

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