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Nov 23, 2011

Economic Forum discusses state of country

With the economic train moving slow, Prime Minister Dean Barrow met with the private sector this morning to discuss ways to spur economic growth. Both have been at odds on a number of issues, including nationalization and the ninth amendment, but today a long list of issues that range from crime to taxes were identified as hurdles to cross if the engine is to crank up. One of the more interesting proposals on the table is in the banking sector where interest rates have not dropped but loan demands have.  The plan is to turn the DFC into a Commercial Bank. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports on the economic forum.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Turning the Corner, a first of its kind business forum, engaging both public and private sectors, was held this morning inside the Jungle Pavilion at Old Belize.  The focus of the discussion was on finding relevant means through which partnership between government and the commercial sector can aid in the continued development of a sustainable economy for years to come.  At the helm of the roundtable was Prime Minister Dean Barrow.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“In setting the stage for this forum that is overdue, it is fair to say that no Government of Belize has before been put into a situation where so much of its time and resources have had to be spent, including in court, to recover or protect the assets of the country.  This has been at a juncture when the economic crosscurrents caused by both external and domestic factors, would normally have required the full attention of the authorities just to keep the system up and running.  Despite our preoccupations with defense of sovereignty and patrimony, however, we have been able to deliver on critical economic and social systemic tasks much more effectively than most of our neighbors.  But of course, we too have suffered from the management failures in the United States and the global crises these helped to cause.”

Despite dire economic times since the global recession began in 2008, the Barrow Administration has created a national development framework for the country which will span a period of two decades.  Horizon 2030, as it is known, aims to address several concerns involving the growth and performance of the private sector utilizing government and its activities as a primary vehicle.

Kay Menzies

Kay Menzies, President, BCCI

“We’ve always stood ready to work with the public sector as a partner and we never stopped working with the public sector as a partner.  Partners have disagreements from time to time and that’s a reality.  The fact is we both and we all want Belize to get ahead as an economy as a country for its people and I think what we have to recognize is the effort that’s underway is not just about the public sector or the private sector or the both of them.  It is about all Belizeans and the wellbeing of all Belizeans.  The sooner we can all jump aboard and work together as a country outside of any partisan politics the faster we’ll get along.”

That harmony will require urgent attention on the part of GOB to address key areas that are currently affecting the business climate.

Dean Barrow

“There is a perception of extensive tax evasion, particularly with respect to GST and custom duties.  This, of course, leads to inequity, increasing the inability to compete on the part of those that continue to play by the rules.  Violent crime, including murder and armed robbery, has reached the levels where it has added tremendously to the security costs of doing business.  The financial sector operations need to be reviewed, with particular emphasis on interest rates, deposit rates and the excess liquidity in the system.”

To effect the decisions that were taken as a result of those concerns a steering committee was formed which will see a united front being taken by both private and public sector representatives.

Kay Menzies

“One main steering committee was put together and then several smaller committees will be put together dealing with sector specific issues.  We have also a banking committee that the PM has formed today so tremendous progress in respect of getting things started.  Now the steering committee will have to meet and set up the rest of it and I think everybody understands that time is of the essence and it should all get underway and get formed very, very quickly.”

Integral to the changes which have been deemed necessary to spur economic growth are several government agencies including the Office of the Financial Secretary, the Central Bank, Ministry of Economic Development, Customs Department, BELTRAIDE, as well as the General Sales Tax Commissioner which formed the head table for today’s discussion. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

With the conversation started, a follow up is to be held in six months to assess the progress of the initiatives. Click here to view the full text of the prime minister’s presentation.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “Economic Forum discusses state of country”

  1. Storm says:

    We cannot borrow our way to prosperity — that is just more debt to enslave our children.

    We don’t have the capital to build our way up to prosperity.

    Yet we are a nation with a lot of good resources, and a small population with good literacy. We have the tools, we just need capital investment.

    WE NEED A GOVERNMENT THAT MAKES BELIZE INVITING TO NEW FOREIGN INVESTMENT — and no more sweetheart deals for the “better Belizeans,” meaning the well-connected crooks.

  2. murphy says:

    yah i agree with u storm

  3. Tanya says:

    Turn the DFC into a commercial national bank ??? Last time we heard about DFC have we forgotten what happened to tax payers money under the DFC ?? IT made our grandchildren and great grandchildren still be paying this BIG MISTAKE for generations to come. This is not governments money and the cabinet has not earned it. It will be a bank for political cronies , friends etc,,,, Its a nightmare in the making. lets create business opportunities for people so they can fend for themselves and work for themselves instead of a general feeling of entightlements which government cannot afford.Form a nice business infrastructure where employment opportunities are created for the unemplooyed and thus avoid poverty instead of governmennt handouts that does not cure the problem of our people..No more tax payers money in DFC

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