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Mar 21, 2013

Lackluster budget debate

The 2013-2014 budget debate took place in the House this morning. The Speaker called for good behavior and by and large House members were in true form restraining from the usual mudslinging. But he would note later during the presentations that few members had actually referred to the estimates.  The Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca, set the tone for the opposition side, saying the budget was an empty one but government was loud mouth and sharp tongue.  News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports on the inspiring debate.

 

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The budget debate of the General Revenue Appropriation bill for fiscal year 2013-2014 was lackluster. However, the opening of today’s house meeting was the Prime Minister’s call for unity on the unfounded Guatemalan claim.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The cabinet must be seized of this matter as must the Leader of the Opposition and his party. But I must say that I don’t like what is being proposed by the Guatemalans. Nevertheless, presumably after we’ve had a chance to analyze things closely and Leader of the Opposition had a chance to do the same and we can exchange views, we can take a unified national position.”

 

The PM then repeated that the Super Bond has been successfully renegotiated.

 

Dean Barrow

“I just wanted to inform you and this honorable House and the nation that Belize’s Debt Exchange offer has now finally, legally, conclusively closed. This happened yesterday with the submission of all the relevant legal documentation. Tenders were presenting eighty-six point two percent of the aggregate principal amount of the eligible claim were received by the expiration date of the offer and consistent with the collective action clause in the original bonds, the entirety of those bonds have now been exchanged for the new 2038 bonds. Consequent upon that, for those who set store by what the rating agencies have to say, I have made it plain that I don’t. I believe that in our peculiar circumstances where we are not borrowing anything new commercially, rating agencies and their pronouncements which can send up or lower the borrowing costs to countries on who they pronounce. It has no real relevance to us; nevertheless, there are those who don’t agree with me and as I say, they set store on the actions of the rating agencies. And they will be placed to know that as a consequence of the successful restructuring, Standard and Poors has announced that the ratings on Belize have raised to B – B-minus as a consequence of the completion of the debt exchange.”

 

Francis Fonseca

The Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca lashed out at the Super Bond’s chief negotiator, former P.U.P. Albert Area Representative Mark Espat, who he now dubbed the ‘red eye boy.’

 

Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

“The bond restructuring team led by the Prime Minister’s new red eye boy, his Excellency, his Excellency the ambassador was a disastrous failure. The team leader’s initial high risk strategy of low-balling the bondholders turned out to be a near fatal mistake; you had to rush over there PM—turned out to be a near fatal mistake. The initial options were soundly rejected and what Belize ended up accepting was a far, far cry from any of the original indicative scenarios. The truth is Mr. Speaker that if it were not for the good faith of the chairman of the bondholder committee, Mr. Mediratta and his long-standing relationship with Belize developed over many years under the People’s United Party Administration, superbond 2038 would not have gotten done. So Prime Minister respectfully, save us all the bouquet throwing at your red eye boy. We know the truth. Ih should throw some bouquets in other places. We know the truth Mr. Speaker; the Belizean people know the truth. In any case, he has been handsomely rewarded for his restructuring—not of the bond—he has been handsomely rewarded for the restructuring of the Albert Division and I am confident that he will be grateful and join your party for that handsome reward.”

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security 

“They dread going to the polls in four years time because the four years of unprecedented growth and development that we will experience under the U.D.P. will make it almost impossible for them to be the government next time around. And I hear them lambasting Ambassador Espat. I would want to think that in their minds, 2012 Mister Speaker was Mark Espat 1.0. In 2017, they may very well see Mark Espat 2.0.”

 

The Leader of the Opposition chastised the ruling party for not consulting stakeholders on the budget.

 

Francis Fonseca

“The absolute failure of this U.D.P. government to carry out any consultations in respect of this year’s budget; this shameful failure is of course consistent with the U.D.P.’s total disregard and disrespect of the government’s social and economic partners in development. No consultation with the unions, no consultation with the council of churches, no consultation with the agro-productive sector, no consultation with the Chamber of Commerce or the Belize Business Bureau, no consultation with youth and student government leaders, no consultation with our artists and musicians; no consultation Mister Speaker with the Belizean people.”

 

One of the P.U.P.’s message centered on the U.D.P.’s quote ‘loud mouth and sharp tongue.’ Unquote.

 

Francis Fonseca

“This budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 does nothing to change course. Unemployment and underemployment continue to devastate our Belizean families wreaking particular destruction and devastation on the hopes and aspirations of our youth and women. Some thirty thousand Belizeans actively seeking a job cannot find one. ‘Loud mouth and sharp tongue’ do not create jobs Mister Prime Minister.”

 

Said Musa

Said Musa, Freetown Area Rep.

“Now in 2013, our dear prime minister is once again fantasizing as an Olympic champion this time taking a victory lap with laurels and garlands—much in evidence—while as the Leader of the Opposition said we didn’t see any garlands and laurels when we arrived this morning Mister Speaker. Whatever the fantasy, you were comparing yourself to an Olympian. It is time for a reality check. At the end of 2007-2008, when they took over, the outstanding external death totaled—external as well as domestic—was two point two billion dollars. Now in 2013, after the so called superbond has been restructured and we now have superbond 2038, the total external debt according to the Prime Minister in his budget speech totals two point four billion dollars. So with all the talk of restructuring and saving everything else, we are now two hundred million dollars more deeper in debt than we were in 2008 when the People’s United Party left government. The prime minister can fulminate as much as he wants about that we in the P.U.P. have nothing to show. Well Mister Prime Minister and all of you over there, tell that to the over fifty thousand Belizean mothers and their families who benefited from free affordable quality health care under the national health insurance scheme that P.U.P. initiated on south side Belize City and expanded to the southern districts; Stann Creek and Toledo. Tell them too why is it that as soon as you came into office, you started dismantling this great health program. A great health program, one of the best for the poor people of this country; if you really want to fight poverty, talk about medical expenses. Why are you cutting back on NHI? Why are you suspending so many of the programs of NHI? But you want to talk about safety net for the people? You are cutting back on a program for people that can least afford it. And then tell them too why you have suspending the program when by now it should have been extended to entire country of Belize.”

 

John Saldivar

“Public officers and teachers will get their raise; they deserve their raise and they will get it when this country is able to responsibly afford to give them their raise. In the U.D.P. version of economic growth Mr. Speaker, this economic growth is being fueled by growth in agriculture, growth in tourism, growth in construction, growth in fisheries, growth in aquaculture, expansion in hotel construction, better performance in sugar, in banana. This is what the U.D.P. version of economic growth is based on.”

 

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

 

This  afternoon the Ministers of Education, Natural Resources and Human Transformation from the government’s side made their presentations; as did the representatives from the Orange Walk Central, Stann Creek West, Toledo East and Corozal South East as well as Belize Central. The debate continues Friday morning. 

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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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2 Responses for “Lackluster budget debate”

  1. Seletar says:

    The “debate” is what we have come to expect from both parties, all political talk, no sense and no substance.

    It’s hard for PUP to say much about the Superbond, because they created most of the original debt. It’s hard for UDP to say much, because the economy has been dropping and cost of living has been rising, poverty rates have been rising, under their governance.

    I would like to see a GOB, from whatever party and with whomever as leader, that BALANCES THE BUDGET. No borrowing! I agree with the comments I have seen here that borrowing today enslaves workers tomorrow, to pay off debts incurred by those who came before them.

    I would like to see the tax system overhauled so it is applied uniformly to all, and tax rates reduced, so workers can choose how to spend most of their money.

    I would like to see GOB limit its operations — and its expenditures — to a few really important things. Government should only pay taxpayer dollars for necessities like security (police and BDF), education, and emergency health care.

    If our government was limited, and budgets balanced, our economy would strengthen and those who are willing to work would have jobs and prosperous futures.

  2. Paint it black says:

    Lackluster debate from lackluster parties from a lackluster country.

    Be sociable, share!
    The land, with the Guats and $$$ with the UDP.
    Open up and say Aaahh.

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