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Jun 1, 2005

U.D.P. blasts G.O.B. on finances

Story PictureThey are releasing planks of their manifesto as if elections were just around the corner–as indeed they believe they are. But whether a national vote is near or far, given the state of the nation’s finances, the leaders of the opposition United Democratic Party would be insane to pass up the chance to hammer away at their counterparts in Belmopan. And hammer away they did at today’s press conference.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This afternoon, the United Democratic Party painted what it called a ?calamitous picture? of the state of Belize?s economy.

Dean Barrow, U.D.P. Party Leader
?Currently the national debt is larger than our Gross Domestic Product of two point two billion dollars. That is, we owe more than the value of all goods and services produced by our local economy. Servicing the debt of around two point five billion dollars, that includes the guarantees, costs us well over two hundred million dollars annually. Overall, the government spends far more than it earns and thus runs a budget deficit of around one hundred and seventy-six million dollars or around eight percent of our G.D.P. The debt service and the budget deficit have in turn to be financed by the huge increases in taxation imposed by the last budget. Our foreign reserves, which anchor our fixed exchange rate of two Belize dollars to one U.S. dollar, are so low that they have to be propped up with foreign borrowings rather than foreign earnings.?

Within that context, the U.D.P. highlighted, in broad terms, its solution to the country?s financial woes in a document called the Economic Rescue Plan.

Dean Barrow
?We need to stamp out corruption, make the tax system more equitable, reduce the cost of living, create jobs, and bring hope to our people.?

Specifically, Barrow maintains that included in the U.D.P. proposal are plans to restructure the foreign debt to provide easier repayment terms, obtain debt forgiveness from creditors like the United Kingdom, obtain multilateral sources of concessionary financing, improve revenue collection, curb discretionary tax exemptions, and restore investor confidence.

Dean Barrow
?The U.D.P. has the will and the ability to cut this by eliminating waste, featherbedding, and corruption. Spending less can produce more simply because there will now be value for money and a complete rooting out of the practices that see this administration throwing away monies on cronies and financing roads that lead to nowhere, such as the Galleria Maya in the Corozal Free Zone.?

?I can bet you that the contract officers that will go will not be the Norris Halls, the Vaughn Gills, and the Dickie Bradleys and the Dolores Balderamos-Garcias, and the Mike Rudons. When we talk about eliminating contract officers, we are talking about eliminating the politically appointed contract officers.?

And the U.D.P. is confident it will get the country out of the red without raising taxes, based on the premise that the state of the nation?s finances are the result of bad decisions from a reckless administration.

Dean Barrow
?Where we are did not just happen. We did not get here by happenstance. The crisis is a direct consequence of the corruption, of the mismanagement, of the warped economic policies of the current administration. We cannot ever lose sight of that fact. It is not as though some natural disaster struck poor unfortunate Belize and so we all have to pull together. And it is clear to me certainly that people realise this and that is why there is no confidence in the P.U.P.?

?When the P.U.P. will tell you that they have the discipline now to administer the medicine, nobody believes them because they have said this over and over again. And that is why they?ve run afoul of the I.M.F., that is why they?ve fun afoul of the I.D.B., that is why they?ve fun afoul of DFID–the British–because they preach one thing over and over and gain and practice something completely different. And I?m saying that at bottom, everything revolves around this question of confidence. Under a U.D.P. administration, first of all, the confidence factor will be reintroduced into play. In terms of the economy itself, nobody can deny that the mess that they?ve put us in will require some adjustment. And we have tried to set up in this mini manifesto some of the adjustment measures that would have to be taken. But we feel that these adjustment measures can come without the kind of shock, the kind of disruption, the kind of dislocation that what the P.U.P. presented on Friday signals. We don?t think that it has to happen like that, and that is why in this rescue mission, we have set out the details of exactly how we will go about everything to try and put the economy back on track.?

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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