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Aug 19, 2004

New Cabinet meets on Friday

At nine Friday morning, the new Cabinet will sit together in its first official meeting since the line-up was announced on Wednesday evening. According to Cabinet Secretary Bobby Leslie, plans were being made all day to take care of the constitutional arrangements; that is the official swearing in of new members Ainslie Leslie, Mike Espat, and Assad Shoman, prior to the meeting tomorrow. By late this afternoon Shoman had been sworn in by the Governor General as Senator, replacing Therese Rath, and also as a Minister of Government. Ainslie Leslie and Mike Espat will get the G.G.?s blessing Friday morning at eight, just in time to head upstairs to the Cabinet room for nine. The protocol of where the Ministers will sit is apparently not an issue. Previously the P.M. was flanked by Deputy Briceno and Finance Minister Fonseca. According to CABSEC Leslie “we don’t have names or numbers on the seats, but those two ministers are expected to sit in their customary places.”

After the announcement of the Cabinet shuffle, some people, including the Leader of the Opposition, questioned the propriety, not to mention constitutionality, of assigning Minister of State responsibilities to members of Cabinet who were already named Ministers; specifically John Briceno and Jose Coye who have been named Ministers of State in the Ministry of Finance in addition to their portfolios as Minister of Natural Resources and Works respectively. According to Leslie, there is no conflict with the constitution. The official position out of Belmopan is that the Prime Minister has decided that those two Ministers will assist him in the management of the Ministry of Finance. That decision is being classified as an innovation from this P.U.P. administration, which will translate into both men having full capacity to take part in the decisions of Cabinet while assisting the P.M. in Finance. They will now have plenty to help with as under the new arrangement, Social Security, the Development Finance Corporation and Central Bank will fall under the Ministry of Finance.

Another creative portfolio is that of Enterprise, held by Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mark Espat. Apparently, the exact definition is still being finalized, but for now enterprise is being loosely explained as a mandate for Espat to develop new programmes and projects to expand small and medium enterprises, with specific emphasis on tourism. The belief is that not enough Belizeans are benefiting from that industry and this new area of government administration will encourage more entrepreneurial ventures. In addition, Espat will also assume responsibility for Commercial Free Zones and Export Processing Zones.

Moving now to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Investment, if you were wondering what exactly “investment” includes, according to Cabinet Secretary Leslie, that portfolio, held by Ralph Fonseca, includes BELTRAIDE, Export Promotion, Development, and Fiscal Incentives and General Investments.

And as we mentioned earlier, Ambassador Assad Shoman is giving up his foreign posting in Cuba with plans to take up residence in Belize as soon as official procedures to conclude his tenure are conducted there. Shoman will take over the Prime Minister’s former role as Minister of National Development. As to who will take over in Havana; that decision is yet to be announced.

Tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, originally scheduled for August thirty-first was brought forward eleven days as a result of the past week’s events.

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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