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Mar 7, 2003

New 13 member Cabinet sworn in

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The voters only went to the polls on Wednesday, but by early next week the wheels of government should already be turning smoothly. News 5′s Janelle Chanona was on hand in Belmopan this morning for the unveiling of the nation’s top executive body…and found that the second Musa administration is no clone of the first.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

It was a session of hugs and back patting for members of the People’s United Party as they gathered at Belize House in Belmopan to be officially sworn in by the Governor General as members of Cabinet.

Prime Minister Said Musa was first to take the oath.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“I, Said Wilbert Musa, do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Belize and will uphold the constitution and the law and that I will conscientiously, impartially and to the best of my ability discharge my duties as Prime Minister of Belize and do right to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill will so help me God.”

Along with his prime ministerial duties, Musa is now responsible for the Ministry of Education and the Public Service.

One by one, his twelve colleagues followed suit.

Francis Fonseca is a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Johnny BriceƱo is reappointed as Deputy Prime Minister and assumes the portfolio for Natural Resources and the Environment, Commerce and Industry.

Ralph Fonseca is now officially the Minister of Finance and stays on familiar territory with Home Affairs.

Mark Espat keeps Tourism and Culture and adds Economic Development.

Vildo Marin stays on as Minister of Works, Transport and Communications.

Godfrey Smith is still Attorney General, but is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation…portfolios previously held by Assad Shoman. But Shoman stays in the picture in a previously unknown post as Chief Foreign Affairs Representative and ambassador with ministerial rank concentrating on negotiations with Guatemala.

With the P.M. taking over education, Cordel Hyde assumes the Ministry of Housing…formerly under Dickie Bradley.

Jose Coye is still Minister of Health.

Marcial Mes leaves Rural Development to take over as Minister of Human Development, Local Government and Labour…held in the last administration by Dolores Balderamos Garcia.

Former backbencher Servulo Baeza is now Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The only woman elected to government, Sylvia Flores, takes over the Ministry of Defence and National Emergency Management, portfolios previously held by George Price.

Eamon Courtenay is reappointed as a Senator, but this time around, he gets to sit down with the big boys as Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade.

And bringing up the rear are Ministers of State Ainslie Leslie, Ismael Cal, Agripino Cawich and Dave Burgos. Ministers of State are not members of Cabinet, but can be invited for specific sessions.

In case you missed it, no, Max did not get a ministry…nor did Dickie, but hey, anything can happen in the future.

There are a couple of portfolios notably absent from the list: Immigration, Sports, Women and Youth. According to Cabinet Secretary, Robert Leslie, Immigration falls under Ralph Fonseca at Home Affairs; Women, Marcial Mes at Human Development, while Sports and Youth go to P.M. Musa under Education. But the final allocation of departments to ministries will not be announced until after the first Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

According to Prime Minister Musa, it wasn’t easy putting his thirteen-man team together.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“It was in a sense, a very difficult trying, decision for me but I had to do the best in my judgement as who I believe could best serve on the executive. We are trying very hard to change the system, the way it has operated in the past, we do need to give more clout and more authority to the legislature. And so I see the need for us to equip the backbenchers, the parliamentarians, the Ministers of State with the necessary responsibility so they can discharge their functions as representatives of the people. After all, that’s what we’ve been elected as.”

Musa made political history again this morning by becoming the first Prime Minister not to hold the purse strings as Minister of Finance.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“I am the chairman of the National Economic council as Prime Minister and I will have that supervisory role over all matters dealing with the financing of government or public expenditure, but I felt the need for the Minister who is a very competent man in the world of finance to take on full responsibility for that now. And there are many issues in finance, particularly dealing with the financial international institutions that I really do not have the time to devote to and he will accept full responsibility for that.”

Janelle Chanona

“P.M., one of your reasons for calling elections on March fifth you said, was changing world environment. We see Mr. Bush moving ever so closer to war this month. What’s going to be the economic strategy as we go into this new term?”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Well, we will have to remain very focussed on the need for maintaining a tight fiscal policy, control expenditure as much as possible, live within our means as much as possible. But that’s not to say we are not going to carry out or various pledges we made to the people. But obviously, things like the looming war will result in the possibilities of increased oil prices, perhaps, not perhaps, it will hurt the tourist industry which is the fastest growing industry in the country. So we have to brace ourselves and we have to come to the people and keep reminding them and telling them the facts of life so that we move on this thing together.”

Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

The new Cabinet numbers thirteen ministers, of whom twelve are elected members of the House of Representatives and one is an appointed Senator.

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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