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Feb 10, 2003

P.U.P. manifesto: lower taxes, more land

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Election manifestos in most countries are the kind of documents that are read once and promptly forgotten by voters and politicians alike. That practice was certainly true in Belize, but in recent years a funny thing happened: manifestos somehow became serious business. The turning point came in the 1993 campaign when it is widely believed that the U.D.P. manifesto promise of “free education” was a major factor in that party’s dramatic come from behind victory. In 1998 it was the P.U.P.’s turn to “out-manifesto” its opponent with promises of ten thousand houses and fifteen thousand jobs. So what will the People’s United Party do for an encore? Today, thanks to an upbeat high-tech extravaganza, I found out.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

In presenting its manifesto for 2003-2008, the People’s United Party spared no expense…walls awash in blue, twenty-eight standard bearers strong and supporters galore. Welcome to Belizean politics in the twenty-first century. Party leader Said Musa was quick to set the tone.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“I am sure you will agree that we achieved most of what we promised in 1998, came close to achieving the rest and did many more things that we had not foreseen.”

And so began the long list of the P.U.P.’s “we wills”.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Fiscal prudence and sound public investment will remain the cornerstones of our economic management as we continue to grow the economy, while ensuring that the disadvantaged benefit as well those who are better equipped to take advantage of better opportunities. We will ensure the creation of twenty thousand new jobs, local entrepreneurs will have the same access to investment incentives as foreign investors, and we will direct all future foreign investors away from retail businesses and towards agro industry and other productive and foreign exchange earning enterprises. We will remove sales tax from more basic items and home phones. We will abolish property tax on properties valued under twenty thousand dollars. Abolish stamp duty on land valued under five thousand dollars, and abolish stamp fee for government leases and further reduce electricity and telephone rates.”

“Education will continue to be the number one priority for the next P.U.P. government, and we will make sure that every Belizean child will have access to primary and secondary education. We will invest ten million dollars in more and better preschools and day care centres; build fifteen hundred new classrooms; ensure the provision of free basic primary school textbooks to the needy; build more high schools; invest forty million dollars to complete the C.E.T. vocational and technical programs in all districts.”

“The new P.U.P. government will assist every Belizean family that needs land to build a house, start a business or work a farm. We will provide thirty thousand house lots to first time land owners; make available suitable and surveyed agricultural land for small farmers; convert all existing government leases to free hold title cheaply and quickly.”

But with the opposition saying that the P.U.P. is writing cheques the government can’t cash, party point man Mark Espat believes that despite the hype, it is the past that will decide the future.

Mark Espat, P.U.P. Candidate, Albert Division

“For people to believe you, for it to be credible, you have to have a record. I believe we have that record of building Belize. Yes, I do agree this is an ambitious manifesto, but the demands of development and demands of the people are greater than ever before and I think our party and our government has to step up to meeting these expectations.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“You’re preparing to exercise your power to chose your government for the next five years. They say that memories are short in politics…”

And no doubt the P.U.P. is hoping the public will soon forget last week’s revelations by the United Democratic Party of an exclusive fifteen-year contract signed between G.O.B. and Novelo’s Bus Line.

Janelle Chanona

“What’s the deal with those documents that the U.D.P. has presented?”

Max Samuels, Minister of Transport

“The documents are their problem. The question of Novelo’s having a franchise or a concession is not so.”

Janelle Chanona

“These…the copies they presented show your signature. Did you sign any agreement like this?”

Max Samuels

“We had some business to assist the Belizean transportation industry, and we took some steps in those directions, which had nothing to do with a franchise to Novelo’s.”

Janelle Chanona

“But where there any documents signed?”

Max Samuels

“Documents were signed, but not for any concession. You probably would want to know that a concession or a franchise would need to go to the House of Representatives for approval.”

Mark Espat

“We have tried to be always on the side of the commuters. If this has meant facilitating our own Belizean companies trying to make a company stronger that employs hundreds of Belizeans, we have done so. I don’t think our government has anything to be ashamed of, we want to always be on the side of the commuters of Belize.”

Francis Fonseca, P.U.P. Candidate, Freetown

“What we share with you today is the product of nationwide consultation and dialogue, grounded in the wisdom of the Belizean people and guided by our nation’s best interests. Our party is confident that in the days and weeks ahead, as Belizeans focus on our message and plan of action we will all agree that now, perhaps more than ever, Belize needs the People’s United Party.”

Copies of the P.U.P. manifesto are available online at On Thursday the United Democratic Party makes its presentation.

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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