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Jan 24, 2003

Barrow: budget is “a fraud, a hoax, a whap…”

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Following the P.M.’s announcement, it was time to engage in the annual battle of the budget. Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow, as usual, came out smoking. He referred to the P.U.P. budget presented last week as a “whap”, a con, a hoax, a fraud, nonsense on stilts and blatantly false…and these choice adjectives were just for openers.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“There’s one song in particular that they favour, the song that claims–in the arrogant fashion that’s become associated with the P.U.P.-”we going to whap them one by one, we going to whap two by two.” Of course, the word “whap” has two meanings. It means when you beat somebody literally or metaphysically, and it also means, when you engage in a con, in stealing, like when you “whap” somebody out ah deh money. I guess the whap they should really be focussing on is the whap that this budget represents, because this budget is a con. This budget is a hoax. This budget is a fraud.

“There was one year in this administration in which G.D.P. growth was very high, and I think that was in 2000 when they sell off all the assets, so it was absolutely artificial. Then it was ten percent, so that this current year’s G.D.P. growth would have fall off something like almost sixty percent from that flash in the pan high in 2000. Note that this year Madam Speaker, capital two expenditure will fall for the second year in a row. The shrinking of imports and the tightening of bank liquidity are signs of an economy is coming to a stop. It is the colic after the gluttony. It is the dentist after the candy. And it all because the ridiculous spending spree of the opening years was both unaffordable and misdirected. This is when all of that money was spent on the corrupt, wasteful projects such as Los Lagos and La Democracia, to name only two.”

“The International Monetary Fund report last quarter, said–and this is a public document that anybody can have access to–said Madam Speaker, that most reserves of this government are held as guarantees against foreign loans at commercial banks abroad or are otherwise not available. So this is like everything else, an illusion, not freely available. The I.M.F. projected that after the bond issue, after the so-called debt restructuring… The I.M.F. report came out after the bond issue my bwai. After the debt restructuring, supposedly procured with the two hundred and fifty million dollar bond, freely after… Listen, go and read the report. At least I expect that you can understand what you read. Go and read the report. After, Madam Speaker, after the debt restructuring supposedly procured with the two hundred and fifty million dollar bond, freely usable reserves would be only thirty-two point five million dollars, less than one month of import cover. That’s not what I am saying; it’s the International Monetary Fund.”

“But without a doubt Madam Speaker, the biggest of the individual hoaxes perpetrated by this fraudulent budget is the claim as to a recurrent surplus of thirty-five million dollars. Well, that one really is a joke. This, Madam Speaker, is exactly what happened in 1993 and the records are there. The surplus is a fiction based on, as the I.M.F. put it, overestimated revenue and underestimated expenditure, understated expenditure. They called the two hundred and fifty million U.S. dollar debt at the time they took office, staggering and pledged to stop the reckless borrowing. That’s how they termed it. Now that debt, let me get the exact thing here, on their own figure is five hundred and twenty-five million U.S., that’s what you put. I will show you in a minute how you’ve absolutely misstated the debt. Five hundred and twenty-five million, so that even on their figure, which is a gross underestimate, but let’s, for purposes of the argument, take their figure. Even on their figure, they’ve gone from two hundred and fifty million U.S. to five hundred and twenty-five million U.S. That’s more than double in five years.

“And Madam Speaker, where has all this borrowed money gone? It’s not just bad that we owe our soul to these primarily commercial banks, if the money had gone to improve the quality of life for Belizeans. If it mi gone pan Southside renewal so that unu could ah me eliminate the London bridges as unu promise and stop the people them from back a Belama from have alligata the look fu bite them. If yuh mi use the money fu rural development in the forgotten Toledo District, then Madam Speaker perhaps we might have argued over whether it was not too huge a cost to bear, too huge a price to pay. But where has the money gone? On ghost towns such as your satellite city, on roads that lead to nowhere, on the agenda of corruption and filling ministerial and party insider pockets. That’s where all that money that has been borrowed has gone.

We will put a cap on the ability of any government to borrow once the national debt is in excess of eighty percent of G.D.P. except you get…”

Elizabeth Zabaneh, Speaker of the House

“Honourable Member.”

Dean Barrow (angrily)

“Look, if you stop me, I’m going to leave this house because you must give me a chance to put my programs to the people. Understand?”

(Crowd goes wild)

Elizabeth Zabaneh

“This is not the place for you to be showcasing what you are going to do.”

Dean Barrow

“Madam Speaker, if you don’t allow me to put my plans to the people, you will have to name me. I will not stop. I will put my plans to the people.”

Elizabeth Zabaneh

“Please continue with the debate on the budget.”

Dean Barrow

“We know that the Belizean people will recognize that we have the wherewithal, we have the talent, and above all, we have the honesty, to bring this country back from the brink. On March fifth, let’s get it right. Vote, U.D.P.!”

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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