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Mar 15, 2019

The 2019/2020 National Budget is Unveiled in Parliament

The budget for the new financial year that begins on April first, was read today by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in the House of representatives where a number of seats on the other side were empty as some parliamentarians were in the Supreme Court. The thrust of the “Moving Ahead” budget provides for massive spending in roads and bridges and for a continuation of the pantry programmes.   The Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño; however, is of the view that the budget is not a people’s budget.  Here is Isani Cayetano with a report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The twelfth annual budget presented by the Barrow administration, was introduced before the House of Representatives today. The Government of Belize projects national expenditure of approximately one point two five billion dollars over the next twelve months, beginning April 1st, 2019.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“How Government spends monies and allocates resources in these upcoming 12 months of the new financial year is driven by one central preoccupation, one sacred mission: to benefit the citizens of our nation, those that inhabit, make their way and organize their lives in our villages and towns and cities and open countryside.”

 

Here’s an initial reaction from Opposition Leader John Briceño, following the budget presentation.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Well we just listened to a lame duck prime minister that, no energy, no enthusiasm, just going through the motions.  Obviously when you listen to the prime minister closely, he was more talking to the IMF, to the multilaterals and not to the Belizean people, trying to justify all these infrastructure projects to them.  Projects that, what we’ve been seeing, you know he’s singing out that it’s all about these projects.  We know what’s going on with all of these projects, I mean that is why more and more people are referring to this government as the kickback government.  I mean, in effect, this is a kickback budget.”

 

The financial plan for the year ahead is set against the scrim of recent economic developments, but it is equally important to view the budget from the perspective of public debt. The public debt is how much a country owes to lenders outside of itself. These can include individuals, businesses, and even other governments.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Madam Speaker, According to the Central Bank of Belize, the outstanding external debt as of December 2018 totaled two point five-five-six billion dollars, the equivalent of sixty-six point four percent of GDP, while the domestic debt stood at one point zero four-six billion or twenty-seven point two percent of GDP. This gave rise to a total debt of three point six zero one billion or ninety-three point six percent of GDP.”

 

That sovereign debt, according to Briceño, continues to balloon under the present government, which he says insists on borrowing heavily.

 

John Briceño

“The point of the matter, or the fact is, he said that he was going to reduce the national debt and it has increased.  When you look at our national debt, for instance the GDP, the economy has grown, he is claiming, well he finally managed to increase it by a billion dollars, doubled it in less than ten years.  So now when you compare debt to GDP, it has allowed him to borrow even far more than what we could have borrowed during our time.”

 

In respect of the country’s fiscal performance, Prime Minister Barrow anticipates that there will be an additional two point two percent of GDP remaining at the end of the present financial year.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Madam Speaker, with another two weeks before the end of the present fiscal year, I can report that the Government is projecting the outturn for FY 2018/2019 to outperform the budget that was approved by this House last year. We therefore expect to achieve a primary surplus of two point two percent of GDP, and to limit the overall deficit to only point three percent of GDP. With this we have satisfied the commitment made to our bondholders. More importantly, we have demonstrated to the Belizean public our allegiance to sound finances and an investment framework of maximum stability.”

 

The excessive borrowing, says the Leader of the Opposition, continues to burden all Belizeans financially.

 

John Briceño

“As it is right now, every Belizean man, woman and child owes in excess of nine thousand dollars.  Every man, woman and child owes over nine thousand dollars and he’s still telling you, I’m still coming back to borrow more money.  When will it stop?”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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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