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Mar 26, 2019

Day Two of Annual Budget Debate – A Few Highlights

At news time, the budget debate is still ongoing at the National Assembly. This morning, Cayo South’s Julius Espat started the debate, which will be wrapped up later this evening by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.  Espat and other members on his side of the House hammered the budget, touching on a wide range of issues, including the I.C.J., the alleged kickbacks from infrastructure works and the many cutbacks in the estimates. The government side had a different perspective and lauded the budget called “Moving Ahead with Strong and Steady Economic Growth; Expansion of Opportunities for Business and Personal Advance; and Rededication to Basic Social Protection.” News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Famous for coloring outside of the proverbial lines, as far as abiding by standing orders, Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat, opened day two of the annual budget debate this morning on an even tone.  Espat kept to the script of his prepared speech.  Guardedly, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who is suing Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow, touched on the perceived illegalities of past supplementary allocations under the U.D.P. government.


Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo South

“Every year, Madame Speaker, we come to this honorable house to debate a budget which is not adhered to throughout the coming year.  Why do I say this Madame Speaker?  The government relies on illegal and unlawful supplementary allocations throughout the years, and I’m not saying it was last year, Madame Speaker, it was before your time.  It has started from 2008 and up to date, Madame Speaker, the unlawful use of funds have added up to one point three billion dollars that government has unlawfully and illegally spending, Madame Speaker.  I won’t continue speaking on this specific issue because we have launched a claim in the Supreme Court, Madame Speaker, so that the third branch, the judiciary, can make a decision as to how unlawful those actions have been.”


That branch of the central administration tasked with dispensing justice was also the focus of fellow opposition parliamentarian Kareem Musa.  Facing a budget cut in the upcoming fiscal year, questions are being raised about resources being provided to this arm of government.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Area Representative, Caribbean Shores

“This budget comes on the heels of an unprecedented attack on a Supreme Court judge by none other than the prime minister.  Mr. Speaker, never before has a sitting leader of a country attack a member of the judiciary in such a way.  It reminds me of how Donald Trump would behave, Mr. Speaker, and perhaps that is the reason why we are now seeing a sharp decrease in an already dismal budget for the judiciary, from $9,584, 656 in 2017 to now $8,976,000.  That amounts to 0.76% of our overall budget.  That is unacceptable for our judiciary.”


In echoing that very sentiment, Espat soundly criticized the Minister of Finance for the six-figure reduction in monies set aside for the court system in the coming twelve months.


Julius Espat

“The judicial system is one of the most important branches of government, but what have they done, Madame Speaker?  Just like they did to the House of Representatives and the legislature, Madame Speaker, they undermine you by not providing you with the necessary financing that you need to be able to operate properly.  So what did they do this year, Madame Speaker?  They took away approximately a million dollars from the budget of the judiciary, Madame Speaker.”


Elsewhere in the debate, Port Loyola Area Rep Anthony ’Boots’ Martinez also chimed in to defend government’s prioritization of infrastructure works in 2019 and 2020.


Anthony ‘Boots’ Martinez

Anthony ‘Boots’ Martinez, Area Representative, Port Loyola

“Madame Speaker, these infrastructure investments are also climate resilient and ultimately will serve with the safety of our people.  I completely understand that with the election due next year, the Opposition definitely don’t want to see such good work done in successive Dean Barrow administrations.  You know, but one thing we could say though, under the United Democratic Party, never before has the infrastructure of this country has been there, been the best it has ever been in all of the history of this country.”


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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