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Sep 24, 2019

Independence Day Addresses the State of Nation

Independence Day ceremonies are traditionally addressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. As they have in the past, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and P.U.P. Leader, John Briceño, have different takes on the state of the nation. This year, the P.M. lauded the economic performance and low unemployment; Briceño committed to lowering the price of diesel. Still on this occasion, there was convergence on love for country. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The occasion of Belize’s thirty-eighth anniversary of independence, notwithstanding the pageantry of an official ceremony in Belmopan, was also an opportunity for Prime Minister Dean Barrow to provide an update on the state of the nation.  The country’s economic performance since the beginning of fiscal year 2019 is among the many achievements being acknowledged.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We continue to live in a good country.  And one testament to that is the economic headway that 2019 has so far brought.  Given the fears of a global slowdown precipitated by the trade wars and other geopolitical realities, Belize’s economic performance in the first quarter of this year has been reassuring.  GDP grew in the three months from January through March, by an unusual 5.2%.  And the even better accompanying news was that the unemployment rate fell to historic low of 7.6%.  Admittedly, second quarter GDP greatly lagged the first quarter and an actual decline of 0.8% was recorded.  But when the two quarters are put together, in aggregate we are still much ahead of par and much ahead of peers in the region.”


In recognizing that the economy has indeed grown considerably, Opposition Leader John Briceño says that while there is confidence in the creation of new jobs; the exorbitant cost of fuel is of grave concern.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“We are today a four billion dollar economy, so yes we are optimistic about the creation of thousands of good jobs, of new jobs that will lead to lasting careers.  Government can lead in this effort by first improving public finances while keeping taxes low.  This will begin by ensuring that the current high cost of fuel is brought down.  We may not be able to control the cost of fuel on the world market but we can control the taxes on diesel.  Today we are committing to reducing the cost of diesel to nine dollars a gallon or less, this will allow the productive sector to grow, but more importantly it will put more money in the pockets of Belizeans.”


Elsewhere in his speech, P.M. Barrow also highlighted the fact that a settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and Atlantic International Bank Limited, in respect of the Sanctuary Bay real estate scam, has been met.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Regarding the financial sector, no A.I.B.L. contagion has spread to any other Belizean bank, domestic or offshore.  G.O.B. and the Central Bank moved fast as we could to deal with the consequences of the F.T.C. charges against A.I.B.L.  The in-principle settlement negotiated with the F.T.C. officials has now been approved by the F.T.C. commissioners.  So while it was impossible to save A.I.B.L. itself, the overall sanctity of our banking sector was preserved and our jurisdiction spared any further ramifications.”


While the prime minister announced the news of that settlement, Briceño reminded the nation of the People’s United Party’s True Blue commitment to shared prosperity.


John Briceño

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to go to work and to usher in a decade of social and economic upliftment based on our True Blue commitment that is always about the people, all the people and always about a shared prosperity.  So join us and with the guidance of our creator, let us together make our generation’s chapter in the history of our nation one that fulfilled the promise of prosperity by building a Belize that works for everyone.”


Another major issue addressed was the drought that continues to cripple the agriculture sector.  Despite having gone into details last Thursday, PM Barrow reiterated government’s commitment and willingness to assist farmers.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“As to the drought, a joint effort on the part of the C.B.B., the Government of Belize and the commercial financial institutions, produced a raft of remedial measures designed to help the recovery of our farming sector.  We spoke to the package in detail at the press conference earlier this week.  But just to repeat the major takeaways, the relaxation of certain regulatory strictures equipment for this.”


And on the prime minister’s announcement of retiring from electoral politics in 2020, Opposition Leader John Briceño formally acknowledged PM Barrow’s achievements in leading the country, partisan politics aside.


John Briceño

“In the end, no partisan difference will change what I believe and this is that we, you and I, prime minister share a deep and abiding love for this nation.  Let’s give the prime minister a round of applause.”


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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