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Mar 6, 2020

PM Barrow’s Final Budget Speech

Prime Minister Dean Barrow proceeded to deliver his final budget estimates on Thursday, but the Opposition side of the aisle was empty, as the area representatives had vacated the chambers before the presentation. The budget is titled “Making Every Dollar Count” and in this an election year, the estimates call for more spending on infrastructure, more loans and grants and no new taxes. Government proposes a total spending and investment of one point three billion, one hundred and nine million for capital projects. Salaries and increments of public officers, which have doubled in the past twelve years, are budgeted at five hundred and forty million.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano breaks it down.

 

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The General Revenue Appropriations Bill 2020 was tabled in the House of Representatives on Thursday morning to an audience of U.D.P. supporters only.  That’s because, moments earlier, the Opposition and its followers exited the Assembly Building en masse.  What should have been presented as a final budget reading by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in all his splendor, to a gallery of onlookers from both political parties, was nothing more than a lukewarm affair delivered in the absence of the People’s United Party.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Today, as everyone knows, is the final budget presentation of this parliament, and my swan song as Minister of Finance.  I consider the results of this year and the proposals for the next, to be persuasively positive, born of dexterous public sector management and collaboration amongst the various sectors of our society.  To be sure, the conditions of the public finances are inextricably bound to the larger Belizean economy, and that economy is sharply attuned to the regional and global tempo.  Noteworthy it is then, that from the very start of our first term, in 2008, this administration has, more often than not, operated under markedly hostile conditions.”

 

And with that, the prime minister painstakingly rehashed the many obstacles that were encountered by the United Democratic Party upon assuming office twelve years ago.  That tedious trip down memory lane culminated with the PM lauding his administration for increasing twofold the budget’s recurrent revenues since 2008. The wage has doubled since he took office though government is embarking on e-government.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“In 2008, the budget’s recurrent revenues stood at $591 million.  Today, this bedrock factor of public finances stands at $1.184 billion, double the level of twelve years ago.  And on the investment side there is one focal measure, one yardstick that distills and defines the raison d’etre of this administration, a stunning accomplishment that elevates our work to the summit of progressive governance.  It is this year’s investment in personal emoluments for all our fourteen thousand public officers, police and military personnel; all our teacher, nurses, doctors and every last person who serves our citizens, and, of course, the approximately one thousand pensioners we look after in their post-service life.  Thus, it is that salaries for all of those just listed amount now to $540.5 million, up from $276.3 million in 2008.”

 

In bringing things up to date, the financial year 2020, commencing April first, will see an aggregate of one point three billion dollars in spending and investment.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Fortunately, the FY 2020/21 Budget which we propose today, representing total spending and investment of $1.362 billion, plus $109m for principal repayments, funds an extensive envelope of capital projects.  It also preserves the salaries and increments of all public officers and facilitates our expanding menu of pro-poor, education, healthcare and citizen security programs.  Two budgets ago, with tourism expanding at a record clip, Foreign Direct Investment flowing into the economy and global conditions promising an extended period of growth, we had achieved a remarkable 4 percent of GDP turnaround, adjusting our budget to modest primary surplus.  Our target was a sustained period of at least two percent primary surpluses to pare the public debt and build a margin for black swan events.  Alas, first the drought and now the coronavirus compel us to play offense, to act decisively.  We must therefore accept some short-term slippage to our fiscal targets for the ultimate good of the economy and the well-being of the Belizean people.”

 

In looking at the external sector, Prime Minister Barrow admits that there continues to be more imports than there are exports of goods and services.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The current account deficit of the balance of payments widened modestly to 4.5 percent of GDP in 2019.  The expansion reflected a larger merchandise trade deficit that overshadowed measurable improvements in tourism receipts, workers’ remittances, and reduced profit repatriation.  The trade balance expanded as the growth in imports of goods grew faster than merchandise exports.  Whereas the 7.8 percent rise in imports was led by the unavoidable higher outlays on energy products, the five point eight percent rise in domestic exports was driven by increases in sugar and banana sales.”

 

The 2020 Budget will be debated on March nineteenth and twentieth. 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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