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Apr 22, 2020

Uncertainty About Reopening of the Economy

The Ministry of Health has not reported any new cases of COVID-19. But while that is encouraging news, the government will be extending the state of emergency up until the end of June. In its weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, several issues were discussed in regards to the COVID-19 crisis.  One of the pointed issues is the agro-processing sector which is severely impacted by the disease. In the past three weeks; the process of exporting across the border to Guatemala has been frustrated because the Chairman of Bullet Tree Village is determined to charge a toll for vehicle traversing through the village. That decision has become a sore point because livestock producers are losing millions in the informal trade. While commenting on the issue of formal trading with neighbouring countries, Minister of Investment, Trade and Commerce, Tracy Panton also said that it is not certain when economic activity will pick up in Belize.

 

Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Minister of Investment, Trade & Commerce

“Reopening the economy is a little bit premature. While we do have two cases that have recovered, as Doctor Manzanero said yesterday, we don’t have a curve. I do believe that at our meeting next week, we hope to relax some of the measures that are now in place so that there can be more movement in the economy, but there won’t be any opening of any borders or the airport or anything like that. We feel like the public health officials have really done a good job. Certainly, we have not shut down the productive sector; we have kept the productive sector open and we are speaking to the markets where we can export excess, what we can use in the government programmes we will be using. But I think it is still a couple weeks ahead of us before we can say we have reopened the economy, so to speak. The position of the government has always been to try and ensure that we can have a formal system for trading—whether it is cattle or poultry—with our neighbouring countries. I know the Ministry of Agriculture has been busy and our embassy in Guatemala has been very busy in trying to find a formal channel for this trade to happen because there are risks, certainly great risks for the informal system an d we want to make sure that we capture as much as we can in the formal system so that we can account for what’s going across the border, both ways.”


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