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Jul 31, 2020

An Economic Recovery Strategy for Belize

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 continues to affect the business sector. The mainstay, the tourism industry, crumbled causing massive unemployment once the pandemic began to spread. Flights resume at the P.G.I.A. on August fifteenth, but recovery of the sector is unknown. Today, the government rolled out an economic plan, named the “Economic Recovery Strategy for Belize,” seeking to fix the damaged economy.  Tourism and agriculture are the two main pillars of the plan, which the Prime Minister thinks will rebound and strengthen the economy.  But is it just a retread of initiatives that are already in place? Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Breathing life back into the Belizean economy after the ravages of COVID-19, is a mammoth undertaking for the Barrow administration.  With less than a hundred days ahead of the next general elections, a plan of action to resuscitate the local economy from the downturn associated with the pandemic is being unveiled by the Government of Belize.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It is a product of the tireless and unflagging work ethic of a united public and private sector and it is a product of the outpouring of talent and energy resulting from the conjoining of government, social partners and multiple economic stakeholders.”


The Economic Recovery Strategy for Belize, as it is formally known, speaks to a need for sound fiscal management going forward, as one of a number of belt-tightening measures that ought to accompany this rebound.


Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Minister of State, Trade

“The Economic Recovery strategy for Belize is built on five pillars: supporting business recovery, creating a business climate for growth, improving government efficiencies and the conditions for doing business.  Strengthening of our productive sectors and growing our emerging economy.  So how do we respond to business needs, assist firms to reestablish and expand while rehiring displaced workers and support the creation of new jobs?  You will recall that just two weeks ago we launched phase two of the government‘s unemployment relief program and an economic stimulus support program for micro, small and medium enterprises.”


The approach is to once again invest heavily in the tourism and agriculture sectors, both of which are towers of strength for the local economy.  To bolster the agro-productive sector, the plan is to temporarily extend Designated Processing Area-like benefits to qualifying producers and processors, as well as automatically extending all licenses for a period of twelve months.


Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture

“The Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Belize see agriculture as a business and therefore we have moved slowly away from the concept of subsistence to the concept of a productive enterprise.  The recovery strategy, therefore, encompasses goals to further the productive sector in agriculture.  We have engaged with all stakeholders in developing this plan and attempts were made to ensure continuity.  As the honorable prime minister said, the concept is that it should span administrations and the continuity resides in the stakeholders’ participation and in the technical and functional levels of our staff who are highly engaged at all levels of the consultations.”


In principle, the idea of an economic plan that crosses successive administrations is a good one.  In practice, however, political parties assume government with clear plans of their own and may not necessarily adopt other practices, programmes or initiatives that were implemented by a previous administration.  That aside, is the prime minister’s recovery strategy simply a consolidation of efforts that are already in place?


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I don’t know that you can suggest at all that the recovery document is simply a retread.  We’ve made the point, I have and both ministers did the same, that there are some things that, in fact, about to happen.  There are other things that are aspirational.  To the extent that there is repetition of some of what we’ve said before, for example, when we talk about, again, ease of doing business, about trying to free up those bottlenecks in various departments, I won’t call any names, we all know them too well, that indeed has long been a cherished aspiration and heretofore we’ve not been very successful on achieving the removal of those bottlenecks.”


Minister of State Tracy Panton, in her presentation, also spoke to doing away with those constrictions that hinder economic development.


Tracy Panton

“Unclogging the government’s system in the Lands Department, Central Building Authority, Department of the Environment to jumpstart critical investment projects that will create jobs and bring in much needed foreign currency.  Identifying and supporting private sector investment projects that can deliver meaningful economic benefits to support jobs.”


The next twelve months, notwithstanding general elections in November, will see additions in the ongoing public sector investment programmes, as government will be revisiting its expenditure in critical areas, including infrastructure, to encourage economic and social stability. 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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