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Feb 4, 2021

Putting the 2021 Budget Together in Times of Austerity

Chris Coye

The presentation of the 2021 budget by the Briceño administration is still a few weeks away, but putting together the financial plan, despite severe austerity, is well underway.  Earlier this week, Prime Minister John Briceño and Minister of State Christopher Coye, along with several other government officials, sat down with the business community to discuss Belize’s economic situation. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau shared concerns about government’s plan for economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  The discussions are part of a series of consultations with various representative organizations, including the unions and other social partners. In the coming days, other ministers from Briceño’s cabinet will be meeting with the churches and the agro-productive sector to hammer out the way forward in the wake of what is described as chronic mismanagement of the economy. Minister Chris Coye provides additional information on the ongoing meetings.

 

 

Chris Coye, Minister of State, Finance

“That process has commenced, so at this point in time we have already met with the Chamber of Commerce and the Belize Business Bureau.  So in terms of private sector and social partners, we have met with them earlier this week and the intent is to meet with other social partners next week, as well as the agro-productive sector.  So that will include the Council of Churches and the N.G.O.s.  As far as the unions are concerned, that will be a different team comprised of Minister Fonseca, Minister Hyde and Minister Usher.  They will be meeting with the unions.  We, insofar as the prime minister and I, we are the ones meeting with the other social partners along with the C.E.O.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“What has been the reception of the business community to what you guys are presenting?  I know the prime minister has gone one record to say that the country and the government, by extension, is essentially cash-strapped.  In terms of what you guys are bringing to the table to the business community, how well was that received and what were some of the concerns on their end?”

 

Chris Coye

“I think it was important for us to set out the context, the current state of affairs, both in terms of the overall economy, as well as the state of public finances.  So we went into some level of detail with the business community on that to lay out where things stand in terms of the economy and the numbers are reflecting, according to the Central Bank that there was roughly a seventeen percent contraction in the economy.  We went through the impact that has in terms of unemployment.  The unemployment rate jumping from roughly ten percent in the prior year to almost thirty percent, so a triple increase and as well the underemployment rate jumping from thirty-two percent to thirty-eight percent.  We have sixty-eight percent of our labor force looking for work.”


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