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Jun 14, 2021

Pulling Their Children Out of University and Selling Food: Teachers Take Drastic Action

Teachers and government officers across the country will begin to see ten percent less of their salaries starting this month since G.O.B.’s 2021 reduction in public service emoluments and allowances came into effect on June first.  Those who stand to be directly affected protested the salary cut for weeks, while also fighting for good governance.  And while those protest pressured the Government of Belize to commit to passing at least three pieces of good governance legislation, G.O.B. maintained the salary cut must be enacted to remedy its ballooning wage bill, and revenue short-falls brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.  One teacher at Mount Caramel High School, Miguel Bonilla, made an appearance on Open Your Eyes morning show today to explain how the salary cut affects his monthly budget.  He also talked about what some teachers will have to do to cover their own financial shortfall because of G.O.B.’s action. News Five’s Paul Lopez looks at Bonilla’s presentation.


Miguel Bonilla

Miguel Bonilla, Teacher, Mount Caramel High School

“As it stands today, I have a mortgage. It is nine hundred and fifty, because I just recently built a house. My family did not own a house. I am the first one to be a house owner. So that is nine hundred and fifty dollars. For bills, it is about three hundred dollars for month. Another expense is food. Let us say I can feed my family with breakfast for five dollars. That includes four adults and two children. Five dollars I will use, and this is my new budget I will use to give them breakfast. Lunch fifteen dollars and dinner another five dollars. That is twenty-five dollars per day. In thirty days, that is seven hundred and fifty dollars. So, for food I am spending now seven hundred and fifty dollars. But exactly right here I am already having a left over eighty-six dollars and fifty-seven cents. That is what I must buy my soap, maybe the toothpaste.”


Paul Lopez, Reporting

According to Bonilla this budget still does not account for seventy dollars he spends on a monthly basis for his mother’s glaucoma medication. And while this is the break down for a teacher taking just above two thousand dollars a month. Bonilla argues that there are teachers across the country taking home less, with greater monthly expenses.


Miguel Bonilla

“The reality down here is that we do not have enough to live a life of dignity, especially if you are somebody trying to move up to own a house and try to own little things here and there.”


To adjust, Bonilla says his seventy-five-year-old father now has to take up the slack by driving a taxi. He says many teachers have also gone the route of exploring other streams of income, most resorting to selling food. The rippling effect here, however, is that teachers will now be cutting into the market shares of those who rely on selling food or other products as their sole stream of income.


Miguel Bonilla

“What the macroeconomics of this will do is that there is fifteen thousand people, who will be, more than fifteen thousand people who will be getting a cut. They will find alternative ways to fill in that gap. Those alternative ways might be a direct competition for those people who have been…”


Marleni Cuellar

“Who rely on that?”


Miguel Bonilla

“Right, so the market share for the common Belizean, for the fudge selling Belizean changes. Because now we are entering the market with our product and because we tend to have a little bit more idea on how to use social media and all of this. Not saying that the average Belizeans does not. I am saying, now we are taking market shares from them, with did not use to happen.”


Bonilla says in the most extreme cases, some teachers are temporarily withdrawing their children from university, while already marginalized families with large families are being significantly affected.


Miguel Bonilla

“I am going to cut expenses and I am going to find a way to survive. And no amount is too little if I can avoid the expenses. I think that government should move with that mentality also.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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