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Sep 14, 1998

Musa promises fundamental change as legislature opens

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It was uncomfortably hot, so much so that one visiting diplomat even fainted… but not even the intense heat could obscure the feeling of those present that the transfer of power in the nation’s capital may actually bring about some real change in the way our government operates. Patrick Jones reports.

The ceremonial open-air opening of the National Assembly on Saturday morning in Belmopan was a continuation of the P.U.P.’s effort at greater involvement of the people in the work of government. But while the attendance was everything the government expected, Prime Minister Musa said more than symbolism is needed to bring power closer to the people.

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“To accomplish this, we propose, within the first hundred days of this administration, to present to the House, legislation that will lead to the decentralization of government, so that people at the level of their communities can have a decisive say in decisions that affect their lives. This will include a Village Councils Act and amendments to the Town Boards and Belize City Council Acts. And in accordance with our manifesto, the powers of ministers over all these bodies will be phased out.”

Also proposed for introduction within the next three months is a Referendum Act which will give citizens a say in decisions of national importance.

Among the huge crowd that gathered in the sweltering mid-morning heat, were a number of visiting dignitaries, including the President of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, the Vice President of Honduras William Handell and the Foreign Minister of Mexico, Rosario Green.

Before she got to preside over her House, Madam Speaker, Sylvia Flores, took her place in the history book when she was sworn-in by the Clerk of the National Assembly Jesus Ken. The oath was then administered to each member of House, except, Valdemar Castillo who arrived late and the U.D.P. representatives who sat out Saturday’s event.

Governor General Sir Colville Young made the short walk from Belize House to the steps of the Administration Building to read the government’s speech. In retrospect, Sir Colville said that over the last five years, the administration of the United Democratic Party increased the country’s foreign debt by sixty-one percent and domestic debt went up by fifty-two percent.

Sir Colville Young, Governor General

“We have inherited a government in crisis and we must focus our attention as a priority on addressing the critical state of our public finances. On assuming office our administration is faced with a stock of public sector external debts of just over half a billion and a public sector domestic debt of one hundred and seventy nine point two million Belize dollars. The entire picture has yet to emerge, but it is clear that to service this debt, about eighty million dollars in public sector resources will be required in this fiscal year.”

Government, Sir Colville said, has moved quickly to mobilize its debt servicing mechanisms by engaging the business sector and potential investors in dialogue. The response, the Prime Minister reported, has been one of great optimism and an outpouring of confidence.

Said Musa

“The vision is one of fundamental social chance that will provide real opportunities to make their lives better for those who are now excluded and marginalized. And when we consider that some forty percent of our people live in poverty, we are not talking about an insignificant minority. The new hope can only be created if people feel that their sacrifice will be rewarded. This means that people must be assured of the opportunity to work productively and so be able to improve their lives. The policies and programs of government must become essential pillars to sustain the efforts of individuals. We will stimulate economic growth in partnership with the private sector and our low tax, job-creating policies will enhance our society’s ability to produce more goods and to provide a higher standard of living for our people.”

The cornerstone of that strategy is the P.U.P.’s growth economics policy which it hopes will attract many new investments and create thousands of new jobs. One strategy, according to the Prime Minister, will be to use our unique geographical position in the region.

Said Musa

“Nature has blessed us with wealth untold, as our Anthem proclaims. It has also placed us on the Central American mainland. We cannot continue to pretend otherwise or fail to give a central place to this reality. We must work more closely with other Central American countries to enhance our possibilities for development. We will therefore vigorously pursue an enhanced role for Belize in Central America while strengthening our traditional ties with CARICOM.”

Prime Minister Musa used the occasion to again denounce racism by reminding all that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society. There can be no place for ethno-centric values, he said and urged the rest of the country to follow his lead.

Said Musa

“Madam Speaker, with your permission, may I say a few words to our Maya, Kektchi brothers and sisters? Ahjinkésh Quacklinkésh Me Kanáb E Rib Asta Toh – Kabanú – Ah Kiru Nakáh Re Rusilál Liká Tenamít.

And to our Garinagu Belizeans: Agagudúa Humá! Sará Húma! Merédera Humá Darí Wabíhini Wabúseru.

Despertemonos, Levantemonos, y no nos detendremos hasta lograr nuestra meta.

Awake, arise, and let us not stop until we reach our goal.”

Future sessions of the House are expected to return to the closer confines of the National Assembly building, but if Said Musa has his way, the transformation in how government does its business will be felt in every corner of the country. Patrick Jones for News Five.

When the House of Representatives does move indoors there is going to be a little problem. It seems that there is not enough room on one side of the chamber to seat all twenty-six P.U.P. members. Solutions being contemplated are to squeeze in some more chairs on the sidelines or to cordon off a portion of the opposition side and fill it with P.U.P. back benchers.

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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