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Nov 11, 2022

People United Party Celebrates Two Years of Plan Belize

Today marks two years since the People United Party’s took office, after thirteen years in opposition. The P.U.P. has been implementing its Plan Belize manifesto, but are Belizeans any better off as a result of the leadership of the Briceño Administration? The answer to that question may vary depending on who you ask. One thing is certain, however, Belize is in a much better economic position than it was two years ago. News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

After marginal growth throughout 2018, Belize’s economy saw steady declines the following year, which then led to further declines in 2020. Two years ago, Belize’s GDP declined by fourteen percent, or four hundred and five million dollars. This resulted in a debt-to-GDP ratio of one hundred and thirty-three percent. The significant dip led to these infamous words by former Prime Minister Dean Barrow.


[File: May 14, 2020] Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister

Dean Barrow

“Bottom line is, I grieve for my poor Belize and I certainly extend my sympathy from now to those that will have to deal with that particular problem.”


At the time, talks with the International Monetary Fund and mass retrenchment seemed imminent. But, a victorious PUP administration swooped in with what they termed a homegrown economic recovery plan, rejecting the IMF’s recommendations. Their fiscal consolidation measures included a four-prong approach. One such method was to reduce public spending. In this case, public officers and capital expenditures took a hit.


Prime Minister John Briceño

[File: April 9, 2021] Prime Minister John Briceño

“The salary adjustment is necessary, but it is no fiscal elixir; that alone is far from sufficient to reverse the public finance morass left behind by the last U.D.P. administration.  Painful as it surely is, the sixty million in salary adjustments and the twenty million foregone for increments and allowances in this budget is one step in the hard slog back to fiscal fitness.”


The plan also included the restructuring of Belize’s debt to reduce principals and lower interest payments. Along came the signing of the Blue Bond, an effort that began under the previous government.


[File: November 8, 2021] Christopher Coye, Minister of State, Ministry of Finance

Christopher Coye

“The super noose no longer exist. It was cancelled on Friday when the super bond holders were paid off at a forty-five percent discount, which means we automatically saved a quarter billion US dollars, or  a half billion dollars in Belize terms. But automatically our debt to GDP ratio falls by twelve percent. Our external debt falls by an ever greater percentage, more like twenty percent. So the benefits are gained already.”


By May of this year, the IMF declared that Belize’s economy is recovering strongly, with a reduction of public debt by twelve percent and a real GDP growth of almost ten percent. So much so that a few weeks later, the House of Representatives reinstated the ten percent of public officer’s salary that was withheld.


Prime Minister John Briceño

[File: July 15, 2022] Prime Minister John Briceño

“Last year when we met with the public officers we said that we had to cut salaries and allowances and the projection was that we are going to do it for three years. But, because of the performance of the economy, because of the hard work that the people’s untied party has done for the past year, we are now returning that ten percent and allowances to our public officers two years in advance, two year since advance. I hope the members from Albert, and Mesopotamia, and Collet will get up to support this bill.”


Soon after, Cabinet approved the MSME Policy and Strategy for 2022-2025 and on August fifth, the Briceño Administration launched the MSME Road Show. This was on par with the PUP’s commitment to incentivize and engender economic growth.


[File: August 5, 2022] Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism

Anthony Mahle

“Even though we’re working tirelessly to provide support for M.S.M.E.’s there are still too many of these business that they lack the fundamentals needed for growth and development. They lack access to affordable financing. Many lack technical expertise; they lack understanding of scale, understanding of making data-driven decisions and the importance of marketing and product development.”


More than three hundred and seventy businesses and over one thousand entrepreneurs benefited from the road show. Today, Belize’s debt-to-GDP ratio stands at eighty-nine percent, a far cry from one hundred and thirteen percent in 2020. Notwithstanding the PUP’s herculean effort, fiscal turbulence still looms, with unprecedented inflation and a poverty rate of over fifty-two percent.


Prime Minister John Briceño

[File: July 13, 2022] Prime Minister John Briceño

“As I tell everybody, the best social program we can have going in Belize is putting people back to work. That is what we have been doing and I want for them to understand that we are doing everything possible to make their lives better, that we everyday think about them and trying to find ways to improve lives and make it easier and that we understand and feel for them.”


The next chapter of this story is the proposed increase of the minimum wage to five dollars.

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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