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Nov 4, 2009

Opposition Leader speaks about Belize’s economic crisis

Story PictureBy now you would know or have been feeling the pinch of the economic recession. That was announced last Thursday by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and this Tuesday, the Statistical Unit released figures that the economy contracted by one point seven percent in the first half of this year. At his press conference last Thursday the Prime Minister said that the silver lining in the recession was that the foreign reserves at the Federal reserves stood at the highest in a decade at four hundred and fifteen million three hundred and twelve thousand Belize dollars. But according to the Leader of the Opposition, that’s money in the bank that can be put to the productive sector.

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition
“The prime minister is boasting that we have the highest foreign reserves for the past ten years or whatever. That reminds me William, it would be as if you were saying I have ten thousand dollars in the bank saved and your family di tell yoh but William, your children dehn noh di eat properly. Yoh seh but I have ten thousand dollars inna di bank. Dehn seh yoh pickney dehn noh di goh dah school. Yoh seh but I have ten thousand dollars inna di bank. What is that ten thousand dollars doing in for your family? If you just have it put up in the bank? And then I’m not saying that we should go and spend the foreign reserves but we should leverage that. We could use that money to bring in fresh capital into Belize and then target it specifically to the productive sector. That is one.”

“Secondly, all the banks are required to keep some reserves at the Central Bank and they get no interest for that money. The government, through the Central Bank, can look at the banks and say yoh know Mr. Banker of your reserves that you have there, we are going to make x-amount available to you that you are going to lend to the productive sector at a low interest rate so that these people can be able to access cheaper capital to keep them going through this difficult time. Using that money we could look at the hotel operators, have them restructure their debt. That’s something that we did after the hurricane hit in San Pedro, we found ways to get it done.”

In respect of the foreign debt, Briceño pointed to major investments between 1998 and 2008 and he took the opportunity on Open Your Eyes this morning to defend the super bond which the Prime Minister has referred to as the poisoned chalice.

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition
“In 1998 we were investing about sixty-five million dollars, by 2000 we were over a hundred million dollars. By 2008, we were already at a hundred and forty million. If you look in those ten years, we invested almost a billion dollars in education; one thousand five hundred new classrooms, five new high schools, two sixth forms, new campuses for UB at Belmopan and Toledo, the IT-VETS; forty million dollars to have IT-VETS all over this country. The point is that we were investing in the infrastructure of this country.”

“The Super Bond is one of the finest examples where a country can consolidate all its different debts because we have different debts with different institutions and your payments fluctuated; one time it’s kinda low, then ih go up, then ih go way up and then ih come down. That managed to be able to level so that a government can control its cash flow. Also it’s because of that super bond that we negotiated, we are saving about four hundred million dollars in interest payments because we reduced some of the payments that are as high as eleven percent to four percent and others to six and a half percent. When we presented the super bond at the National Assembly, the now prime minister, in February of 2007—and you can check the records and I’m sure you have the video and all to show—he said he supported the super bond because he said he would prefer our government handle this issue and not his government when he comes in. Obviously, he knew that he would not have the talent that would be able to do that.”

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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