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Sep 22, 2023

PM and LOO Go Head-to-head in Independence Day Speeches

The official ceremony commemorating Belize’s forty-second anniversary of independence was held in Belmopan on Thursday morning.  Before an audience of government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and other invited guests, Prime Minister John Briceño and Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow presented speeches that reflected on the state of Belize’s nationhood.  Those addresses looked at the progress of the country and its people from different ends of the spectrum, one as an economy that is booming and the other as a government that is racked by political and sexual scandals.  Tonight, we look at both speeches and let you decide how impactful the addresses were.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The annual message delivered by Prime Minister John Briceño since taking office in November 2020, as with past heads of government, is a much anticipated address that covers a range of national issues, including the state of the Belizean economy.  It’s also an opportunity for him to laud government’s achievements based on a five-year manifesto.  In this case, the Briceño administration’s yearly report, presented as a speech on Independence Day, is set against the backdrop of #PlanBelize.


Prime Minister John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“A surge of inflation wreaks havoc on the pocketbooks of those who can least afford to pay more for the staples of living.  And a deluge of debt of every stripe, sovereign, personal and commercial, risk reversing the post-pandemic recovery, threatening to erode decades of advances for humanity.  At forty-two, the downside risks appear formidable and intimidating for a small, open democracy such as ours.  Despite these obvious and very real challenges, the results of our constant labors since the election of November 2020 show that #PlanBelize, our national plan, our north star, is not just working but working far better than the optimists imagined.”


That proverbial North Star symbolizes direction, guidance, stability and purpose.  To hear the Leader of the Opposition tell it, those are all qualities that are seemingly lacking from the ruling party’s platform.


Shyne Barrow

Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“The embattled Briceño administration mired in Portico corruption, senate investigation, accusations of ministerial sexual assault, murderous land corruption, amongst other dubious acts of bad governance, has borrowed almost a billion dollars in three years, yet we are farther away from the economic independence and complete freedom than ever.  Instead of constitutional reform that will expand our rights, give greater protection to our rights, give greater freedoms and strengthen our democracy, our constitution is being weaponized to target the opposition and disenfranchise segments of our society.”


Despite sharp criticism from the opposition, PM Briceño paints an image of a prosperous nation in which many Belizeans are working and being productive.  One’s interpretation of that pretty picture, however, is certainly open for discussion.  On the other hand, he also suggests that the overwhelming inflation that continues to cripple Belizean consumers has subsided considerably since last year.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“Presently, unemployment is at a historic low, 2.8 percent.  That’s as close as Belize has ever been to full employment.  Especially pleasing is the forecast for domestic inflation, expected to fall from 6.1 percent last year to 3.7 percent this year.  The explosive economic growth we have managed, along with the unprecedented bounty of new jobs, has not come at the expense of overspending and new debt.”


During his address, Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow also pointed out the issues that are being faced within the court system, particularly as it pertains to crown counsels working out of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.


Shyne Barrow

“Our judiciary is terribly under-funded with our Belizean judicial officers being paid disproportionately, disrespectfully less than the foreign judicial officers.  I love my CARICOM brothers and sisters, but this is certainly not what Michael Manley had in mind when he was championing regional integration.  On the eve of our independence, our judicial officers are protesting at the high court due to insufficient pay and inadequate security.”


Interestingly, other national concerns, including crime and violence, as well as the broader issue of citizen security, were missing from the address.  Instead there was quite an emphasis on various areas of economic growth.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“Development that does not lift the people to a better quality of life lacks legitimacy.  Inequitable growth cannot sustain an open society.  Vitalized by this conviction, government’s investments in education, health, and citizen security have reached unprecedented heights.  Ninety million dollars have been secured, again from the Saudi Fund for Development, to construct a new tertiary-level hospital on the University of Belize’s campus here in Belmopan.  This is the first new tertiary hospital to be constructed in thirty years.  At the same time, funding has been increased for our anchor hospital facility, KHMH, as well as for regional hospitals and for clinics throughout the country.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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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