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Dec 11, 2009

Prime Minister and Fort George Rep war over recession

Story PictureThe House of Representatives met in Belmopan today, it was its last sitting to close the year. But what initially looked like a lackluster meeting, soon turned into a brawl between the former and current prime ministers over the issue of the recession. The parting shots got personal and outright dirty. News Five’s Jose Sanchez was in Belmopan today and has this report.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Before the house meeting began, current Prime Minister Dean Barrow and former Prime Minister Said Musa greeted each other like old friends. That would be a far cry from the shouting match that they would have at the end of the day. Both men spoke about the country’s economic recession.

Said Musa, Former Prime Minister
“On the twenty-ninth of October the honourable prime minister finally acknowledged that the economy of Belize was well and truly in recession. The economy had slowed down—not only slowed down, but has stopped growing and in fact has been contracting. Export earnings are down, imports are down, government revenue down, tourism spending down, investments in a nose dive, business across the country and in the Free Zone down. On top of everything else, hundreds of Belizeans are losing their homes and their properties to banks and D.F.C. foreclosures, people are experiencing misery like we’ve never known. The prime minister says there is not much that he and his government can do.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Immorality is one thing, but incompetence is quite another. He said that I in October finally acknowledged the recession. Man, weren’t you the Minister of Finance? There is a definition of recession. There has to be two quarters of negative contraction before there is a recession. You didn’t know that? All the years you were there, you learned nothing except how to make off with the people’s money? You’re a fraud and incompetent man.”

Said Musa
“I take issue with the prime minister making those malicious attacks on me, the language he is using. The standing orders are very clear. He cannot be using that kind of language in the House.”

Emil Arguelles, Speaker of the House
“Honourable member, I have allowed leeway on both sides.”

Said Musa
“He blames some of our economic woes on the so called super bond because, as he says, the interest rate will go up from four point two-five percent to six percent next year. But we’re in the recession now, not next year—hopefully not next year. In fact, the successful restructuring of the commercial debt by the former PUP administration in 2007 has provided significant cash flow relief to this U.D.P. government. It is estimated that the cash flow relief to government between 2007 and 2015 is in the order of US four hundred and eighty-one million dollars.”

Though Musa said his government left the country in good financial standing, the Prime Minister said that Musa racked up a large debt which included the super bond.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Because of the one point one billion dollars, just by way of super bond alone, that that member of Fort George as prime minister presided over, saddening this country with a crippling indebtedness and then to have the nerve to come to this House and say that in restructuring this enormous debt, this burden that is almost beyond compare, that he provided some kind of financing relief to this country? Mr. Speaker, it is not just that that indebtedness helps to cripple us, take this absolutely horrendous toll on our revenues, making it more difficult for government to deliver goods and services, it is Mr. Speaker, that nobody can see that there was any benefit to this country as a result of that indebtedness that he racked up.”

Said Musa
“The so called stimulus package that the prime minister announced in his budget speech, was simply a recycling of the capital three foreign funded budget. But what is more disturbing is that several of these projects in the budget—and we’re coming to the end of the budget now—and several of these projects have not even started yet like the tourism development thirty million dollar loan from IDB or the building of the Kendal Bridge or the solid waste management project. What is the government doing to cushion the blows that people are feeling?”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“How can he claim to have a heart in terms of people in this country suffering when he had to stand up in court for the twenty million dollars from Venezuela that again he diverted?”

Said Musa
“Since we’re going into this matter, let me say he used me to try and jail me as a distraction of his problems. This year, it’s the telecommunications.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Mr. Speaker, the fact of a point is…”

Said Musa
“I was exonerated in the court…”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“You were charged, you diverted the twenty million dollars from the government so don’t get up here and talk as though you have any kind of feeling for poor people.”

After the symbolic blood was shed on both sides of the House, the leaders remembered that tis the season to be jolly, Christmas.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I was able to stand up at the Princess on Wednesday gone and say what a splendid Christmas gift I was being given by the hundreds of poor principally south side Belizeans that are employed by Ministry of Works.”

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition
“I also want to take the opportunity, as the prime minister and the honourable member for Fort George, to wish you and your family, all the members of this honourable House, all the Belizeans a happy safe, peaceful, blessed Christmas. Thank you very much Mister speaker.”

Said Musa
“I’m reminded Mr. Speaker in winding up of what an old British prime minister once said about his opponent. He said he was like a sophistical rhetorician inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity. It is a sad reflection when you think of the blood that has been spilt and the stain on this administration; of Mr. Gutierrez, the canero; of Charlie Good and Mr. Dwain Davis. That is the collective memory that will stick in the minds of people. So Mr. Speaker, I say to this government, I say to all of you one term. This is a one term government. And in closing Mr. Speaker, on a lighter note may I too wish you, your family all the members of this honourable House and their families and all Belizeans a peaceful and blessed Christmas. Thank you.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Well I have to employ mister scrooge’s epithet, but I have to add some of my own. What a fraud and a hypocrite and a humbug, the member for Fort George is.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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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