Belize - Belize News - Channel5Belize.com - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Politics » Barrow gives views on N.H.I., foreign policy, Ashcroft
Feb 5, 2008

Barrow gives views on N.H.I., foreign policy, Ashcroft

Story PictureIn a wide ranging interview aired last night following our newscast, U.D.P. leader Dean Barrow put fourth his personal and his party’s position on a number of issues facing the nation … issues that have not necessarily received much attention in the media or campaign propaganda. For those viewers who may have missed the full interview or those who receive only the news broadcast on their cable stations, here are some excerpts beginning with Barrow’s thoughts on National Health Insurance.

Dean Barrow, U.D.P. Leader
“I have grave difficulties with this rollout when it is obvious that we are in no position to finance the full rollout. I really think that it ought to have proceeded as it was originally conceived; where it is implemented in a phase manner. And clearly as the economy continues to grow, as government revenue continues to grow then we would have been able to afford, as we go along, additional rollouts. I thought this year we might have gone to North side or perhaps we might have gone to the Orange Walk District but it is clear that trying to, all at once, do a countrywide rollout is not affordable in the short term. But that’s a matter of detail—although an important detail—the concept of N.H.I., the notion of N.H.I., we subscribe to fully.”

Stewart Krohn
“If elected, would you rollback the rollout as it were or would you leave it as it is?”

Dean Barrow
“That’s a problem. It’s just a matter of finding the monies to pay for it. I think we’re probably going to end up in a situation where a number of contracts that have been signed will have to fall simply because government will not be able to pay for these contracts. So there will be no policy decision made to rollback the N.H.I. But I cannot tell you, Stewart that de facto it won’t happen simply as a result of a lapse because there is not going to be the money to pay for all that has been bitten off.”

Stewart Krohn
“Lets shift to foreign policy for a minute. Two important allies of Belize; Taiwan and Venezuela. Taiwan: year or two ago, from my journalistic perspective, it wanted to look like perhaps in your head you were flirting with the idea of going back to the People’s Republic of China. The last three, four, six months you have made it clear that you are quite okay with relations Taiwan and, if elected, would continue those relations. Now I can’t imagine that that subtle or not so subtle shift in your thinking came about in vacuum. You have had discussions with the …”

Dean Barrow
“Yes, but first and foremost we had discussions internally. And I’ll tell you how those discussions developed and how the thinking proceeded. You can’t ignore the fact that the People’s Republic is such a huge diplomatic and economic reality. That’s the next global power, perhaps the next generation or so. And it’s the next economic super power but I was very impressed with an argument that I saw in a paper in Guatemala when I was there a year ago that made the point look, unless you are an exporting country, a country that is doing well in terms of your export sector and you are looking for expansion and you therefore think in terms of this is now an economic reality, you think of the People’s Republic as this market. There’s no imperative to go, for economic reasons, with the People’s Republic of China. We are not that kind of an exporting country. So it seems to be that with respect to the national self-interest—we are talking now straight out dollar diplomacy—in terms of the nationals self-interest, there is a lot more to be had from the People’s Republic of China in respect to funding for infrastructure projects, funding for housing, funding for social projects than you can ever hope to get from the People’s Republic of China for the simple reason that the People’s Republic of China already has won the diplomatic bulk with Taiwan so they need allies far less than Taiwan does. And they might give you a nice little package as a kind of signing on bonus but thereafter I don’t we can expect the attention from them that you get from Taiwan, I don’t think you can expect the level of bilateral assistance from them that you get from Taiwan. There’s also as well, the question of gratitude. Taiwan has been clearly an extremely good friend, an extremely generous ally of Belize. I don’t think you turn your back on that lightly. You have to look at it ultimately, as I said, a hard and fast calculation of which will better serve the national interest. We did that and we came down on the side of Taiwan.”

Stewart Krohn
“Turning to Venezuela, slightly different relationship but the same principle might obtain. There is a lot of aid to be had from Venezuela, both direct bilateral aid and more particularly the Petrol-Caribe initiative. How do you view the relationship with Venezuela? Is it a P.U.P. relationship or is it a national relationship that you intend to continue?”

Dean Barrow
“It’s a national relationship that we intend to continue although I will want, early, to see the Venezuelan ambassador to make the point that in the last few months it has appeared—whether it was witting on their part or whether it was just a matter of exploitation on the part of the P.U.P.—it did appear as though this relationship was becoming more a P.U.P to Venezuela than a Belize to Venezuela relationship but I’m sure we can sort out those difficulties and the fact is that again in the national interest I think we would want to maintain good relations with Venezuela. Without a doubt, the question arises as to the aspirations of Venezuela or the pretensions of Venezuela in terms of regional hegemony and the United States and their interest in this area and having to do a sort of balancing act. But the plain truth is that the Venezuelans are offering to CARICOM member states to states in this region far more than the United States is. And again life is real. Nobody wants to quarrel with the United States. I am very aware of the power reality of things but to the extent that small countries do have some room within which to maneuver. Again I think small countries must follow, first of all, their economic interests. And Venezuela—because it wants to act as a counter weight to the United States or for whatever reason—is prepared to put its money where its mouth is and Belize can continue to benefit from that and I think we should. As I have said, we will have to, to some extent, do a little bit of a balancing act but I don’t see that the United States can expect us to turn our backs on Venezuela when Venezuela is prepared to give to us and to all the member states of CARICOM in this region what the United States clearly isn’t prepared to.”

Stewart Krohn
“Guatemala; you’re okay with taking the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice?”

Dean Barrow
“Personally, I am. I’m not sure, the party has not had a chance to talk about this yet and I don’t wan to speak in advance of my colleagues. But I will say that I will certainly be pushing for the party to ask people to vote yes in the referendum that would have to be held on this question.”

Stewart Krohn
“Michael Ashcroft; prototypical eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. In the past under the Esquivel administration Lord Ashcroft was tolerated at best. It was clear there was no personal chemistry between Mr. Esquivel and Mr. Ashcroft. It has always appeared that you have had a somewhat more cordial relationship. Mr. Finnegan seems to enjoy a closer relationship. Two questions; has Michael Ashcroft been good or bad for Belize, number one.”

Dean Barrow
“I think on balance I’d have to say the jury is still out. Look, anybody, anybody that is an engine of economic activity, anybody that invests huge amounts of money in this country, I would have to say, in principle has to be considered good for Belize. I think though, when you start to get into the details for all sorts of reason Michael has had people turn against him and people have not done so just out of bad mind or spite or irrationally. Maybe there are difficulties of communication that have contributed to what certainly is the perception. But the politics perception is reality and there is that perception so from that point of view, Michael has been bad for Belize in that has not been the kind of relationship between him and his companies and the people of this country that there ought to have been and that there could so easily have been. But as I said, he’s put a lot of money into Belize. There is no question in my mind of turning the clock back. There is no question of not recognizing the reality of his importance to the economy of this country. There is no question of not striving mightily to work with him, to cooperate as far as the national interest will allow, to avoid fights, to avoid confrontations—while of course—always being ready if again the national interest on any particular issue requires it, to stand up. So that’s how I view this conundrum, this very complex issue of the relationship in terms of the government, in terms of the nation, with Michael Ashcroft. Speaking for myself, you’re right I have always enjoyed a very cordial relationship with him until, of course, there was this great divide that occurred over U.H.S. We’re back on speaking terms, I’m happy for that because I think that I personally have to set the right tone if—as I have indicated—I think that it is in the interest of the country to try to get along with Michael Ashcroft, recognising again the power reality and recognising that if he wishes to he can play an extremely constructive role in national development. That being the case, I think, if am to be prime minister I must certainly set the tone, fix the atmospherics and so it is important that in fact I do have a good relationship, a good personal relationship with him.”

On Wednesday night, immediately following this newscast we will air an uncut interview with P.U.P. leader Said Musa.


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.

Advertise Here

Leave a Reply

CAPTCHA Image
*