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Sep 18, 2006

State of Nation is upbeat, says P.M.

Story PictureThis time of year is one set aside for celebration … and as 2006 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of our independence, all the more reason to make merry. Reflecting that spirit of the season, Prime Minister Said Musa today took the opportunity to present an upbeat interpretation of just where we stand at twenty-five. News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
During a special sitting of the House of Representatives on the steps of the Administration Building in Belmopan, this morning Prime Minister Said Musa presented his annual State of the Nation address.

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
?As we review our many accomplishments as a people, it is now beyond question that Belizeans have risen to the challenge to be a nation. Our goal now is to sustain this growth of our nation and to spread the fruits of development for the benefit of all.?

According to Prime Minister Musa, increased output from the productive sector, namely sugar, citrus concentrate, papayas and fisheries has significantly boosted economic performance, performance that has been complimented by the results of belt tightening measures implemented in 2005.

Said Musa
?At the end of the first quarter of 2006/2007 financial year, Government recorded a primary surplus of twenty-two point seven million dollars. The overall deficit was reduced from almost nine percent of G.D.P. in the previous year to three and a half percent of G.D.P. By any account this was an impressive turnaround. Fiscal discipline, tight expenditure control and public finance reform measures have strengthened our economic fundamentals, putting Belize on a more solid foundation of economic stability. At the same time, we have maintained an environment conducive to private sector investment and jobs. Most of the new private investments were in tourism, agro-industry, hydro-electricity, expansion of the Phillip Goldson International Airport, real estate development and oil exploration. There is hope that the emerging oil industry in Belize will reduce our dependence on oil imports, save foreign exchange and contribute greatly to our national development, especially in health and education.?

And perhaps the only negatives Musa included in his entire speech were that banana production dipped slightly and that …

Said Musa
?In May of this year, the annual inflation stood at four point one percent. While the major commodities were affected, the largest increase in prices was in the transport and communications sector, linked to the higher acquisition cost of fuel. The rate of unemployment fell from eleven percent to nine point four percent. The numbers of employed persons rose by two point three percent to approximately one hundred and one thousand persons. Sad to say however, many low income persons recently lost their jobs in the sanitation section of the municipal councils. Government is doing all that is possible, despite financial constraints, to find alternative jobs for these victimized workers.?

On the issue of reform, Musa highlighted efforts against poverty, crime and violence and issues like HIV/AIDS and child abuse.

Said Musa
?But the lasting solution to all our social problems must in the end, come from within, each individual sense of responsibility, each family structure, each neighbourhood sense of concern, each community sense of togetherness. The search is for a purpose driven life, filled with hope and opportunity.?

And perhaps that was the strongest tone in Musa?s address … spirituality …

Said Musa
?The destiny of Belize offers not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness. Let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise that our best tomorrows are yet to come.?

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

And sticking to that sense of spirituality, in a post speech interview with the media, Musa confirmed that in October, the leaders of government will participate in a week long look at the inner P.U.P.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
?I noticed you spoke of repairing the national spirit, the psyche, I?m hearing rumblings of a retreat for yourself and your …?

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
?Yes we are planning a retreat for the entire cabinet and a few other friends of the government. I think there?s a need for us to do some soul searching and that is what we intend to do.?

As for the Prime Minister’s reaction to former Social Security Board general manager Narda Garcia’s lawsuit against her former employers, Musa says he is disappointed in her and concerned that her attorney is none other than former Solicitor General Elson Kaseke. Kaseke, now in private practice, as solicitor general, advised the Senate Select Committee in their investigations–investigations that resulted in a recommendation that Garcia be fired.

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
?In our system, people have a right to have their rights tested. She has a right to go to court if she wants. I believe we did the right thing and that remains my position.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
?And knowing what?s in her contract, you are safe in that knowledge??

Said Musa
?I am satisfied that based on the senate report, we did the right thing.?

Jules Vasquez, Channel 7
?Are you surprised that is entering an adversarial and legal situation??

Said Musa
?I am disappointed that is going that way because as I understand it, the Social Security Board did make an offer which was received and accepted. I?m surprised that it?s going further now.?

Jules Vasquez
?Are you scandalized by the decision of the former parliamentary counsel to have taken as her defence attorney??

Said Musa
?Yes it looks bad quite frankly.?

Jules Vasquez
?A man who is on retainer from your government?

Said Musa
?Yeah and in fact that is a matter that is presently being looked into. But that?s a separate issue.?

On Friday, Kaseke, acting on behalf of Garcia, filed in the Supreme Court for judicial review of the report issued by the Senate Select Committee. No date has yet been set for that hearing.


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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