BELMOPAN – Monday, September 22, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, on Sunday trotted out various economic statistics to make the argument that in four key sectors of national development, Belize is ahead of the curve.
The Prime Minister, in his Independence Day address to the nation, cited four “pillars of national development”: a strong economy, an aggressive infrastructure plan, social development and transformation and promotion of patriotism and national pride.
For the first, the Prime Minister compared key statistics to the numbers in 2005 – the mid-point of the second administration of Prime Minister Said Musa.
The national deficit is lower, as is inflation; national reserves and capital spending have been doubled, and the Government is able to pay for its works without having to increase taxes as external debt has been reduced with the launch of the renegotiated “Superbond”. Interest rate at the various financial institutions is down, particularly since the launch of the National Bank.
In December of 2014, the Government will pay out approximately $3 million in interest on home mortgage loans with an original value of up to $100,000 as one of its “annual relief” efforts which have focused on forgiving outstanding loans.
This will affect more than 5,000 such loans spread among commercial banks and credit unions, ultimately affecting more than 28,000.
P.M. Barrow described this as part of Government’s efforts to “grow the middle class” by providing both opportunities for credit with the NBB and providing, alone among Caribbean governments, salary increases for teachers and civil servants totaling 9% (including increments) over the next 3 years.
The Government’s infrastructure plans proceed apace and a countrywide village road project will be added to the emphasized municipal works in both sporting facilities and road works.
On crime, the P.M. repeated his message of Wednesday after the murders of two and shooting injuries to six others – that efforts will be made to arrest the “slippage” that threatens to erase previous gains.
Gang leaders will be surveilled and the might of the State’s laws will be thrown at them to remove their hold over Southside Belize City.
The Prime Minister also announced the signing of a statutory instrument making internet services zero-rated under General Sales Tax, allowing for cheaper sales.
BTL Bandwidth will soon be doubled for the same price.
He noted that unlike 2005 when the company was in turmoil, with workers on the streets and services expensive, not to mention the Ashcroft-Prosser ownership dispute, Belize now owns BTL, which is competitively competing with rivals SMART and services are now much cheaper.
Likewise, BEL has reduced rates to customers while acting effectively to maintain service.
With all of this, the Prime Minister said, the arguments of those who suggest Belize is on the brink of collapse are shown to hold no water.
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