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Financial Secretary addresses state of nation’s finances on eve of Independence Day

Financial Secretary Joseph Waight

Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2016. 6:53 pm CST.

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By BBN Staff: At court today, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, who gave a deposition on behalf of the Government for the CCJ’s B.T.L. arbitration hearing, gave tough answers to critical questions on the state of the Belizean economy and the ever-expanding debt obligations that Belize must meet. We begin with the latest estimates of damages from Hurricane Earl, which struck Belize on August fourth, and the demands of relief. The latter figure is still being assessed but is being estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars in both physical and economic infrastructural damage. Government has paid out eight million dollars to N.E.M.O. so far to address hurricane relief.

In related financial news, the “Superbond” was restructured in March of 2013, a year after Prime Minister Dean Barrow won a second term mainly on his pledge to do so. It’s now been three and a half years and so far, Belize has made all its interest payments. But beginning about this time next year, according to Waight, the bond, which matures in 2038, will become a significantly greater burden on Belize.

That’s because the final “step-up” in interest payments take the bi-annual payments to 34 million Belize dollars, and in 2019 repayment of both principal and interest begins.

Finally, the Government also continues to deal with the third and final tranche of salary adjustments, which it has asked to be deferred until next year as a result of dealing with Hurricane Earl. The figure is fifteen million Belize dollars increase on recurrent revenue. Financial Secretary Joseph Waight explains the reason for the proposed deferral (inability to pay both the salary adjustment and deal with hurricane relief), why G.O.B. cannot be accused of financial irresponsibility in this instance (the hurricane was an act of God and out of the Government’s control), and whether teachers may get their amount separately from the public officers (this is not being contemplated).

Waight says that after Friday’s meeting, the Belize National Teachers’ Union was asked to go back to its membership for further consultations, though the exact nature of the proposal that Government made on that day remains undefined publicly. The B.N.T.U. has asked Prime Minister Dean Barrow to meet with them on Thursday.

 

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