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Who is to blame for Belize’s high external debt?

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2019. 9:14 am CST.

Aaron Humes: The total national debt has risen to just over 3.6 billion dollars, about 94% of the national gross domestic product which is a shade over 4 billion dollars.

During his budget address on Friday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow sought to draw a line between the debt policies of the two Said Musa administrations immediately preceding his three.

According to the Prime Minister, the P.U.P. were responsible for a quadrupling of the national debt in nine years, from $653.3 million to $2.267 billion; that is, from 47.2 percent of GDP when they took office to 87.8 percent of GDP. The majority of this debt, he said, was “contracted at extortionate foreign commercial interest rates” and has come to be known, especially among the U.D.P., as “The Superbond.”

In his three administrations, according to Barrow, just five point eight percentage points of GDP has been added to the public debt, with a rise in dollar figures by about 1.4 billion dollars. Meanwhile, the foreign currency denominated debt, as a percentage of total debt has been reduced from 75.4 percent to 66.4 percent of GDP.
At the time in the P.U.P. term, interest of over 143 million dollars was outstanding; the U.D.P. paid $121 million in the concluding fiscal year and project $115 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

But Opposition Leader John Briceño doesn’t buy any of it: “The point of the matter or the fact is, he said that he was going to reduce the national debt and it has increased. When you look at our national debt, for instance, the GDP, the economy has grown, he is claiming, well he finally managed to increase it by a billion dollars, doubled it in less than ten years. So now when you compare debt to GDP, it has allowed him to borrow even far more than what we could have borrowed during our time.”
“As it is right now, every Belizean man, woman and child owes in excess of nine thousand dollars and he’s still telling you, I’m still coming back to borrow more money. When will it stop?”

 

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