Posted: Monday, March 25, 2019. 3:03 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes:Leader of the Opposition John Briceño led off the first day of the Budget Debate in Belmopan by stating that after 11 years, the United Democratic Party can only “mislead” Belizeans with a budget that only barely masks the malice and corruption of its administration; led by a series of infrastructure projects disguised as means for “kickbacks” to its favored few.
Taking the bait laid by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in his presentation ten days ago, Briceño argued that the P.U.P. can account for its spending – houses, development in public utilities and investment in agricultural industries like papaya and shrimp, now either gone or diminished.
Briceño questioned how inflation could be under 1 percent with recent increases in prices for fuel, data usage and electricity among other things. The economic growth that Belize has achieved during their term, he said, is in spite of their policies and not a result of them.
The Orange Walk Central representative also set out a list of P.U.P. priorities – reducing poverty and the trade deficit, generating employment and providing basic social services, and addressing corruption and trust in the government.
Lake Independence representative and P.U.P. deputy Cordel Hyde followed with his own blistering assault, condemning the lack of plans for youth and sports, which he said was emphasized in the fact that the budget for that department – $3.5 million – had not changed in 25 years. But as he told an intervening Patrick Faber – the P.U.P. was voted out of office and the U.D.P. was expected to do better.
Former Minister of Education Francis Fonseca, representing Freetown, assailed education, routinely the largest slice of the budget pie other than finance and now closing in on
$300 million – while the teaching corps is depleted, lessons have become uninspiring, and more and more are leaving to go their own way.
Former Prime Minister Said Musa laid into the government’s priorities in several ministries, repeating his colleagues’ views that not enough is being done at home and on the ground for those who matter.
He made note that on Belize’s current trajectory, Belize will owe in debt what it owns in national assets, now over $4 billion.
“The economic ship of state is sinking…the once tranquil haven of democracy has become a murder-a-day country…we have reached a point, Mr. Speaker, where this government is exhausted. The Prime Minister is frustrated. The corruption in his Cabinet has reached endemic proportions…they have exhausted all their options. There is an urgent need to revive the economy…but they cannot do it… that will take bold new ideas such as laid out today by the Leader of the Opposition, that will take a government of the People’s United Party! Let’s get it on!”
In other House news, the Tax Administration and Procedure Bill and Customs Regulation Bill have been deferred for legal review.
We’ll have more coming from the debate throughout the day.
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