Posted: Sunday, March 1, 2020. 9:13 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The House of Representatives meets in a special session on Thursday morning, March 5, to hear the presentation by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow of the General Revenue and Appropriations Bill 2020-2021, also known as ‘the Budget.’
This will be Barrow’s last budget before he demits office sometime later this year, ahead of the general election, which is scheduled to be held in November. It is the first House meeting since January and the playing field has changed irrevocably since.
The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) stumbles toward another leadership convention in April after John Saldivar’s spectacular fall mere days after his coronation at the Civic Center, when his name was called as having received funds for alleged campaign financing by accused Utah fraudster Lev Dermen and his associate Jacob Kingston. Saldivar has stood down as Minister of National Security and party leader-elect but there is speculation he may seek to return to leadership.
Patrick Faber was bruised by his defeat to Saldivar, but remains a controversial figure in his own party, hailed by some and detested by others. There is a movement to get a consensus candidate to submit names for the leadership contest by the deadline, but Faber is holding out on leaving the race.
Barrow is expected to stand down as Prime Minister having served three terms and as party leader having served five terms, but he can do neither until a new leader-elect is in place. He is also expected to reveal some of his thinking moving forward on calling a date for general elections and proposed reforms demanded from some quarters in his party, by the Opposition and social partners.
And speaking of the Opposition, on the back of a successful demonstration held last week, it will introduce a motion of no confidence in the Barrow administration. While the numbers are close it will not be expected to pass, but theoretically a majority would hasten the calling of general elections.
Economically, Belize is in its third consecutive quarter of low to nil economic growth, which is characteristically suggested to be a recession. Debt continues to rise with the borrowing for new projects and unemployment has fluctuated while underemployment continues to be a concern. The major industries are suffering, with citrus declining, sugar battling through regional and international issues and marine and petroleum products no longer mainstays.
We’ll have more from the National Assembly later this week.
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