Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2020. 10:20 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: In these “interesting times,” the annual two-day extravaganza that is the debate of the General Revenue and Appropriations Bill has been shortened to one day and, we are told, will be kept as short as possible.
The National Assembly will for the first time in memory be completely closed to “strangers,” as the House of Representatives standing orders terms them, Clerk of the Assembly, Eddie Webster has indicated.
Only parliamentarians, essential staff of the Government press office and other members of the press will be here to cover proceedings.
Social gatherings of any kind have been limited by order to 100 people or less, and Webster has reminded visiting press to practice social distancing, which in this case means using the empty galleries to catch shots of the debate rather than crowding each other in the cramped media gallery which faces Speaker Laura Longsworth’s desk and chair.
As for the debate itself, Prime Minister Dean Barrow had said on Monday that his opposite number John Briceño and his colleagues wanted their opportunity to criticize the Budget he presented two weeks ago, his last in the role, and offer suggestions. Nonetheless, the Budget is expected to pass on to the Senate, which is projected to meet next week, before it goes to the Governor-General for his assent into law before the start of the next financial year on April 1.
Already, it has been signaled there will be a further budget allocation for use in staving off the coronavirus and stimulating the economy after the worst has passed.
The debate is also overshadowed by the explosion of violence in Belize City dating back to last Friday, which prompted another declaration of a state of emergency for parts of Southside Belize City and the roundup of suspected criminals on Wednesday.
We will have all the high and low points of the debate for you as they happen, so stay tuned.
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