Posted: Friday, May 29, 2020. 7:22 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize is encouraging Belizeans to get back to work.
While the Unemployment Relief Program and Food Assistance Programs continue into the third month, these and other interventions are designed, said Prime Minister Dean Barrow, to give temporary assistance to help make ends meet and consumption can get that ‘very small fillip’ in consequence of Government bailouts.
But the re-opening of the economy is going full steam ahead. P.M. Barrow spoke of the opening of casinos and gyms and the return of street vendors as bringing back some work and therefore a lift of income and revenue.
Repeating his promise not to let go or cut salaries for the public sector, the Prime Minister conceded there would be some contraction. He trumpeted again the importance of continuing infrastructure projects paid for by foreign funds and to what extent possible by the Government for jobs and foreign exchange.
The hope is that while things are grim, Belize will be bloodied but unbowed, the Prime Minister vowed.
Externally, even with falling export revenue and rising import prices, Belize has no reason to fear devaluation. It would be false to assume, the Prime Minister warned, that Belize is headed for a downward spiral continuing without end.
For instance, despite his reluctance initially to say so, P.M. Barrow contends that tourism will be back in some form by the start of November, the “high season,” but hopefully long before that even without rapid testing and a vaccine. It is easier not to do so now, but Belize will have to take the risk of reintroducing COVID-19 by opening up the borders, or “literally dying” from the absence of earnings now raised by tourism and other local economic activity.
And the Prime Minister expressed his hope that with the world working in overdrive to find rapid test and vaccine cures, “this is no time to preach or engage in any counsel of despair. I have every confidence in saying we will not reach the rock-bottom you project…”
Belize has both Central Bank and commercial reserves and plans for worst-case scenarios, so a potential devaluation, which last affected Belize in 1949, “ain’t going to happen,” the P.M. declared; we will have foreign exchange through at least the end of this terrible year.
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