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Heated debate on loan motions; Opposition reminds of unlawful spending while P.M. calls COVID response ‘stellar’

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Posted: Friday, June 26, 2020. 11:48 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Leader of the Opposition John Briceño reminded at the start of today’s debate on the CDB COVID-19 Emergency Response Support US$15 million loan motion that in January, the current administration was condemned for not being able to justify $1.5 billion in supplementary budget spending in the Supreme Court by then-Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.

And the Government needed every bit of its parliamentary majority in March to survive a vote of no confidence tabled by the Opposition.

Belize’s economic problems began long before COVID-19, Briceño said, and the Government cannot use the outbreak of the pandemic to justify borrowing nearly $200 million – $75 million from the Central Bank and nearly US$60 million between these loans being introduced today.

It would therefore not be responsible of the Opposition to support such borrowing before an impending general election, Briceño said, especially when the Government’s record looks like this.

Briceño called again for a stimulus package to be developed with the advice and support of the private sector and productive sector, and advised, “Don’t grieve, leave! Call the elections now!”

In reply, the Prime Minister distinguished between the respective loans and called the Opposition Leader’s presentation “devoid of sense” among other things.

He pointed out that the former Chief Justice is now out of office and failed to deliver a written judgment on the case before leaving.

As for the CDB loan, it does not cover new spending, the Prime Minister said, but liquidating the loan that is there and resettling on more favorable terms (80 installments paid quarterly starting five years after the due date at 1 percent per annum interest), freeing up funds to spend.

P.M. Barrow’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by Briceño and Cayo South area rep Julius Espat, necessitating the Speaker to chide them for unparliamentary behavior.

In an especially heated exchange, P.M. Barrow called out the Opposition for not offering part of their salaries to the COVID-19 response; Briceño responded that he dealt directly with his constituents because he does not trust the Government.

 

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