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Attorney General: Nobody has handled COVID-19 better than Belize

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Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2020. 2:00 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte insists that Belize’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been better than almost anyone, including the United States, in keeping the toll to 28 cases thus far and two deaths.

And it is an expression of trust in our fiscal responsibility, he added, that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has granted the debt restructuring to the tune of US$15 million at just 1 percent interest over 25 years. He contrasted that with the position of the previous administration that could not get a look in with the various international financial institutions (IFI) to take advantage of lending and had to go to what he called “loan sharks.”

As for economic plans, Peyrefitte said that while Government did not plan for COVID-19, the annual Budget is the national plan for the economy prepared every year and the Government continues to follow that.

And his own ministry, Peyrefitte made sure to boast, has done an excellent job of tightening up on crime and national security.

Colleague Dr. Carla Barnett recalled “the bad old days” when none of the IFIs would talk to Belize about lending, and the meeting in that regard was the worst she had ever had, she said, worse even that the restructuring meetings for the first “Superbond” (she was serving as Financial Secretary then).

She further revealed for the first time that the Said Musa administration had refused to enter a program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the time, a line followed by the current administration, when such a program could have helped.

Dr Barnett summarized that the CDB, which among other IFIs does not normally restructure debt, agreed to this arrangement in order to allow Belize to use funds it would have otherwise used for COVID-19 related programs.

And she announced the release tomorrow of a program of support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) while repeating that the Government’s apparatus continues to take suggestions from the private sector and elsewhere and run them through the COVID-19 National Oversight Committee.

Leader of Government Business Godwin Hulse summarized that “Governments need support; businesses need support…how many countries are struggling? Understand this, that the resources we would have used to pay the loan…we are asking that they hold over.”

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