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Prime Minister: “These are critical times”

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 1:01 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow said that the kind of detail provided by the Minister of Education in terms of the learning device program cannot be found even in the regular General Revenue Appropriation Bill, “the Budget.”

He reiterated that the Government, in these critical times, is spending first and reporting later, but it is reporting and following the dictates of the international financial institutions. The Prime Minister revealed that he personally called the outgoing President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, to gain his assurance that the Bank would perform reimbursement if the Government moved with “all deliberate speed,” and received that assurance.

Single-sourcing, he clarified, still involved selection of the best of multiple bids, backed by the IDB and CDB. And the Contractor General, Omar Mitchell, signed off on the final contract.

The Government’s moves, in terms of the devices, mirror that of its other work during the pandemic, Barrow said, eschewing the proposal of the Opposition to invite village council leaders into the distribution process. As he pointed out, while the village council system is nominally non-partisan, members are often political.

The Government could not be faulted for its handling of social protection programs, Barrow said, and it is “decency and good sense” that one does not play politics with these types of programs. As he personally prepares to retire – completely, he promised – he wanted to assure Belizeans that the best is being done by them in the circumstances.

The Unemployment Relief Program (URP) is moving faster with more than 20 thousand applications approved this week, the P.M. announced, and the Food Assistance Program is building new structures to facilitate faster distribution – through the Public Service so as not to soil the initiative with political overtones – and both are currently under audit by the Supreme Audit Institution of Auditor General Dorothy Bradley.

And the Prime Minister mentioned that part of the appropriation will go to local lawyers who assisted with the deferral of interest payments of the Superbond, having already paid the foreigners. He told Opposition Leader John Briceño that it will be his task to tame the monster his party created, if they win, by asking the creditors for a haircut on the more than $1.1 billion owed.

 

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