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Is $1,000 a month telephone allowance too much for Ministers and Ministers of State?

Posted: Friday, December 4, 2020. 5:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This week, a memo from new CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister, Narda Garcia, raised feathers because while the salaries and allowances for the Ministers, Ministers of State and CEOs remain the same, it was felt that the new Government would continue the gesture established by the outgoing Dean Barrow administration where a major part of Minister’s allowances and a part of their salaries were used to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memo says Ministers will be paid $81,000 annually each, or $6,750 per month. They will also get allowances for housing and entertainment of $19,200, and they will be paid $12,000 for telephone expenses – a total package of $112,200 each.

Ministers of State will get a salary of $54,000 annually or $4,500 per month. Their allowance for housing and entertainment will also be $19,200. They will also get $12,000 for telephone expenses – for a total package of $85,200.

For the purposes of this story, we zero in on the telephone expenses. At $1,000 per month (and a reported $500 a month for CEOs), is it too much in this day and age when there are cheaper ways to reach the people you need to hear from, or who need to hear from you?

Due to technological advances by both major telephone companies, Belize Telemedia and SMART (which we are obligated to note for the record is owned in part by members of the Prime Minister’s family), it is possible to spend a fraction of that figure on telephone usage.

Each Minister and Minister of State has their private number, whether Smart or BTL. The priciest SMART plan, the Plus, goes for $120 per month, while the cheapest, Flex Junior, goes for $30 per month. The former offers unlimited minutes for national calls and bills international calls per call.

In the case of Telemedia, there is a mobile Corporate Plan available in small, medium or large with various benefits. And the best part is that the company is, for now, owned in majority by Government entities, and will soon appoint a new Board, so perhaps they can work out a deal.

The broader point is that in a time of near-austerity due to COVID-19 and other pressures, this small gesture would show respect for a population counting on its leaders to do the right thing, and be seen to be doing the right thing.

Of course, we must issue a caveat that it is not known exactly how the allowance was spent in the past or will be spent by current ministers, so perhaps the Ministers and Ministers of State may end up buying those plans and saving the rest.


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