Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2021. 10:08 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s annual Article IV consultations with Belize were completed on Wednesday and it has already said that Belize has refused to enter an arrangement with it in order to avoid mass retrenchment as seen in the second Manuel Esquivel administration in 1997.
“As a country and as responsible leaders I think we have a better understanding of what we are going through; we have people with the expertise and with the ideas to put [together] a full home-grown economic recovery plan, as opposed to people outside of Belize imposing on us what it is we need to do. We know what we have to do; we’ve done it before,” Prime Minister John Briceño told reporters at an event in Belize City on Wednesday.
Briceño recalled a similar meeting with the IMF in 2005 and boasted that the-then government left a primary surplus in the budget and a low overall deficit of less than 1 percent of GDP [gross domestic product].
But he acknowledged that times are far tougher now: “Right now, we are facing a primary balance of negative nine percent of GDP – that means we don’t have enough money to pay the light bill, that’s how bad it is. And we are going to have an overall budget deficit of almost 13 percent of GDP.”
The plan at this point, Briceño said, is to curtail Government expenditure and particularly salaries. Raising taxes at this time is a no-go, he added, because businesses are struggling.
The other half of the equation is getting the population vaccinated and back to work, especially in critical revenue gathering areas like tourism and agriculture.
“We know what is required and we are going to do it right, and to do it the way that we believe can best serve the interest of the Belizean people,” Briceño concluded.
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