Posted: Tuesday, May 11, 2021. 11:39 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Belize’s approach and attitude to working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recalls Lord Laro’s satire of Jamaica’s relationship with the organization in a 1970s song: “The I and the M is alright, but is the F we frightened for.”
No matter the IMF’s assurances that it has moved away from its relentless, inflexible campaign to encourage taxation, privatization, smaller government and a muscular private sector, Belize remains mostly untempted, according to Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Christopher Coye, speaking to reporters on Monday.
“As far as the IMF is concerned, I think we respect fully what they bring to the table. Certainly, the IMF has that history and that past perception – and I would say remnants of that still remain and I would also say that there might be a higher level of rigidity with respect to small, vulnerable countries like ours. But ultimately, they want the same goal that we want to achieve – they have a different way, typically.”
Coye acknowledged in comparing an IMF plan with Belize’s homegrown economic recovery plan: “I believe that looking at our plan, it has more of a conscience, if you will, than what an IMF approach would involve. The reality is we have a tough situation that we face, we are in an economic crisis and a fiscal crisis and the hard decisions have to be made to get us out of it and we feel that our homegrown plan is the best way.”
While the IMF’s preaching on fiscal responsibility is being heard in Belmopan, there would be some bitter pills to swallow, Coye said, if Belize fully turned to its embrace.
Talk of devaluation of the currency is absolutely unacceptable anywhere in Belize, and so would retrenchment of public officers, says Coye, but both would be absolutely demanded by the IMF as a condition. The Government has not brought the issue of retrenchment on the table in its negotiations with the Joint Unions (and in any case the unions would utterly reject it), but there would be talk of an exercise to streamline the Public Service and reduce the astounding wage bill.
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