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Government brings latest supplementary allocation; Opposition questions “gross mismanagement and negligence” and “fiscal bleeding”

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Posted: Saturday, February 5, 2022. 9:14 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government has gotten the House of Representatives to approve approximately $70.35 million in further expenditure ahead of the Budget due in March.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño explained that the allocations are to in part pay old bills and deal with unforeseen expenses.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness gets the lion’s share at $26.4 million – $23.2 million in recurrent expenditure and the others in Capital Two and Three, covering payments for pharmaceutical supplies, National Health Insurance and hemodialysis treatments, Cuban Medical Brigade, COVID enforcement officers and grant funding primarily from UNICEF for critical medical supplies.

The Ministry of Finance gets $25 million, mostly Capital Two expenditure of which part is the capitalization of the Central Bank of Belize to the tune of $20 million; $2.6 million in commitment for the Blue Bond agreement; $700,000 for purchasing of vehicles for the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Transport, and Postal Service.

On the Central Bank, the Prime Minister said the funds were necessary to maintain its balance sheet, the fixed exchange rate and stability of the national system as the final source of lending for banks needing funds, and protect the Bank against future losses.

$1 million will be allocated to the Food Assistance Program in the Ministry of Human Development to continue to the end of the financial year; $1.5 million to repair the revetment structure at Mile 7, Philip Goldson Highway which collapsed due to river currents; half a million for the Ministry of Home Affairs for an anti-violence program; $3.1 million for the start of construction of the new Haulover Bridge; $1.6 million for scholarships and financial assistance; $2.2 million to the Ministry of Home Affairs for basic supplies; $2.9 million for the Ministry of Defense and Border Security for taking care of soldiers.

Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow questioned why it is that the Government has had to come back not once, not twice, but three times since the Budget was read last April to ask for more money. Comparing Briceño to former Prine Minister Said Musa, Barrow said he was even more talented to paint a picture that things were rosy when people knew better.

Barrow characterized the repeated supplementary allocations, even with the explanations, as overspending and gross and negligent mismanagement of finance. Barrow targeted the former Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat as having overspent during his tenure, guilty of incompetence and irresponsibility, and suggested that fewer contracts to a certain private businessman for procurement might help save needed funds.

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