Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2022. 12:08 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: As part of its annual Article IV consultation with the Government of Belize, this week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives met with various stakeholders including the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and one of its affiliates, the Public Service Union (PSU).
Both PSU President Dean Flowers and NTUCB President Luke Martinez discussed their views of the meeting, which neither deemed of much help to them on the issues that matter to their members.
Flowers said they reminded the IMF that the concern in Belize is not wages but efficiency: “Belize does not have any problem where meeting its wage bill is concerned if it is that our government would spend the revenues that they collect efficiently. And so we remain absolutely steadfast that we would rather die defending our pension than to engage in any discussion surrounding public sector pension reform that does not also come with political and tax reform.”
President Martinez added that in 90 minutes he didn’t get the sense that the IMF would be helpful in getting back their 10 percent salary reduction and frozen increments from the Government.
“The communications with the IMF and the consultations at the IMF continue to be the same from our path. They have consulted us last year and pretty much the same tactics around the agenda, the last year the wage bill was on the agenda and they know that the biggest accommodation was for them to cut public sector wage by 10 percent and freezing public sector increments and we have fought hard and long to prevent that and those who wanted to see it happen fought hard and long and ensure that it happened. One would say that if things are looking that good then why not restore the public sector salary and why not restore the increments and so clearly there is no will on their part to recommend any restoration according to them even though there is a growth, if they would recommend for the restoration of public sector 10 percent then they will be going back on what they have requested last year.”
Ahead of further meetings with the Government, Martinez is holding out hope: “We are hoping that this is going to be a point where the government will not agree with the IMF and that they will restore the public sector wages to 100 percent.”
And as for the IMF he had this suggestion: “…we are continuously disappointed with the IMF and their representatives and we don’t think that they were prepared for a serious discussion and we hope that next year, they could engage us at least for a week or two.”
The IMF’s Article IV preliminary report typically comes out in March ahead of the Budget presentation, with final analysis a few months later.
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