Posted: Monday, March 14, 2022. 10:32 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Tomorrow, Tuesday, the House of Representatives to consider multiple bills including the most important – the annual General Revenue and Appropriation Bill, otherwise known as the Budget.
It sets out not only what sums of money the Government will appropriate for the use of the Public Service in the forthcoming fiscal year, but also in recent years has served as a kind of policy statement for the administration – a road map of where we are, where we head next, and how we get there.
This year’s Budget arrives at a time when finances are getting better, but outside pressures are threatening to squelch economic recovery.
In February, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño dropped his first hints, focusing on infrastructure development and education: “The first thing I can tell you is that we don’t expect to increase any taxes, but we are certainly looking at the issue of infrastructure development, housing. In less than one year, we have built eighty low-cost houses, something that the previous government in thirteen years did not do. We want to do more of that; we want to probably, hopefully, double that effort. We want to look at issues of education, the expansion of NHI in the north. So there are going to be some exciting things…”
But he also warned that there will still be a focus on health with the COVID pandemic hanging around: “We may be able to ease the restrictions, but we still have to be able to do some of these. Hopefully we don’t have to do as much testing as we’ve been doing. So if there is monies that we can save and try to divert especially to education, certainly we will do so.”
A week later on March 1, in a national address, the Prime Minister described a Cabinet-approved Budget that is “prudent and pragmatic. We will emphasize an ambitious social policy agenda that centers on bringing relief to the more vulnerable among us, expanding the N.H.I. program, while continuing to rebuild the Belizean economy in partnership with the private sector, the unions, and non-governmental actors.”
And for the first time, he mentioned that public officers and teachers will be returned their 10 percent pay cut: “After careful deliberation, Cabinet has settled our position on these matters and we will inform the unions of the elements of that position which includes much-needed pension reform. More importantly, we believe we have found a workable compromise which includes restoring the full ten percent to public officers and teachers.”
CEO in the Ministry of Economic Development, Dr. Osmond Martinez, told us last week that the Budget is headed in three areas – social protection, economic activity, and productivity: “An in-depth analysis, has been done on the Budget whereby we can have more funds going to social protection, with the aim that individuals can become [productive] – because it doesn’t make sense to keep someone poor. What we need to do is help people come out of poverty and the only way to do that is by investing in education, a better health system, citizen security, infrastructure, and increasing economic activity.”
Meanwhile, elements of the Opposition United Democratic Party will use the stage to protest the high cost of living, including fuel prices and food prices, as well as crime and other critical issues.
BBN will have continuous coverage all day from Belmopan tomorrow, Tuesday, so stay tuned.
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