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Prime Minister presents 2022-23 General Revenue and Appropriation Bill: “…this Budget touches your life positively”

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Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2022. 1:21 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: “What we have done in our first Budget year is truly remarkable,” Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño began his second Budget speech today, painting a picture of an economy “bouncing back,” Belizeans heading back to work in greater numbers, more investment and more opportunities.

But after an explosive rebound in 2021, projections call for more modest growth in 2022 – six percent by the Central Bank; six-point-five percent by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Government projects 19 percent or $194 million more in revenue for 2022-23, approximately $1.048 billion, with increases recorded in tax revenue and grants, in particular, the former by about 27 percent.

On the expenditure side, about 20 cents of every dollar is spent on goods and services for the Government, something the Prime Minister said all Ministries and departments should crackdown on. Another $243 million will be spent on capital expenditure.

Government will retire $86.4 million of debt this year and borrow $211 million less for fiscal support, mostly due to the retirement of the Superbond and embrace of the Blue Bond, which he said made Belize “the toast” of nations its size. The next task is to review domestic borrowing in efforts to reduce government costs.

The Prime Minister emphasized that no new tax measures would be introduced, but tax loopholes would be closed. There was no word on any reduction of fuel taxes, which are among the Government’s primary on the expenditure side. The Budget, he said, would have room for the return of the 10 percent pay cut to teachers and public officers, lifting expenditure as expected.

The Prime Minister highlighted the Investment Summit and the return of tourism and agriculture, efforts to get the nation vaccinated, finding opportunities to resolve land issues through mobile clinics across the nation and preparing to issue a further 8 thousand lots to first-time landowners; responsible construction of needed infrastructure and 167 houses for first-time house owners.

Briceño concluded that the Budget will achieve its primary goals: to properly fund the functions of the public and security services; judiciary; education sector; health care sector (including the expansion of the National Health Insurance (NHI) system; infrastructure system; and others.

“Whether you live, go to school or work in either of our two cities; seven towns; and almost 200 villages, this Budget touches your life positively in some way or another,” Briceno concluded, adding, “What distinguishes this new Budget and the current one is the extent to which my administration strives to collect the people’s revenue; strives to secure value for money in spending; and strives to ensure that in the main, the people’s budget is an instrument of equitable national development and prosperity.”

The Budget will be debated on March 24 and 25, 2022, despite an objection by Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow who complained that insufficient time had been given for preparation for the debate (only six calendar days not counting Saturdays and Sundays).

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