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The 2022 Budget Speech – Keeling Right

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Posted: Monday, April 4, 2022. 2:16 pm CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Norris Hall: The Prime Minister’s budget speech that he delivered to the House of Representatives in mid-March was, by parliamentary standards, either a work of art or a classic paint-by-numbers presentation.

It was a defining one for Mr. Briceno in his government’s second year of his first term as Prime Minister.

The first budget speech that he delivered just months after his government had taken office in a resounding victory at the polls in November of 2020, was however, lackluster. This was expected. It could have been regarded as a budget for salvaging the wrecked economy, the empty coffers and the heavy debt he inherited from the most corrupt government of self-enrichment and nepotism in the previous thirteen years of mal-administration by the Barrow government.

As such, it was a salvaging Budget set against a backdrop that has now created a virtually dysfunctional Opposition after its reign of economic terror.

But this budget of $1.4 billion for the next fiscal year, April 2022 to March 2023, can be regarded as one of recovery and reconstruction.

The PM’s presentation was a well-crafted narrative of spreadsheet accounting. It left no doubt that it was drafted by a team of experienced financial gurus and budget planners in the Ministry of Finance. It was a speech to ponder given the critical analysis that went into putting together the numbers.

In dollars and cents terms, the Government’s budget for the next fiscal year is a formula that dovetails with the government’s platform for economic recovery and growth. And in that case, this is being accomplished.

The question is: how?

While the numbers gurus crunch the figures, the Prime Minister’s political advisors seem to have forgotten to tie in the political credo of social justice and national participation and the rest of the political ethos of a Party founded with and by the hard working grassroots considered as the “salt-of-the-Belizean-earth”.

It is for this reason that this budget speech could have been written and delivered by anyone. It had no signature. It had no jazz. It had no soul. It had no political gospel, nor philosophy. The narrative really did not present the PUP doctrine per se.

It was simply a display of what Accountants do – an analysis of numbers to create a desired result. Certainly this required debt restructuring and the development of new economic strategies to achieve the desired result. Kudos!

While economic recovery and national participation in development is an essential part of the nationalist, left wing people’s party, the budget speech created an impression that this PUP government has drifted towards the Right. It certainly provided a bio-profile and thinking perhaps, of the drafters of the speech – elitist and far removed from the core thinking and philosophy of the once “people centered” People’s United Party. But nevertheless, a good take on the economics of recovery and growth in the cold realities of finance. However, this is creating an uneasy keel to the right of the core principles of the People’s United Party that calls for people participation.

In the overall national context, however, and beyond the national budget, we feel the spawning of a new elitism at the Party’s echelon, almost as if cloned from the previous government and threatening to become a political hybrid far removed from the people – PUDP.

There is also the ominous and the permeating influence of “the Alliance” on the Briceno Administration. This type of influence, known in some circles as State Capture, could have significance on the “new’ PUP forcing it to abandon its core principles as a people’s movement.

This matter, which ought to be of serious national concern regarding the direction of this government, will have to be ventilated in a subsequent article. It is dangerous.

Another factor that needs urgent political consideration, is the neo-colonialism playing out in the sugar cane industry that was created by the cane farmers, whose roots in cane cultivation, began in the manufacture of rum.

This has everything to do with the national budget and the flight of Capital.

This budget speech is a reflection in numbers, of positive growth but which is lacking in its presentation of the political philosophy of the Party for social justice and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.

It is for these reasons that one must ponder the new direction of the political Directorate and if there is a subtle paradigm shift away from the people.
Development is not development unless it involves the people.

On this note, while any form of the “Balkanization” of Belize is unacceptable, it appears that the new spirit of activism by grassroots leaders across the country is perhaps, and unwittingly so, a revitalization of the core grassroots movements that gave rise to a powerful people’s movement that gave birth to the People’s United Party.

It is also, more than ever, in recent times, that the powerful Unions, such as the BNTU and the CWU, must up the ante, especially in view of the recent attempts by “the Alliance”, and other rogues, at Union busting. The unethical freezing of Union funds in an associated Bank is also reason for national concern.

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