Posted: Tuesday, March 21, 2023. 8:10 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: It is in some respects Belize’s Super Bowl or NBA Finals where politics is concerned.
The resumption of the debate on the 2023 edition of the General Revenue and Appropriation Bill 2023-2024 which starts on Wednesday in Belmopan will feature Ministers outlining their achievements, thumping their chests on the likes of debt reduction and economic growth in tourism, agriculture, BPO’s etc. Meanwhile, the Opposition will almost certainly be hammering the government on inflation, food prices, supplemental after supplemental spending and so on.
The Government projects collected revenue of $1.408 million from taxes, royalties, licenses, revenue accrued by Government ministries and so on, and projected expenditure or spending of $1.496 million including more than $486 million on salaries or ‘personal emoluments’ as they are described. Another $210 million has to be found to finance the budget deficit as a result of amortization, or repayment of outstanding loans and charges on the Government.
The Government will be defending its economic record, including the start of its subsidized housing and free education programs; further roll-out of National Health Insurance (NHI) to the Prime Minister’s native Orange Walk District; assistance to the agriculture sector and particularly sugar, citrus and marine products including shrimp; continuation of infrastructure projects, and reduction in unemployment and the increase in the minimum wage against the backdrop of roiled international affairs including inflation caused by the disruptions in supply chains as a result of the war in Eastern Europe and troubles in the United States and Asia.
The Opposition, keeping forthcoming municipal elections and general elections in mind, will start to lay out its platform for a return to government, with its primary argument being that the Government has not gone far enough in building the economy and has been shortsighted in its decisions, with not enough of its expected benefits trickling down to the common man. It is expected to question especially the benefits of NHI and free education when, as stated by Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow on the day the Budget was presented, many students still come to area representatives for assistance in paying school fees even at those schools where free education is instituted, and there are shortages in the hospitals and clinics of basic medical supplies.
Stay tuned for complete and continuing coverage of the Budget Debate for the rest of this week from Belmopan.
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