Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2023. 8:41 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Admitting that he was “almost persuaded” by the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources Cordel Hyde said there were some inconvenient truths the United Democratic Party (UDP) had to face.
Such as the fact that Belize was in a recession and that the economy was in contraction even before the COVID-19 pandemic; that more than half the population was considered poor despite having $13 billion of resources to work with, and that it was hard work that defied even the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) prescriptions to get to where we are now.
As a former Minister of Education, Hyde commended the “free education” program where just about everything is provided and all the kids need to do is show up and study, reducing the drop-out rate and actually increasing attendance rates.
Long-term, he continued, education costs repay the nation in creating future leaders and keeping them from a life of crime and invariably death: “It costs $1,000 to send a child to school, but it costs $5,000 to send that same child to Hattieville [Prison], so better we spend that money now unless we wait until it’s too late and have to spend five times that money.”
Hyde said that “Shyne” Barrow is not directly to blame, left to hold the bag for those directly responsible, but added that what finished the UDP as Government was simply sticking around far too long.
Fortunately, he continued, Belize is “on the cusp of something great,” able to pivot away from those dark days to something no government had ever done before. The Budget is sustainable with a half-percent of GDP of primary surplus and tax collections exceeding targets for the second year in a row. “This Budget touches people where it matters the absolute most: more money for health care, more money for education, more money for housing, more money for land surveys, more money for village roads and rural streets, more money for digitizing and democratizing more of the services the Government offers the people,” said Hyde, and is buoyed by the 27.6 percent two-year growth rate led by agriculture and tourism.
That said, while “good things are happening,” things are not perfect, and the next enemy to slay is inflation, inflicted by capricious grocery store owners who literally raise prices by the day. With the help of public officers, the Government will be on watch, including reducing taxes on more basic food stuffs.
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