Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2023. 10:59 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Three days for a Budget Debate? It seems too much given the past performances at the National Assembly, but Prime Minister John Briceño has suggested it will give more breathing space to this most important piece of legislation.
Returning from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Governors’ Meeting in Panama on Tuesday, he told reporters that he appreciates not having to hurry his members in their speeches: “I think when you have two days, you are in a hurry and many times we are asking ministers to try to keep it down to fifteen minutes and then we go on ‘til one or two o’clock in the morning and it’s not fair to the ministers who would like to point out or to address the nation as to their accomplishments, the work that they have done and the work that they expect to do in the coming year, and also to our Belizean citizens that we are making important decisions at one o’clock in the morning. So we felt that if we could set it up over three days to be able to give everybody an opportunity to speak, not only the ministers and of course the five members of the opposition.”
The Prime Minister called out Queen’s Square area representative Denise Barrow, who has made a point of not attending any meetings of the House of Representatives since the November 2020 election: “I don’t think that member has attended, if you put the two or three times that she has attended meetings since November 2020, and you put the time together, that would still not be enough for one House meeting. I think it’s shameful and the Leader of the Opposition should do something about it and the UDP should do something about it because that person was elected to represent the people and to represent the people, not walking around Belize City but also [going] to the House and to defend and speak on behalf of these people.”
And after distasteful scenes at the last meeting of the House where the Leader of the Opposition had to be escorted out after repeated backtalk, the P.M. says he has told his members to be respectful: “I’ve said to my colleagues that it’s best to just ignore the opposition when they’re making noise and I’ve made the point now that whenever one person in particular who likes to interrupt me, I’ve decided that I will just ignore that person and let the speaker deal with that.”
The P.M. will not be heard from until the end of the debate, but Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow will lead off with what is expected to be an “alternative” Budget outlining its priorities as compared with the Government’s. The P.M. said he didn’t expect much from it, citing his stance on free education: “Education is a fundamental right of every child in this country and we need to make it as best as possible to ensure that our children stay in school. Many of these children, because their parents can’t afford to take out loans to send their children to school. And so, I believe that as a government not only do we have legal responsibility but even morally, we have to be able to do something to keep our kids in school.”
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