Posted: Friday, September 22, 2023. 5:04 pm CST.
By Horace Palacio: On September 21, 2023, Prime Minister John Briceño took to the podium to deliver a stirring Independence Day address that balanced the stark realities of the turbulent global situation with uplifting news about Belize’s progress. The Prime Minister acknowledged the challenges but chose to focus on the resilience and vision that Belize has showcased, especially since the elections of November 2020.
The Prime Minister began his speech by addressing the state of the world. With wars in Europe, climate change disasters, and rising inflation rates affecting the global economy, Briceño conveyed that Belize was not insulated from these challenges. However, he emphasized the country’s ability to adapt and persevere through trying times.
Central to the Prime Minister’s speech was the revelation that Belize had exceeded expectations in economic growth, particularly as per the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) mid-year review. “Presently, unemployment is at a historic low, 2.8 percent,” Briceño proudly declared. He also noted that inflation is expected to fall from last year, providing relief to citizens.
With a future-focused approach, Briceño outlined the country’s sustainable energy plans, including a 60-megawatt solar plant funded by a $144 million loan agreement with the Saudi Fund for Development. “Clean and independent energy will complement the multiple investments underway in power distribution, water and sewerage systems,” he stated.
The Prime Minister was eager to share the success of Belize’s Second Annual Investment Summit, which highlighted Belize’s vast potential in the “Orange Economy,” focusing on art, culture, research, science, and technology. The summit reportedly garnered interest from every continent and estimates indicate around 300 million dollars in new investments pledged.
Briceño announced that $90 million had been secured from the Saudi Fund for Development to construct a new tertiary-level hospital, the first of its kind in 30 years. Additionally, he highlighted the unprecedented funding in education, emphasizing that “No Belizean should be out of school because he or she cannot afford the costs of schooling.”
Recognizing that Belize cannot tackle issues like drug and weapon smuggling alone, the Prime Minister called for a multilateral approach. He suggested that cooperative international efforts should focus not just on law enforcement but also on improving citizen well-being and opportunities.
Briceño concluded his address by paying homage to George Price, Belize’s Father of Independence, renewing a commitment to an “equitable, a more prosperous, and a more inclusive nation.”
As Belize celebrates its 42nd year of independence, the country seems to stand at an important crossroads, facing global challenges head-on while nurturing its own vision for a sustainable and inclusive future. With this year’s Independence Day theme of “Hope Ignited, Hands United, Vision Renewed: Belize@42,” the people of Belize look ahead with optimism.
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