fbpx
Belmopan Aggregates
Budget Speech: Revenues for 2024 projected to top 1.5 billion, expenditure gap narrows
March 8, 2024
Vessel runs aground on Glover’s Reef Atoll
March 8, 2024

Budget Presentation by Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño

Posted: Friday, March 8, 2024. 1:22 pm CST.

March 8, 2024

Madam Speaker,

I rise to present to this House and to the Nation, a performance report on the public finances and the Belizean economy for the Fiscal Year 2023/24, and to present the National Budget proposals for the new Fiscal Year starting 1st April 2024 through 31st March 2025.

Today’s performance report, quite by coincidence, comes at an opportune moment.

A few days ago, on the 27th of February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a Staff Concluding Statement following their annual review of Government’s fiscal accounts and economic performance.

This review is commonly referred to as the Article IV summary report.

During this exercise, IMF experts met extensively with both public and private sector representatives.

Those of us on this side of the House are especially pleased with the IMF report – not because we agree with IMF’s philosophy as such, but because, based on timing and status, their report provides independent verification that the polices pursued by this People’s United Party Administration are yielding unprecedented results for the Belizean people.

The IMF Statement confirms that this Administration is ON THE RIGHT TRACK.

Let us start with economic growth: the Statement projects 2023 economic expansion of 4.5 percent.

This is on the heels of 8.7 percent growth in 2022 and 17.9 percent growth in 2021.

These rates of growth average 10.4 percent over the last three years.

Real GDP, the Statement asserts, was 16 percent above pre-pandemic levels.

Then there is the employment picture.

With 183 thousand-strong labor force, unemployment declined from 14 percent in 2020 to 3.4 percent in 2023.

In other words, for every 100 persons seeking a job, between 96 and 97 have been able to find some form of paid work.

The IMF Statement also reports that the public debt now stands at 66 percent of GDP.

When this Administration took office, the debt was as high as 132 percent of GDP, so in just over 3 years, we have literally cut in half what the country owes, as a percentage of annual GDP.

Inflation – the increase in consumer prices – fell in 2023 to 4.4 percent, down from 6.3 percent in 2022.

And crucially, the primary budget balance, according to the IMF, remains a positive zero point eight percent of GDP, positive for the third consecutive year since this Government took office.

What is equally impressive, Madam Speaker, is the IMF’s forward-looking projections: they expect Belize’s GDP to expand by 3.5 percent this year!

They expect the unemployment rate to stay at 3.4 percent over the medium term as the economy remains at full employment!

They expect inflation to come down further to 3.1 percent and to 1.3 percent over the medium term!

They project further reduction in the debt to GDP ratio, falling below 60 percent in 2028!

And they expect a positive primary balance for the national budget in each of the next five years!

There you have it, Madam Speaker.

For sure 2023 was an outstanding year for the public finances and for the economy.

And the IMF, world’s foremost Multilateral Examiner, projects that Belize is on a path to ongoing prosperity, prolonged full employment, lower inflation and public debt, with a strong Belize dollar underpinning sustainable budget cycles into the medium term.

There is no precedent, I daresay, in the almost 43-year history of independent Belize where so much has been achieved in three short years, and that the future augurs such confidence, stability and progress.

But there is something else Madam speaker, something we all know that the ultimate decider or the best barometer are our amazing Belizean people.

It was that just two days ago the Belizean people in our nine cities and towns went to the polls and said with a clear voice that WE wah STAY PAN TRACK!

Our democracy is strong and vibrant, and I would like to thank all who voted and all the men and women who offered themselves as candidates in the municipal elections.

For sure 61 of 67 seats is a reaffirmation of #PlanBelize and the people’s confidence in this PUP Administration.

The people have spoken, the IMF has issued their Statement.

This national report card of sorts offers a felicitous stage from which I can now set out in more detail Belize’s overall 2023 performance, and the exhilarating plans for the new Budget Year.

Global and Regional Conditions

During 2023, global economic growth slowed but remained resilient amidst multiple headwinds, including the Russia-Ukraine war, higher cost-of-living, tighter financial conditions, and extreme weather events.

The (IMF) projected that global economic activity slowed to 3.0 percent in 2023 from 3.5 percent in 2022.

For 2024, the IMF expects global growth to remain steady at 3.1 percent.

Global inflation, a critical concern in these post-COVID years, is expected to ease during 2024 due to resolved supply-side issues and still-tight monetary policies.

However, the threat of new commodity price spikes still looms, owing to continued geopolitical tensions and possible weather shocks.

According to the Caribbean Development Bank, economic growth in the Caribbean region also slowed in 2023, growing by 5.7 percent compared to 10.3 percent in 2022.

This figure, an average for the region, is severely bloated by Guyana’s 40 percent growth rate, fuelled by that country’s petroleum bonanza.

Despite the ongoing tourism recovery, the regional deceleration was mainly attributed to spill over effects from a weaker external environment and the impact of natural disasters.

Growth projections for the region indicate an acceleration to 7.6 percent in 2024, again in no small part due to Guyana’s 35 percent projected growth, and supported by the robust post-pandemic rebound in tourism and moderate increases in remittance flows to the region.

Latin America’s collective economy expanded by a modest 2.2 percent in 2023 and is expected to grow by a meagre 1.9 percent in 2024.

Petroleum is such a critical commodity since Belize imports all of our needs.

We must therefore keep constant sight of its price volatility.

The average cost of a barrel of oil in 2023 was 77.64 US dollars, approximately 17 US dollars less than 2022.

Unfortunately, the 2024 projected price per barrel is 82.00 US dollars, which will be 6 percent higher than last year.

2023/24 Budget Outturn

Let me now set out the performance of the National Budget for the current Fiscal Year 2023/24.

For the year ending 31st March 2024, Government expects total revenue and grants of $1,438,756,876, which is 29.7 million dollars higher than approved by the National Assembly.

Here is the breakdown:

Recurrent Revenue 1.418 billion dollars,

Capital Revenues 6.2 million dollars,

and Grants, 14.1 million dollars.

Government expects Total Expenditures of 1.49 billion dollars in this Fiscal Year with Recurrent Expenditures of 1.12 billion dollars, Capital Expenditures of 378.2 million dollars and Amortization Payments of 126.8 million dollars.

The financing necessary for this Budget Year is expected to total186.9 million dollars.

The primary surplus for the fiscal year is projected at 75.3 million dollars or 1.22 percent of GDP, significantly better than the 24.5 million dollars originally programmed.

The overall deficit in dollar terms is 60 million dollars, representing 0.97 percent of GDP.

Now, Madam speaker, let me directly address the matter of the cost of living.

One of the complaints I have heard most often while visiting Belizeans is the increase in the cost of living or inflation.

As I mentioned earlier, the projection is for inflation to level off, and at least not outpace increases in wages.

The inescapable fact is that domestic purchasing power has been eroded by an increase in international prices.

This is an issue that Cabinet has grappled with constantly.

I have listened to the anguish of Belizeans on this issue and I understand their frustration.

The dollar is just not stretching the way it used to.

But this is not the fault of Government.

A recent in-depth analysis commissioned by Government shows that three-quarters of the price increases Belizeans endure comes from imports.

For example, Government has no control over the cost of flour, or fertilizer, or a barrel of petroleum, or steel for construction.

Neither do we have control over the cost of shipping containers to Belize.

What we have done to combat inflation is to put more money in the pockets of hourly wage workers – 42,965 workers have received a $1.70 or 51 percent per hour salary increase by the recent raising of the minimum wage to 5 dollars per hour.

We reinstated the increments of public officers.

And we have cracked down on price-gouging by greedy merchants.

For example, as recently as the 28th of February, 35 businesses in San Pedro and Caye Caulker were handed citations by the Supplies Control Unit for pricing violations.

This campaign will continue, as will our campaign to buy Belizean products, to make this country more self-sufficient.

Cabinet and I will continue to take every step possible to control the erosion of the purchasing power of the Belize dollar.

Public Debt

As I highlighted in my introduction, according to the IMF, the public debt stood at 66.3 percent of GDP, or some 4.335 billion dollars.

Never should we abstain from the memory of where this Administration met the public debt: 132 percent at its peak in 2020, with the then UDP Government borrowing a million dollars a day just to meet the salaries of public officers.

Today, the debt is projected to stand at 58 percent of GDP in 2029.

And it was this Government’s good credit standing that allowed us to access the financing in 2023 to purchase the Port of Belize and return that prized asset to public ownership.

That decisive move resulted in a rise in the domestic debt to 1.508 billion dollars.

External debt at the close of 2023 stood at 2.832 billon dollars.

In 2023, Government paid 101.1 million dollars in interest payments and almost an identical amount – 100.7 million dollars – in principal repayments.

There are two very important debt conditions to highlight: first, the effective interest rate on the public debt is 2.3 percent, a rate that by any measure is spectacularly low.

This low rate is not a stroke of luck.

It is the result of prudent borrowing from only the most concessionary sources, namely multilateral and bilateral lenders.

This Government has recoiled from any form of commercial borrowing, conscious always of minimizing the price attendant to public loans.

Because of this diligence, interest payment on the public debt is not projected to exceed 2.2 percent of GDP well into the next decade.

For emphasis, consider that the US spent 2.4 percent of its GDP on debt interest in 2023. 4.4 percent in the case of the United Kingdom. 5 percent for Jamaica in FY 22/23.

The second notable condition is that interest payment in 2023 represented 7 cents of every dollar of revenue and grants.

That figure is 17 cents in the US for 2024. 10 cents for the UK. 13 cents in Jamaica.

The following examples of 2023 loan inflows reflect the highly cautious nature of this Administration’s borrowing approach: 95 million dollars from traditional multilateral lenders such as the IDB, the CDB and the World Bank; 86 million dollars in loans and grants from Taiwan; and 4 million dollars from the Kuwaiti Fund.

Madam Speaker, many advances were achieved in 2023 by our teams at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development but one breakthrough demands special mention: Belize’s eligibility for accessing funds from the International Development Association (IDA), under the World Bank umbrella.

After 2 years of non-stop lobbying, a few weeks ago, Belize’s application for a Small Island Economies Exception was approved.

Belize IDA borrowing allocation is immediately 22 million US dollars, with the potential to increase to 67 million US dollars over a three-year period, with exceptional terms of 40 year repayment period, 10 year grace period and an annual service charge of 0.75 percent.

I must commend the perseverance of the former Foreign Minister Courtenay, Minister Chris Coye and his supporting cast for this great achievement.

The Financial Sector

We do not nor should we take for granted the stability of our financial sector.

The strength of our Belize dollar, a 2 to 1 US dollar peg established and defended since 1976 is the solid rock upon which our country’s economic and fiscal edifice resides.

2023 ended with Central Bank reserves of 947 million dollars, or 4.1 months of import cover, well beyond the three-month recommended reserve level.

If I may again cite the recent IMF Report: the financial soundness indicators strengthened in 2023.

Between 2022 and 2023, the domestic banks’ regulatory capital rose from 15.1 percent of risk weighted assets to 16.1 percent.

Non-performing loans fell from 6.9 percent of total loans to 5.2 percent and returns on assets rose from 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent.

Several major Financial System Modernization Initiatives spearheaded by the Central Bank of Belize are worthy of mention: first, the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which aims to equip every individual and enterprise with accessible, quality, and affordable financial services.

In 2023, connection of the Shared Services Network (SSN) to the Automated Payment and Securities Settlement System (APSSS) was effected.

This allows for easier flow of payments among banks and credit unions and expanded services to credit union members.

Simplified customer due diligence guidelines was put in place.

And the Credit Reporting System (CRS) project was restarted.

Second, The Central Bank started a project with the World Bank to broaden the financial ecosystem and enhance the modes for quicker payments.

The project will facilitate immediate availability of funds to the beneficiary, which will include individuals, businesses (e-commerce), or  government agencies.

I commend the Governor, the Central Bank’s Board Chairman and Members, and the Bank’s management and staff for their commitment to excellence.

It is noteworthy that the Central Bank’s economists entertain an even more positive economic outlook for 2024.

They project that following three years of sustained growth, GDP for 2024 will expand by 4.1 percent.

This solid growth level will be propped up by a full recovery in stay-over tourist arrivals to pre-pandemic levels, a resurgence in agricultural production, and renewed manufacturing activity.

The primary sector is expected to grow by 4.1 percent, improving noticeably over 2023’s outturn.

Agricultural production will see a pronounced upturn due to enhancements in husbandry practices, the expectation of near normal weather patterns, and continued expansion in non-traditional commodities.

Specifically, banana production will rebound as the industry reigns in the spread of black sigatoka disease, while added contributions from the western mill will boost growth in sugarcane deliveries.

Secondary sector activity is projected to grow by 4.7 percent, following rebounds in manufacturing and construction output.

Benefiting from enhanced agro-processing activities, beverage, and food production, manufacturing is projected to rebound sharply from a contraction in 2023 to a 3.0 percent growth rate in 2024.

Similarly, heightened importation of building materials, and institutional lending will prop up construction activity.

Lastly, recovery from the previous year’s downturn in domestic electricity production will support strong growth, further contributing to secondary sector growth.

The tertiary sector is forecasted to grow by a healthy 4.5 percent, as total stay-over arrivals for the year are projected to surpass the 2019 pre-pandemic level.

The continued growth in tourism will contribute heavily to growth in the transportation, accommodation, and retail trade subindustries.

Private sector activity is projected to expand, with BPOs remaining a main contributor to growth.

2024/25 Budget Proposal

Heartened by these glowing expectations, I will now outline the estimates of revenues and expenditures for the new Fiscal Year 2024/25.

Let me emphasize at the outset, that once again, as has been the case for the last three National Budgets, THERE ARE NO NEW TAXES in this Budget.

The Ministry of Finance projects total revenues and grants of 1.51 billion dollars comprised of 1.387 billion dollars in tax revenues,

95.29 million dollars in non-tax revenues,

capital revenues of 6 million dollars

and Grants of 30 million dollars

Revenues are comprised of :

791.6 million collected from goods and services;

365.4 million collections from income and profits;

223.5 million collected from international trade and transactions accounting;

and 7.17 million collected on property accounting.

On the expenditure side, approximately 1.604 billion dollars is proposed.

Of this sum approximately 1.1 billion dollars will be recurrent spending covering wages, pensions, goods and services, subsidies and transfers and debt service interest costs.

In addition to recurrent costs, 430.7 million dollars is programmed for capital investments during the new Fiscal Year, of which some 146.5 million dollars are so called Capital 3 funding, drawn down from the various loans and grants already approved.

One hundred and thirty million dollars is the amount projected for amortization payments; that is, the repayment of principal on loans already contracted.

The primary surplus is projected at 30.6 million dollars or 0.46 percent of GDP while the overall deficit is projected at 85.842 million dollars or 1.3 percent of GDP.

Let me put this in perspective for all of us to better understand the purpose of each dollar Government spends:

30 cents of every dollar will be for the wages of public officers,

7 cents of every dollar for public officers pensions,

18 cents of every dollar for operational costs to government, such as utilities and transportation,

7 cents for interest on loans;

And the remaining 27 cents for capital expenditures which includes the funding of all projects and programs undertaken by Government.

In effect, 73 cents of every dollar simply keep the machinery of governance running, leaving 27 cents of every dollar for programs and projects.

Now when we took office in 2020, the percentage of total spending available for programs and projects was at 23 cents on the dollar spent.

In just 3 years then, we have managed to shrink Government’s operating costs by more than 5 percent, allowing more money to finance programs and projects that will benefit the people.

Madam Speaker, ministers will have the opportunity to debate the budget proposals in granular form, and so I shall refrain from stealing their thunder, with the following exception: I will highlight some of the larger capital projects, outline the program pipeline and provide a more substantive description of our initiatives in the arena of healthcare and education.

Capital Program Highlights for New Budget

First, then, to a sampling of the principal capital projects that will be included in this year’s public investment program, of course these all line up with Belize’s Medium Term Development Strategy as well as the overarching goals of Plan Belize:

    $35m to fund the continued expansion of NHI

    $3.5m for hemodialysis support programs

    $21m to help fund the growing payables related to UDP land acquisitions

    $10m for the repair and maintenance of major highways

    $7.5m to support the ongoing expansion of solid waste transfer stations

    $6m for low-income homes and housing repairs

    $5.7m for another phase of the PSW Goldson Highway rehabilitation

    $4m for the upgrading of the Guinea Grass Road

    $5m each for improvements to the George Price Highway from Belize City to Belmopan and San Ignacio to Benque Viejo del Carmen

    $2m for the Progresso Road

    $3m for Grocery and Food Assistance Programs

    $2m for sports

    $2.5m for land surveys

    $6m for the upgrading of rural roads and bridges

    $3m for village streets

    $7m for upgraded streets in towns and cities

    $4m for the Lucky Strike to Maskal Road

    $4m for the Anti-Violence Program

    $1m for additional equipment for the Police Department

    $2.7m for agriculture and sugar roads

19 projects.

These and many other activities and undertakings form the basis of the 430.7 million dollars that is being allocated for Capital spending in this Fiscal Year.

The Project Pipeline

The Policy, Planning and Climate Finance Units in the Ministry of Economic Development coordinate an impressive array of donors and lenders in support of building economic, environmental and social resiliency for Belize.

I wish to outline a few of the more notable aspirations, some of which occupy a current budget investment line, others soon to be endorsed by Cabinet and this Honourable House:

First, with the World Bank, there is the Belize Blue Economy Project.

This 30-million-dollar project is for the improvement of Belize’s management capacity for sustainable development of its blue economy and increase access to climate resilient and sustainable water and sanitation services in targeted coastal areas.

Second, and also with the World Bank, is the 129-million-dollar Belize Renewable Integration and Energy Resilient System Project.

This project will develop new renewable energy generation to build our resilience in electricity generation that can withstand extreme climates by strengthening the national transmission infrastructure.

Third, is the Rudimentary Water System Upgrade for improvements to water supply systems in Chunox, Georgeville, Mahogany Heights, and San Antonio (Toledo).

This project, funded through the Caricom Development Fund, comprises small-scale infrastructure works and capacity building for key stakeholders.

Fourth, with the Interamerican Development Bank, there is the 40- million-dollar Skills for the Future Program.

The objective of the project is to contribute to the closing of the skills gap to prepare tomorrow’s workforce of the fourth Industrial Revolution.

We have to continue to invest in the development of our people, Madam Speaker.

Fifth, also with the IDB, is a 17-million-dollar project for Improving Efficiency, Quality, and Access in Belize’s Health System.

The objective of the project is to improve the health of the population in Belize through increased efficiency, quality, and access to health services.

Sixth, is the Promoting Sustainable Growth in the Blue Economy Program another project in partnership with IDB, this is a 14-million-dollar program to improve the  income generation capacity of artisanal fisherfolks, and to maintain export levels of fisheries products while contributing to the sustainable use of commercial oceanic resources.

Then there is the 78-million-dollar project for Building the Adaptative Capacity of Sugarcane Farmers in Northern Belize.

A 10 million dollar;  “Building Community Resilience via Transformative Adaptation”

The North Ambergris Caye Water/Wastewater Project,” valued at 300 million dollars, where Government expects to access the first 100 million Belize dollars in grant funding from the GCF.

The 20-million Resilient Rural Belize to promote climate-smart agricultural production.

The Building Community Resilience via Transformative Adaptation Project, valued at five million dollars.

Belize’s second Adaptation Fund project was approved and will begin implementation in 2024.

The first disbursement of funds was received on 2nd February 2024. This project aims to build community resilience via transformative adaptation and specifically will work to improve Belize’s long-term capacity to protect communities from climate threats posed by drought, unpredictable water availability, floods, and improper wildfire management.

And lastly, a Project for the Use of Nature-based Solutions to Increase Resilience to Extreme Climate Events in the Atlantic Region of Central America.

Madam Speaker, further explanation of all these projects form a part of the text of the budget speech.

Health & Wellness

Turning now to health and wellness.

Among the highest core priorities for this Administration is the provision of health and wellness care and services.

Based on this conviction, so many massive investments are being made across the public health care system.

These investments include, for example, CABEI’s funding of a modernization assessment of hospitals in Punta Gorda, Orange Walk Town and Belize City.

This needs assessment will be followed by project financing to implement the modernization projects.

Only last week accompanied by the Area Representative and Mayor we broke ground for the new hospital in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, where, through the cooperative program with Taiwan, Government will invest 33.4 million dollars in a first class, fully equipped hospital.

And then there is the 90 million dollars this Administration has secured in concessionary funding from the Saudi Fund for Development for the construction of a tertiary care hospital here in Belmopan.

The selection process for the design and supervision of the new facility will be completed by the end of this month and a contract signed in April of this year.

And this focus by Government has itself inspired a number of private sector healthcare investments, to the tune of tens of millions and hundreds of high-paying jobs.

Expansions to Belize Medical Associates and Health Care Partners in Belize City and the recently inaugurated Hope Hospital in San Pedro exemplify these expansions.

Perhaps the public healthcare program with the greatest potential impact for citizen wellness is the National Health Insurance Program.

I am thoroughly elated that the NHI program, having been piloted on the Southside of Belize City, and then the Southern region, has now been expanded to the Orange Walk District, where 20,000 Orange Walkeños have registered with the three Primary Care Providers that have been contracted.

These Primary Care Providers in Orange Walk will be supported by six laboratories, two imaging providers and three pharmacies, all ensuring that our citizens receive optimal care.

And this year, the NHI Committee proposes expanding the program to the North Side of Belize City where an estimated 65,000 citizens will be eligible for services under the NHI care shield.

All-together, NHI funding for the FY 2024/25 will total 35 million dollars, encompassing the geographic areas of Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann, Creek, Toledo, and the Belize District, including Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.

And we recommit, that early next year, because of the 12 million dollars in profits from Fu We Boledo, the entire Cayo District will see the roll out of NHI thanks to this PUP Administration.

Health is wealth, as the old adage counsels.

Wealth for families, wealth for communities and wealth for the nation.

Education

Complementing healthcare as a core responsibility of a compassionate State is the design and management of the education system.

Yes, there has been a jobs bonanza, almost full employment for those who seek jobs.

But our education system must prepare the society for tomorrow, even as it strives to meet the daunting challenges of today.

Our Ministry of Education is therefore embracing far-reaching reforms.

The Minister, his Team and I, hope all stakeholders recognize that the current legal framework governing the education sector is over a decade old.

This year’s education budget will specifically cater to the imperative task of conducting a comprehensive review and revision of existing education legislation, regulations, and policies.

This encompasses a thorough examination of frameworks governing education councils, commissions, and boards, with the overarching objective of reforming the system to address the evolving requirements of Belize’s educational landscape.

There is also the recent extension of the compulsory school age which aligns seamlessly with the Ministry’s objective of broadening access to education, particularly through initiatives like the Education Upliftment Project: Together We Rise.

The Upliftment Project currently targets intervention and support to nine government-owned secondary schools catering for approximately 3,174 students.

These include: Gwen Lizarraga, Excelsior, Maud Williams, Sadie Vernon Technical, The Agriculture and Natural Resource Institute (ANRI), Delille Academy, Georgetown Technical, Corazon Creek Technical and Toledo Community College.

In the budget 2024-2025, Government plans to add 12 more secondary schools to the  Program, increasing coverage to a target of 6,000 additional students.

The 12 additional schools include Belize Rural High, Ladyville Technical High, San Pedro High, Belmopan Comprehensive, Mopan Technical High, Valley of Peace SDA Academy, Chunox St. Viator Vocational High, Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico, Belize High School of Agriculture, Orange Walk Technical, Bella Vista Government Secondary and Julian Cho Technical high schools.

Our outreach to 21 schools will have a meaningful impact on more than 9,000 secondary school students at an investment of more than 10 million dollars, an estimated increase of 6.6 million dollars from 2023-2024.

Government’s National Healthy Start Feeding Programme is doing wonders in reducing hunger in the classrooms.

Along with its donor partners, especially Taiwan, the National Healthy Start Feeding Programme caters healthy meals for 4,000 primary school students from 35 schools and 2,967 secondary school students from 9 schools.

These figures equal an investment of around $20,000.00 per day in meals.

The number of beneficiaries keep increasing throughout the year, and it is expected that by the end of the academic year, at least 50 primary schools, will be a part of the program.

Finally, to address the growing demand for increased access to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics training (STEAM), the Itz’at STEAM Academy, a government-owned secondary institution, opened its doors to 64 First Form students and 9 teaching staff last September.

Itz’at offers a high school diploma with key subject concentrations in areas such as Sustainable Development Projects, Digital Arts/Fine Arts, and Science and Technology, along with other subjects from the National Curriculum at the secondary level.

The target for 2026 is to have a population of 300 students at all form levels.

THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION

I had previously announced that Belize was selected, after a period of assessment, as a beneficiary of the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.

I now confirm that the Belize Compact Development Team, under the Office of the Prime Minister, has contributed to the preparation  of a Joint Design Document that defines the rationale and objectives for an Education and Energy Project to be funded by the MCC.

The projects were designed collaboratively with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Energy and Public Utilities and relevant stakeholders, and with technical guidance and financial support from the MCC.

The Projects are scheduled to be implemented in the five-year period 2025-2030.

The total grant for the implementation of both projects is estimated to be 125 million US dollars or the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP.

We anticipate that within the trajectory of Belize’s socio-economic transformation, these two projects will be sweeping, high-impact programs.

As part of Government’s #PlanBelize agenda for the administration of justice, government will introduce legislation to address needed criminal justice reform.

These include legislation for Plea Discussion and Plea Agreement, Alternative Sentencing and the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders).

Together, these measures will ensure a more efficient system for the timely disposal of criminal cases.

It will allow for greater focus on restorative justice.

It will provide offenders who have served their sentence, paid their debt to society and have not reoffended  to reintegrate into society without the stigma of a criminal record inhibiting them for the rest of their lives.

Ensuring that persons who should not be in prison are not there, is part of the responsibility of Government.

This is an important balance a Government must ensure is kept.

Conclusion

Madam Speaker, every National Budget involves countless hours of analysis and review — for everyone involved, it is a delicate dance.

Putting limited money to best use is not an easy process since, there will be purposes and projects that do not make the final cut.

As always, we are grateful to the public officers, elected representatives and other stakeholders for their contribution to this effort.

This year I am especially proud of how much has been achieved with the resources allocated in Fiscal Year 2023/24, and even more so with the dramatic potential of the allocations we table today.

The pride I feel, is as a result of the last several months of personal engagement with Belizeans throughout the 7 towns and 2 cities that elected their municipal leaders on Wednesday.

Meeting citizens on the streets, in their homes, in their schools, at their workplace or their business locations, visiting clinics and hospitals and construction sites, I have been completely enthralled by the optimism and the resilience of our people.

And that optimism is attracting huge investment in the country: BELTRAIDE envisions investments valued at 850 million dollars for this Fiscal Year, an unprecedented surge in private sector spending.

The forecast spans the spectrum of activities, with the majority being in tourism and hospitality but also manufacturing, offshore outsourcing, agriculture, and the blue and orange economy.

No government is perfect, none gets everything perfect.

There will be setbacks and flaws, but this Administration, over the last three years of tireless work, has rekindled hope in our people.

This Administration has put the shine back on this Jewel, a Jewel that had been stained and smeared by those who preceded us.

This Administration has aroused the best of our people.

Indeed, no budget can touch every citizen.

But our people can see and feel that the impact of these investments – the 1.60 billion dollars Government proposes to invest into the medium term.

Dollars that will touch their lives in so many positive ways.

Whether that touch is at a clinic, or a hospital, or a school.

Whether it is by the positive conduct of a nurse, a police officer or a public officer.

Whether it is the birth certificate or the passport, or the social security card.

Whether it is the salary, or pension or gratuity.

Whether it is the housing lot, the new street or drain, or the new highway, the machine of governance oiled by this National Budget will touch the lives of all the citizens we serve in so many ways.

On the broad global canvas, of course, this Budget advances our status as an independent nation-state and fortifies our engagement with the region and the world.

Madam Speaker the UDP ran another unsuccessful election campaign where across our cities and towns they plastered posters saying PUP Must Go.

We on this side agree wholeheartedly that the PUP must go on with the work of Nation Building!

Wednesday’s election results demonstrate convincingly that Belizeans today feel that the country is heading in the right direction.

That’s why our PUP candidates received 61 percent of the votes cast on Wednesday in Municipal Elections, even higher that the 58% our candidates received in the General Election of 2020.

Our Party actually gained ground or defended our PUP share of the popular vote in 7 of 9 municipalities compared to the 2021 Municipal Election – PUP gained in Belize City, in Corozal, in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, in Benque Viejo del Carmen and in Dangriga.

In Belize City, the PUP gained ground in 5 of the 10 constituencies.

We must go from strength to strength in building greater confidence in our economy; in creating more jobs, in educating more of our children, in constructing more homes, in the expansion of NHI and in making our communities even safer.

And so, I commend this Budget to the National Assembly, satisfied that the Cabinet and I have been faithful to the guiding stars of social justice and national prosperity.

This Budget will underwrite another superb stage of our march to deliver on #PlanBelize.

And with the guidance of the Creator, we move ever forward as we stay on track.

A pesar de todo Seguimos Avanzando

I thank you.

 

Advertise with the mоѕt vіѕіtеd nеwѕ ѕіtе іn Belize ~ We offer fully customizable and flexible digital marketing packages. Your content is delivered instantly to thousands of users in Belize and abroad! Contact us at mаrkеtіng@brеаkіngbеlіzеnеwѕ.соm or call us at 501-612-0315.

 

© 2024, BreakingBelizeNews.com. Content is copyrighted and requires written permission for reprinting in online or print media. Theft of content without permission/payment is punishable by law.

Comments

  • Galen University
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • larry waight
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • cahal pech village resort
  • Galen University
  • Belmopan Aggregates
  • Belmopan Aggregates