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Spending priorities: Life has only improved for some, says Shyne Barrow, but Belize must work for all

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2024. 10:59 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government should pay heed to some of the recommendations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recent consultation, says Leader of the Opposition Moses “Shyne” Barrow, and re-target its spending priorities.

Barrow suggested that due to either “blatant dishonesty or extreme ignorance,” “convenient parts” of the recent IMF report were referred to in the Budget Speech, and cited the figures related to debt ratio to GDP.

Among these priorities are expansion of spending in utilities infrastructure – water and sewerage, energy including electricity, and targeted social programs to mitigate adverse effects on households and bringing more people in under the economic umbrella.

“What we need in this honorable House are people who do not dance behind statistics; we need a Government who will get to the heart of the matter – have people’s lives improved over the last three years? I think not,” said Barrow, who mentioned some of the favored few for whom life has gotten better.

The proposed $5 million more for housing is “an insult” when 10,000 houses were promised and so far, only 300 or so have been delivered in three years – and then only to supporters in PUP constituencies, Barrow charged. A UDP government would “discard colors” and make housing an industry. Indeed, the $278 million spent on the acquisitions of the Port of Belize and other debts could have easily provided 10,000 houses – but “they find money for what they want.”

Systematic, dramatic change is needed in policy, not in speeches, Barrow continued, pointing out that the IMF has recommended increasing targeted social transfers such as the grocery pantry and BOOST, for which $3 million is provided. The Budget appears to show no regard for the cost of inflation – the government “pretends to be deaf, dumb and blind, not facing reality on the ground.”

One area of agreement Barrow could find was in the area of health, whose budget has increased compared to other priorities, but he said the Budget doesn’t speak to upgrades around the country in equipment such as the CAT Scan recently delivered to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH); more is needed for the regional hospitals.

There remain questions on the selection process for the planned University Hospital in Belmopan which will cost $90 million and the new hospital in San Pedro Town for which ground was broken days before the municipal election when there are fewer nursing scholarships and nursing posts budgeted for.

Likewise in education, Barrow spoke of a future UDP government that would provide education for skill sets that would create national wealth and be self-sustained and self-reliant.

“We need Budgets with vision, we need Budgets with aspiration, we need Budgets with zero room for corruption,” Barrow concluded. “As members of parliament we have the ultimate opportunity to do so much good for so many people; let that be our guiding light. Let us serve the Belizean people with humility, with a sense of urgent purpose, to leave transformational legacies. Let us put our Budgets and policies where our campaign promises are. This Budget fails.”

 

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