Hon. Kareem Musa Budget Speech 2017

Madam Speaker

I rise to make my contribution to the draft estimates of revenue and expenditures for the fiscal year 2017/2018.

Madam Speaker you don’t have to be an economist to see this budget for what it actually is.

There are many adjectives that come to mind when describing this budget Madam Speaker, some of them a little too colorful and perhaps not appropriate for this honorable house.  So I will try my absolute best to restrain myself.

This budget Madam Speaker is what you would call a “hit and run” budget – the Prime Minister has slammed our economy into a brick wall and now has all plans to abandon the scene of this trainwreck, after he captained one of the most fiscally unsustainable spending sprees that has resulted in increased poverty throughout our country while at the same time unjustly enriching many of his family and close friends.   Like what a famous UDP politician once said, “It is so easy to spend the money, but it is hard to pay it back”.

Madam Speaker this is a fanciful budget, it is all make believe, or what in creole we would call a “forced ripe” bukut, sorry I meant to say budget.

It is a blatant cooking of numbers for the sole purpose of appeasing bondholders and trying to convince them that this same set of reckless politicians have now turned over a new leaf and will mystically transform into a responsible government.

For 9 years, this government has been operating in the red (no pun intended) recording a deficit each and every year.  Even in their hayday when the petrocaribe bubby was pouring our milk like there’s no tomorrow, this government still could not deliver a primary surplus of the GDP.  But now, now that the prime minister is bidding his farewell from the sinking ship, now that the bondholders have placed these greedy corrupt power addicts in a straight-jacket like Danny Mason……and now here they come quite disrespectfully if you ask me to tell the Belizean people that they are going to be punished because of their incompetence, because of their corruption and nepotism in the handling of the BTL case, because of their wasteful spending of $400 million of Petrocaribe money.   This Madam Speaker is a straight up Hard Times Budget!

Madam Speaker, the beautiful constituency of Caribbean Shores that I so proudly represent is not happy this administration.  This budget is extremely concerning to my people because it will affect their standard in living in a very direct way.

This budget is a direct assault and frontal attack by this government on an already shrinking middle class.   Hundreds of households and thousands of my own constituents will be affected because they will get a sharp 12.5% increase in their electricity bill.  When they put fuel in their vehicles they will feel the wrath of this UDP government.   With the rise in environment tax to 3%, we all know what is going to happen to the prices of goods on the shelf.  When my constituents go to the supermarket and walk out with only a 2 or 3 items after spending $50.00, trust me when I say that they will remember the face of the man who came to punish them because of corruption.

Madam Speaker this Prime Minister will go down in history as having destroyed the Belizean middle class.

For a second year in a row Madam Speaker there is nothing in this budget for the constituents of Caribbean Shores.  No pantry, no boost, nothing of the sort.

Madam Speaker, not even a traffic light for Cinderalla Plaza is in this budget.   Each and every day, motorists and pedestrians have to play dodge the car.    And from the looks of things Madam Speaker it appears that even the Prime Minister’s golden boy is calling it quits saying that it will be up to the next Mayor to put in the traffic lights because he certainly won’t be doing it.   This is the kind of arrogance that my people have to put up with on a daily basis.

Nothing for Caribbean Shores but you want to know when these Ministers remember Caribbean Shores?   When it comes to paying taxes, all of a sudden the UDPs remember Caribbean Shores. Mr. Mayor and Mr. Prime Minister are right there knocking on my people’s doors to collect their taxes.

But no sweat it.  No worry bout it.  You see, my people have patience, they have understanding.  They are just waiting for the day that this greedy set to come back to the polls so that they can give them a good and proper beating.

Madam Speaker when it comes to the advancement of the democratic principles upon which our nation is founded, I must record my utmost disappointment that after 20 long years, there is still no money being allocated for the re-registration exercise despite the fact that the law is clear that it must be done before July 1st, 2017.  As justification for this failure, the Prime Minister has quoted an exorbitant $20 million dollar cost when he knows full well that in 1997 the entire re-registration exercise cost was $3 million dollars.

Something is incredibly wrong Mr. Prime Minister, if you can find $13 million to build a roundabout at the entrance of this city but you can’t find $5 million to update our electoral rolls?   It is very clear Madam Speaker, that just like in 2012 when they registered 2000 unqualified Belizeans, just like 2015 when they spent $40 million of the people’s money one month before the election, so too will the UDP attempt to steal the next general elections by using this padded, corrupt list that they are so comfortable with.  The people of Belize are fed up of your gimmicks and your excuses Mr. Prime Minister.  They are fed up of this dictatorship and they want their democracy back!   We in the People’s United Party continue the call for re-registration NOW!!!

The theme of the Prime Minister’s farewell budget is “Bouncing Back – a bold Belizean recovery”, a far cry Madam Speaker from the “best that was yet to come”.

For one, there is nothing “bold” about punishing the Belizean people for your ministers’ transgressions.   Why must the Belizean people pay for the price for your administration’s corruption and nepotism?

If you want to impress the Belizean people Mr. Prime Minister and really start a bold recovery, you don’t need to look far?  Check with your former Minister of Lands, the member for Orange Walk North.  Don’t come to tighten the belt of my people.  It is time for you to grow a pair and take a case of misfeasance against him.  $70 million dollars over the last 6 years it is right there in the budget at page 67.    

And its not like you are not a trained attorney and can’t understand what the Minister was doing?  He was issuing fraudulent land titles over other people’s property or property was in reserved areas “selling” it to his cronies and family members at a low cost – sometimes as low as $2000.00 only to then turn around revoke the titles because they were fraudulent and then compensate his family and friends with hundreds of thousands of dollars!  It is a downright rotten and sinister scheme the Minister and his aidors and abettors and the Ministry knew very well that they had no legal authority to issue those titles, but they did it anyways!

This has been going on for years and years.  In March of 2013 the same Andre Vega’s girlfriend, the now notorious Dorian Pakeman and other close cronies of the Minister received titles to reserve land on the Placencia Lagoon.  They paid little or nothing for 15 acres of reserve land but when the scandal broke, the titles were revoked and do you recall what happened Mr. Prime Minister?   Once again, hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out to these cronies who ought never to have possessed titles to that land in the first place.

Mr. Prime Minister, Why do you continue to protect the member from Orange Walk North in the very same way that he protected Elvin Penner from prosecution?   And don’t insult the Belizean people by telling them that you have placed the member on the back bench because our people no schupid!  Just like Candelaria Saldivar this man still gets paid by the government of Belize and does not even show up to work!

The people of Belize demand more from you.  They demand that action be taken for misfeasance in public office and that the guilty be removed from office immediately.  They demand the return of the millions of dollars stolen……because that is what it is!

Or is it Mr. Prime Minister, that you really cannot take action against your member because your family too has been benefitting thanks to your unbridled nepotism?

You really want to talk about a bold recovery?  Turn to page 56 of the budget and tell the Belizean people how much you have paid your brother, and your law partner for losing the BTL case and for doing a hack job at drafting that now infamous Miami secret agreement.

According to line item 41 (10) for legal and professional fees over the last 4 years you have spent $21,182,563.00 with another $5,445,606.00 bringing just that one line item of “so-called legal fees” to $26,628,169.00.

But unfortunately for the Belizean people, the “legal fees grabbins” doesn’t end there because on the very same page down at the bottom in Cap II Expenditure there is another line item No. 1808 also titled “Legal and Professional Advisory Services” which shows a payout over the last 4 years of an additional $12,803,259.00.  This is separate and apart from the $26 million I just mentioned.

And so when you add this figure to the other legal fees found in line item 41 (10) on the very same page we arrive at a grand total of…….drum roll please, $39,431,428.00.

Now let’s just pause and let that sink in.   $39 million dollars paid out to family members and friends of the Prime Minister in “legal fees” for a case that they lost.  Now I’m an Attorney at Law Madam Speaker and I don’t know what formula these people used to arrive at that obscene figure but could you imagine how much these choice attorneys would have charged if they had actually won the case?

Madam Speaker, what is the point of having a separate budget Attorney General’s Ministry if this Prime Minister is just going to decide on his own to pay his family the people’s money?

The Attorney General’s Ministry should have been the ones to fight this case because trust me, they could not have lost this case any worse that these supposed top notch attorneys.

But Madam Speaker, these so-called high powered attorneys didn’t just lose the BTL case, they are also the ones according to the PM’s bff, Michael Ashcroft, who did a absolute injustice to the Belizean people when they drafted that secret Miami Settlement Agreement that is now resulting in millions more down the drain.

Firstly because of their poor drafting (those are the CCJ’s words Madam Speaker, not mine) $8 million was lost when we had to make a payment in US currency when it should have said BZ currency.  So we lost out on the conversion.

And now we are getting word that Belize stands to lose another $113 million dollars at the hands of Michael Ashcroft because under this same poorly drafted Miami agreement, Ashcroft is claiming a whopping 75% of the final payment as his expenses.  It appears that the Prime Minister and his top notch attorneys failed to put a cap, failed to put a ceiling on the amount of expenses that his bff could claim.    And you want to know where this one is going to go?  Right back to court, which will result in more and more and more legal fees for the Barrow family.  Can you see a trend here?

But Madam Speaker, the real icing on this cake has got to be the revelation by this same so-called demon, Michael Ashcroft, that he and the Prime Minister are not bitter enemies as the Prime Minister likes to portray.  As a matter of fact, they are business partners.   Michael Ashcroft has revealed that the Prime Minister’s law firm owns shares in Caribbean Investment Holdings Ltd.

Now here is the very disturbing issue that I have with the Prime Minister’s involvement with this company.  When this company, of which the Prime Minister is a shareholder sued the government of Belize for $55 million dollars in the London Court of Arbitration, the Prime Minister, quite curiously chose not fight the case.   This decision not to fight this case was also condemned by the CCJ because according to the CCJ it is a case that we would have won.

So imagine the tangled web that we have before us.  The Prime Minister, wearing his prime ministerial cap, not to fight a case and by not fighting the case, the prime minister as a shareholder in the same company stands to benefit.

How is that for conflict of interest?

And now it appears that the Mr. Prime Minister wants to punish the Belizean people for his very costly mistake.  He told us back in 2008 that BTL was only worth $76 million.  Today, thanks to this Prime Minister, we own a puss inna bag that he has paid $600 million, $300 million of which is just interest and yes, you guessed it, legal fees.   This is the true cost of nepotism.

And that’s because we haven’t even gotten into the operation of BTL yet!

When I asked the Prime Minister how much his son Anwar was earning from BTL and how much was his exit package, the Prime Minister in his usual elusive way, hopped, skipped and jumped around the question saying that BTL is a private company.    So when it suits him and when he wants to thump his chest, BTL belongs to the Belizean people.  But when it is time for him to tell us how much his son earned as the CEO, BTL is all of a sudden a private company.

So Madam Speaker when you hear the Prime Minister blaming the Superbond, which by the way also includes debts of Prime Minister Esquivel, let us be reminded that the $50 million a year that the government pays in interest on the Superbond can in no way compare to the $1 billion dollars that the Prime Minister has blown over the last 3 years on just two things – BTL and Petrocaribe!

After 9 consecutive billion dollar budgets.  Here we are today.  The Prime Minsiter and his family well off while the rest of Belize must suffer.

The Prime Minister likes to boast about his pro-poor policies but there is nothing in this budget to transition our people out of poverty.  No job plan.  No education plan.  Nothing but handout policies to keep our people poor and keep our people dependent on them, the politicians.

When he beats his chest and talks about pro poor, the Prime Minister must feel like he sounds like Martin Luther King, but behind all the sweet talk his track record is more like Robert Mugabe’s.

Madam Speaker the cold hard truth is that this Prime Minister does not want to accept that we are broke, and broken, no money, no ideas.

And the Prime Minister could care less because he is on his way out.

After 9 glorious years of feathering the FAMILY nest:

-Anwar got RICH

-Shyne got BLING

-Lois got millions in Manhattan

-and No other Belizean has benefited more from the Prime Minsiter than Brother Dennys –

-the millions in legal fees keep piling up despite the bad economy, higher taxes and recession

-The Prime Minister could care less about taxes and teachers.  He is waving goodbye.

-And LOOK WHO is getting the Prime Minister’s Baton while Belizeans get the BUKUT

-The man who called teachers arrogant, ignorant, child molestors

-The man who wanted to cut teachers pay because they stood up for Belize because they stood up to the UDP

-This budget is a Faber UDP budget he had no shame in boasting that he spent the Petro Caribe on Tacos having a good time

-but the good times are done and the Member for Collet is about the take Barrow’s Baton

Belizeans beware if you think the UDP is bad today wait till tomorrow…

 

There are so out of touch with reality that people like Elvin Penner who sold out our patrimony is pledging his return to the UDP.  Then you have others like Shyne, Po, who has a certificate from the big house, and every Belizean remembers when he first came to Belize he wanted nothing to do with our beloved country all he wanted was to get back to America.   Now wants to run.  Very interesting times ahead for the UDP indeed.

But Madam Speaker enough about the UDP.  We are a country of only 375,000 people.  It is time to get our act together.  What our people want now more than ever is a new beginning.   They want a government that is committed to changing the way that our national affairs are administered.

One that cares and has the vision and leadership to grow our economy and take us out of this mess.   A government that knows that it is only by having a solid educational foundation, whether academic or technical, that our people will advance.  A government that knows the importance of having a vibrant private sector that will not hesitate to pay their just share in taxes, confident in knowing that they will have an honest government that works for them.  A government that builds real homes, not firetraps and one that will return to finish the job that we started and roll out NHI countrywide.

Bouncing back will take more than just taxing the poor and the middle class Madam Speaker.  It will take innovative ideas, thinking outside the box, tapping into new industries, expanding the scope of tourism by developing more airports and cruise ports that will benefit all Belizeans.   Even though I am in opposition I know that I still have a major role to play to building my nation.  It is my sincere hope and I have already expressed this to the Minister of Economic Development that we can, in short order, engage fair and reasonable investors to finish the Placencia International Airport and take tourism to another level.

The task of nation building is for giants, not blood suckers and vampires.   And I am proud to say that we in the People’s United Party despite the current economic situation, we look forward to the day when, not if, WHEN we can realize the full potential of our beautiful country and our people.

I want to end off my presentation Madam Speaker by issuing a challenge to the Prime Minister.  I know he prides himself on winning his last election without so much as saying hello to his constituents in the Queen Square division.  But I want to challenge him to take one last farewell stroll in his constituency all by himself.  Not with any GSU like how his son Shyne rolls.  By himself.  Take a walk around 8 at night just to say hello and and to ask your people 1 simple question.  “Has your life and the lives of your family improved over the last 9 years while I have been prime minister?”   And after you listen to their answers tell them to ask you the very same question: Mr. Prime Minister, has your life and the lives of your family improved over the last 9 years?  I believe that it is only by doing this that you will genuinely realize the two very different worlds that you have created over the last 9 years.

Madam Speaker I just cannot bring myself to support this budget.

 

 

Hon. Rodwell Ferguson Budget Speech 2017

Madam Speaker,

Let me at the very outset state that this 2017/2018 budget is bogus, and it is the pathetic intent of this Prime Minister to try to pull a wool over the eyes of the ordinary Belizean man and woman. While we anticipated an increase in taxes primarily GST and Business tax, what we have gotten is a UDP Administration that has taken us full circle back to the dreaded VAT under the Esquivel Administration.  The Prime Minister and his Cabinet, Madam Speaker, has outdone Esquivel’s 15% VAT by introducing an increase in Environmental Tax or ET from 2% to 3%.  With GST at 12.5%, add to that the 3% ET, we end up with 15.5% which is more than Esquivel’s Killa VAT.

We know this Prime Minister is trying to realize an additional 80 million dollars in taxes, and is even lauding a budget surplus of 3% of GDP. Madam Speaker, The Prime Minister and his Government has caused the depletion and continues their rigorous campaign aimed at destroying what was a thriving middle class. It is the middle class that is going to have to foot the brunt of these tax increases.  At the rate we are going, our country will be left with only two classes, the very rich and the very poor.

Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister indicated that he would keep his promise to the Teachers and Public Officers and would proceed with the raise that is due to them. What this Prime Minister did not say is that he is going to be taking it all back, with announced increases in Fuel Tax, Cement, and ET, it is these very teachers and public officers that will see their raises disappear and will find the buying power of their dollar greatly diminished.

The so called middle class will now find it so much more difficult to build a home or to get to and from work.  Add to that the lowering of the threshold for GST on electricity consumption from $200 to $100 and we see again it is the middle class that must bear yet another tax burden.

Madam Speaker the Prime Minister and his advisors know fully well that our country is in dire economic state. There is a 25 percent decline in our traditional exports: namely, Oranges, Bananas, and Farm Shrimps.  Papaya died a sudden death and for some months now there is limited to no oil exports. We are truly an economy in crisis.  I cannot understand how and that is a big how with our economy already underperforming and our county not yet out of a recession that saw us with a deficit of 1.5% of GDP, what magic wand can this Prime Minister and his cabinet wave that will grow our struggling economy producing a surplus of 3 -3.5% of GDP, to keep the promise made to the Bond Holders when the Barrow Bond 3.0 was restructured for the third time.  The bond holders know full well that the country will not be able to maintain a 3 percent surplus and will be forced to go under an IMF standby arrangement. That is what they want, Madam Speaker, and the Prime Minister can say whatever he wants, but the harsh reality, the TRUTH is, that we are well on our way to the point where the IMF will take over and dictate the economic pace in Belize.

Madam speaker, when our economy began to free-fall and to be more specific, when our traditional industries started to decline, what did this Administration do to intervene?  Little or nothing.  In other countries agriculture-based industries are subsidized by the Government in an effort to boost experts and minimize the balance of trade.  Is it any wonder Madam Speaker why it is we cannot compete with goods coming from other countries?  A classic example occurred recently with the oversupply of potatoes to the market.  It was easier for a government clearly at odds with the productive sector to give an import concessionary permit to a UDP crony to import potatoes and have the middle man make money than to ensure that the hard work and investment made by our local farmers and producers paid off.

The shrimp farmers tried all in the power to rectify the loss of farm shrimps and this Government is yet to set up a task force and invite exports to figure how this situation can be corrected and this disease combatted. There is a reduction in the purchase price of bananas with the takeover of the Japanese company from Fyffes.  This again will have some impact on our fragile economy especially in the South.

Citrus continues to take a blow having to start a late season because there is no early variety oranges and a major decline of some 75% in grapefruit production.  This is a serious blow and it occurs at a time when the price of frozen citrus concentrate is at an all-time high.

As I speak, Madam Speaker, we are already at the half way point for the citrus delivery season, and it is reason for concern that  when you pass Belize Food Products Limited in Alta Vista,  the only citrus factory that is operating, only a few trucks are there. Another sign of the decline is that despite the peak of the citrus season there is currently no acceptance of citrus on the weekends.  This results in the workers working for just his/her basic wage with no weekend work.  This latest cutback is having a crippling effect across the board and making it so much more difficult for parents to educate their children and provide for their families.

The end result is more anger and frustration and this is directly linked to the increase in violent crimes and family disputes in the villages.  This Madam Speaker is the result when we have a Government whose only interest is winning elections.  Most of the oranges are coming from the Cayo District and the La Democracia area. This decline in Citrus Production will plunge even more people into abstract poverty.

Large farms like Kerbo and Citrus & Cattle Farms are diverting into coconuts. I welcome the advent of TEXBEL Limited that is planting huge acres of coconuts and encouraging other farmers to do so.  This investment is creating employment and diversifying our products in the South.

Madam Speaker, while quite a bit of effort is concentrated on tourism, we would be foolhardy to put all our eggs in one basket. Tourism as we know it is a very fragile industry and can be adversely affected by one major hurricane or storm. Those in the West and other parts of the country have complained that they are not feeling all the hype associated with the purported increase in overnight arrivals.  I must also speak to the Cruise Industry.  Those of us in the South hailed the investment of Norwegian Cruise Lines and anticipated that they too would pay ahead tax to the Government of Belize especially given the economic situation our country currently faces.

They are in fact operating like a country within a country. Just imagine as the elected representative for the area I have to get permission and an official invitation from the Minister of Tourism to visit Harvest Caye. The effect that NCL has on the region is far from the dream that was sold to the people of the South.  While they employ some Belizeans, very little entrepreneurs will stand to benefit from this venture.

Even the Catamaran that ferries the guests from the island to the mainland is owned and operated by N.C.L.  This Madam Speaker is after local boat owners invested in larger boats in the hope that they would have landed a contract to ferry the Tourists from Harvest Caye to the Mainland.  The sad truth is that less than SIX bus loads come off the island on a weekly basis and it appears that there is no reason for the tourist to leave the island because the island offers a level of elegance.

Why would passengers want to go to Placencia or Seine Bight or any other place? The people of Independence thought that they would have seen direct benefit in hair braiding, taxi service and the sale of local arts and crafts.  This was folly and a dream because everything is done on the island. Even Belize dollars have no value in that country within our country.

This project was a prime example of the deception and lack of people centeredness that has come to characterize this current UDP Administration.  Those of us in the South must together echo our total disappointment in how our people have been treated by NCL with the apparent permission of our Tourism Minister and his government.

Madam Speaker, in the area of School Transportation for the Ministry of Education, I must bring to your attention and to that of our nation, that although some $7,363,044 was budgeted, only 6,900,000 plus was dispersed.  The decrease could well be attested to the 11 days strike action by the BNTU when they had to stand up against the level of corruption so rampant in this UDP Government.  But the point I wish to bring to your attention is the safety of our children who must ride those school buses that lacks proper repairs because the operators have not gotten a raise since the P.U.P was in Government.

Imagine they are running daily without a side man and the Ministry ignored it to satisfy the operators because the weekly payment is not enough to maintain the bus and a side man more so due to the especially high cost of fuel.

When those buses leave the school compound there is little to no control on the buses. Many of the students are standing while the bus is moving. Just this week ago, Madam Speaker, there was a minor accident with one of the school buses and thank God no child was hurt. I am appealing to the Minister of Education to look into this matter.  Irrespective of the financial challenges to finance the school runs, the operators need an increase so that they can have a paid conductor on each bus.

The tires on a number of the buses needs to be replaced but the local authorities are closing their eyes because their government is in office. This a matter of urgent national concern and must be addressed with a level of priority.

I will at this time Madam Speaker zero in on the 26 villages and communities I represent. I represent a constituency of almost ten thousand voters spanning an area of 80 miles and this does not include the Placencia Peninsula. My colleagues in Belize City have it so much easier when compared to the rural constituencies. I opted not to challenge every village in the village council elections because I realized that we would in due time arrive at this juncture where the Government cannot afford to sustain 192 villages across this country.  It is very frustrating for these village councils that have absolutely no resources to do anything for their villages.  The feeling of uselessness and frustration is rising. This Madam Speaker is a recipe for disaster.

Independence is my biggest village but lacks all the basic infrastructure even though their contribution to the general revenue is significant. They hail from the banana belt and boast an active port. One of the worst roads in Independence is the Malacate Road where N.C.L tours pass every day. That is to show that there is no regard for the condition of this road the customers must drive on.  In NCL’s mind, they are making money and to hell with Belize’s infrastructure.

There is a spanking new paved access road to the village of San Juan and Cowpen acquired through the European Union. I initiated that project by telling the village council to write a letter to the European Union. Today they have a spanking new road that goes right around the village. I give Kudos to former Chairman Zabdiel Martinez and his village council to put the request together and I personally delivered it to the EU Office. I know that I will not get an invitation when this road is inaugurated and even if I am not personally invited, the people on the ground knows whose effort it was that got this project realized.

Red Bank, Georgetown, and Maya Mopan I am asking you to do the same by writing a letter to the European Union because you too fall within the banana belt. As a matter of fact the entire Stann Creek District is a part of the Banana Belt and we must take full advantage of the available funds so that your access road can be paved.

As I travel throughout the villages the complaint are the same village streets, farm roads, drainage, culverts, additional house lots, expansion of electricity and water. This is the cry in Indepenence, San Juan/Cowpen, Red Bank, Georgetown, Maya Mopan, San Roman, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Riversdale, Seine Bight, Placencia, Maya center, Sittee, Hopkins, Silk Grass, Mullins River, Pomona, Alta Vista, Steadfast. Valle Community, Middlesex, Hummmingbird Community, Kendal.

Last year I brought up the issue of Water Boards to Minister Pott as it relates to the illegality of how they were going about appointing new members to the Water Board. He told me to go to visit his office, which I did and was told to make recommendations and forward such recommendations to him. Due to the Christmas holiday I decided to put it on hold until the New Year. In the new year I got a call from the Ministry telling me to choose my representative on the board. I blankly objected and told him to take it all. This also happened back in 2013 when Senator Godwin Hulse was the Minister of Rural Development. He said he would govern by the law which he did in the first instances. He accepted the names from myself and the village Councils and approval was given. When cabinet heard about it he had to discontinue  and I was then informed that I could choose only one representative. Corruption in this Government is from the top to the bottom. I guess they say it is time to make mine also. I can give you some example and the Ministry is well aware and there seems to be no enforcement of paying back missing monies. Some of these villages are Maya Mopan, Silk Grass, Maya Center.

Madam Speaker it got so bad that the Pomona water board financed A candidate Campaign for his bid to become standard bearer for Stann Creek West. Hopkins U.D.P village council Chairman is crying foul because he has absolutely no input as to who is to be on their water board and elected caretaker/undertaker decides who should go on the Water-board.

This Madam Speaker is illegal and undemocratic

The giant BtL Is acquiring properties across the country in villages with total disregard to elected village councils all they see are the erection of towers. In valley community villagers were band to accommodate a parcel of land that was already surveyed because of its altitude and the experts believe that eventually if the vegetation is tampered with there could be an erosion. Btl went in without consulting with elected village council bulldoze the land knocked down an old water tank and start there construction.

United Community Primary School was broken into and sabotage by burning the entire floor where the principal office is and it seems there is no emergency funds to do the necessary repairs.

I really taught that the Ministry of tourism would have worked with communities not far from Harvest  caye  to bring tourist to their villages but instead they come into the maya villages and buy their produce at a cheap price and sell on the island triple what they buy it for.  All in all life in these rural communities are becoming very dismal. When employment is becoming scarce. I hear the Prime Minister talking that shrimps will rebound by March. We are now in March and the shrimp industry is in the same position it was in in December 2016. For sure shrimps will not put the country over the 3 percent surplus.

As I close Madam Speaker, let me turn our attention for a few minutes to the Ministry of Works the Ministry that I shaddow and to ask and demand answers as to how tax payers dollars were spent from the Ministry of Works.  The budget estimates for last fiscal year approved $20,982,521 to the Ministry of Works, but almost 11 million more was spent totally $31,356,926.   Of interest we note as we analyze line item after line item, that the bulk of the increased spending that were unbudgeted and for which the Honorable Minister of Works must account went to primarily four line items:

  1. While not a penny was budgeted for Hurricane Assistance, some $4,025,046 were spent. The Belizean people needs to know how there funds were spent, and where they were spent.
  2. While only 200,000 was budgeted for the Northern Highway Feasibility Study and Detailed Design, the actual amount spent was $1,045,000. What accounts for this huge increase and how can this much spending be justified for a feasibility study and design?  We demand answers Minister of works.
  1. There was $0 budgeted for the Haulover Creek Dredging but again $1,513,336 dollars was spent. How do we justify this amount of money?  We do understand that the dredging needed to be done and that this situation was left for far too long without the necessary attention given to it but the cost is outrageous.
  2. Though no monies were initially budgeted for the Rehabilitation of the Hummingbird Highway, some $9,016,100 was spent. I must make mention that the work done on this highway was long overdue and it is good to know that my many appeals in this honorable house was finally adhered to.

Now madam speaker, let me quickly review some of the line items that got absolutely no attention from the Ministry of Works.  In last year’s budget, $836,532 were budgeted for Flood Mitigation in Belize City.  Not a penny of this was spent and I beg to question why?  There was a saying that I must quote at this moment that made mockery of the work done by Mayor Darrell Bradley and the City Council relative to the cementing of a number of streets in Belize City.  The saying says, “Only a man with no Brain builds streets with no Drain.”  Belize City continues to have a serious drainage problem and to see that monies were budgeted but not dispersed for this vital project is sad and we demand an explanation.

We also note madam speaker that at a time when the government has been told that the wage bill is too high, that the MINSTER OF WORKS still went ahead and increased the number of employees in the Ministry to a whopping 398 employees, the bulk of them being unestablished workers who can be sent home with a whiff if they say or do anything against this administration.

Now to take a quick look at this year’s budget.  Madam Speaker, not a penny, and  I mean not a penny has been budgeted by this UDP government for Feeder Roads.  So our farmers again must suffer through bad roads and poor access to and from their farms.  Our villagers will also suffer because not a dry cent has been budgeted for Streets and Drains in the villages all 192 of them.

Our cane farmers Madam Speaker will not be spared either.  While we already know that troubled times are ahead for the Sugar Industry, it is again sad indeed that nada, nothing, zilch is budgeted for the rehabilitation of Sugar Roads in both the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts.  Don’t you guys here the cry of the poor cane farmers Member for Cayo Central?  Do you care even just a bit for the farmers that must move their products on those roads that are in such horrendous state?

Then Madam Speaker, nothing is set aside in this bogus budget for Maintenance of Bridges, Ferries nor Infrastructure Projects in our rural communities.  What poor planning and lack of vision I see in the Budget for the Ministry of Works.  But look a little further into the proposed budget and you will see $5 Million dollars budgeted for the George Price Highway to Airport Link.

I beg to question where our priorities lie Member for Cayo Central?  Our farmers throughout the country get nothing for their terrible roads, our villages get no help with their drainage and infrastructural projects, no maintenance for our bridges and ferries but $5 Million is budgeted for a link that is of little to no priority. What this UDP government is doing is simply trying to appease some of their UDP Stalwarts who own land in this area and are trying to dead raise.  This is uncalled for, this spending is unnecessary and could be diverted to the much needed re-registration exercise that is due in July of this year.  You really must get your acts together Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Member for Cayo Central.

Madam Speaker I end just how I started.  This budget is bogus and I cannot support it.

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Hon. Orlando Habet Budget Speech 2017

Madame. Speaker,

I rise today to make my contribution to the debate on the General Revenue Appropriation 2017/2018, Bill of 2017.

Prebudget Statement:

Madame Speaker, based on this budget presented by the government, The Belizean people have once again been hoodwinked and cheated from a budget that should clearly identify the relationship between budget allocations and government policies. This budget does not reflect or emphasize the broad policy strategy conceived for different sectors. It is clear that there has been much playing around with numbers so as to present a budget that on the surface seems to provide some semblance of balance and stability, but upon closer scrutiny is aimed at deceiving the Belizean public.

Madame speaker, we will note that in general what this budget is showing is an increase of revenues via taxation and a reduction in expenditure through the reduction of Capital expenditures—some 93.8M less.  Well, we on this side of the house and indeed, the general public, have now realized that this type of budget has become habitual of the UDP administration—that is, presenting a closely balanced budget with as minimum a deficit possible, but knowing full well, that during the course of the year there will be some 4 or 5 appropriation bills that will severely skew the budget to the deficit side. This deficit will not show up in the budget for debate but will show up until the following year as that Fiscal Year’s Actual Outturn. That is why Madame speaker, that the overall deficit has grown from 126.3M, to 261.5 M and 156.8.  M in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. And, we are talking of only “above the line” expenditures in the budget.

In reality, Madame Speaker, the Belizean people question the validity of this budget debate exercise, as time and time again it is the same old story that the opposition will have its say but the government will have its way. For the government in power this is the oxymoron “sweet pain.”

So, madam speaker, I will repeat my recommendation during the introduction of my presentation for the 2016-2017 budget debate. And that is, that the Belizean people have once again been cheated from the opportunity of a pre-budget statement or Fiscal Strategy paper to be perused, commented and suggested upon, weeks before the presentation of the budget and so arrest what is customarily done.

Taxation:

Madame Speaker, I note clearly the increase in taxes of 80+ M dollars and the 14 million coming by way of the transfers from Quasi government institutions that together are the two large sources of the 104 million dollars in increased recurrent revenues.  These institutions have already voiced their concerns on the survival of their programs and the institution per se. For some, like BAHA who already rely on government subventions, transferring 10% of their revenues will be detrimental on their operations. Already, the private sector perceives BAHA as a money-making institution that potentially makes some of their activities prohibitive. BAHA more than likely must increase fees for licenses and inspections and other fees in order to survive.  This will be paid by the productive, manufacturing and export sector thus increasing the cost of doing business and contributing to the difficulty in competitiveness.

Downside of Not heeding to IMF recommendations in relation to Retrenchment:

Madame speaker, there is boasting of not having to heed to IMF recommendation on “retrenchment” but in defiance there is an increase of 958 ‘staff’ members in 2016 and a proposed additional 505 in budget year 2017. If these were all doctors, nurses, teachers and other more than necessary staff, then it would be well worth the expenditure. However, when it is largely unestablished staff that are largely, political appointees, then we are inappropriately taxing the population to pay for the political gains of this administration. Therefore, the Herculean efforts called upon from the Belizean people for recovery and rebound is reduced to mere political gain.

Madam speaker, even the nurses and other staff at the San Ignacio Hospital complain that there is an unnecessary number of appointees doing nothing productive and as a matter of fact getting in the way of the working staff. If you visit the forestry department you see a number of persons just sitting there with nothing to do– The senior staff complaining that these persons were sent there by their Minister of government and that these persons have no terms of reference.  This Madame speaker is a waste of public resources that could have been better spent in better services to the public.  Additionally, Madame speaker, increasing staff costs, decreases the very essential operational expenditures.

Agriculture

In 2016/2017 budget ”Stability In a Time of Change” the PM informed us that there would be a windfall gain of approximately 150,000,000 dollars by Belizeans due to the fall on world fuel prices. He also instituted a taxation to collect some 50 million from Belizeans despite the fact that all over the world the price of crude and the price of fuel at the pump were at its lowest. These fuel prices affected the cost of doing business in the productive sector.  We have heard of loss of export earnings in shrimp, papaya and citrus. What has not been told is that cattle prices fell by 50% thus affecting cattle producers, especially those that invested in new farms and expansion of their farms. That export to Mexico that was so vociferously, and clamourously sounded, never materialized.  Additionally, all those inputs that increased in cost with the advent of increased prices remained high and have not fallen with the reduction in prices, thus marginalizing many producers.

I note madam speaker and welcome the increased allocation to Agricultural diversification of 300% and support to traditional crops of 100 %. The national livestock program remains the same at zero (0) dollars allocated to the Cattle sweep program. Yet, on the output indicators it reveals a 100% coverage of livestock through the cattle sweep programme.  This is a clear example of filling in numbers and filling the paper with black ink but lacking the substance that this budget should really convey and support.

Madam Speaker, there is currently a serious problem with the spread of Rabies in cattle. This infection is largely through the vampire bat which serves as the vector for transmission to cattle, sheep, foxes and other wild life. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread from animals to humans. There is no cure for Rabies. The Ministry of agriculture has advised livestock owners to vaccinate all their cattle, sheep and goats, which is prudent advice. However, vaccination does not cure and neither does it eliminate the disease, especially if there is an overpopulation of the vampire bat.  Therefore, madam Speaker livestock producers were looking forward to a programme for bat control to reduce the bat population as it was done many years ago, where there was a fully funded Bat-Control programme with two full-time officers, an office, vehicle, nets and the anticoagulant paste to rub on the captured vampire bats, so that it would return to its roost to groom its colonies and so reduce the number available to spread the disease. I am cognizant that Wildlife may have problems with this method and there are other alternative methods that can be used to reduce the bat population and therefore be in line with wild life and environmental protection policies.  But once again, this government seems not amenable to the needs of the livestock farmer.

Health

I have a problem madam speaker when there is a 5 million increase in the Health budget for recurrent expenditure, almost 6 million for salaries but only have an increase of 2 persons on staff.  Yet, under medicine and technology there is a reduction of 3.5 million dollars and .5 million from primary care services for a total of 4 million from medical supplies and only an increase of 250,000 and 40,000 or total of 290,000 under Hospital services and community based services, therefore amounting to a decrease in 3.7 million dollars from medical supplies.

This madam speaker, is apparently, being in line with GOB’s FY 2016/2017 “belt tightening” and “bridling of waste,” that included medical supplies.  And so, madam speaker, what is difficult to understand is this talk of pro-poor, poverty alleviation, reduction in in-equitability, reduction of exclusion and social disparities in health and medical services and treatment which are considered to be some of the basic areas of social assistance and recommended by the United nations Sustainable development goals.  And so, it is now no surprise to know that the large number of persons suffering from diabetes and hypertension can no longer get their much-needed medication from the public hospitals.  It is no longer surprising to find out that the sick are asked to bring their own syringes if they need to get their injections from the public hospitals.  Indeed, madam speaker, we are not prioritizing our expenditure.  I warn Madam speaker, of increased problems emanating from the consequences of diabetes, including kidney failure and God forbid, an increased demand for dialysis in the near future.

Madam speaker, the Ministry of Health nor the GOB have put any consideration on the upgrade of the San Pedro polyclinic II.  San Pedro, a large and constantly growing community has outgrown the services available by this clinic and it is more than time to consider expansion of the infrastructure and of the services provided. It is inconceivable how the area representative has not requested and or collaborated with the Ministry of Health for this unit. Being the largest, single tourist destination in Belize, tourists also look for health services or at least the knowledge that it is available if needed, as a prerequisite when deciding on their vacation destination. Perhaps, having a better unit with its professional services could have saved the life of young Jordanie Olivera, 23 years of age who died at the San Pedro air terminal on Tuesday March 14, 2017, while awaiting a flight to seek medical attention in Belize city.

The San Ignacio community hospital houses only 16 beds, yet services 22 communities and a population of more 30,000. The ambulance is on a constant run to Belmopan to take patients as the hospital has no specialists and no surgery ward, yet reports are that only 30% of the hospital is being utilized. Often, patients taken in emergency to the Belmopan regional have to wait in line, for the Belmopan regional has one room divided by curtains as its emergency ward. If the ward is full, then there is a long wait until a patient is stabilized and can be transferred to a regular ward and so open up a space for the patient waiting in line. The Belmopan Regional was established more than 30 years ago, has 50 beds and services a population for the region of more than 73,000.  It is also a referral Hospital for Stann Creek and Toledo, according sources. A new hospital for the Capital city is long overdue.

Madam speaker, there is one vector control unit in San Ignacio but none in Belmopan.  Therefore, the San Ignacio VC unit must service the entire Cayo district. While a central office in San Ignacio is fine, there is clearly, need for additional staff, vehicles and fumigation units. Perhaps, this is where the political appointees could be placed to become useful and contribute to the well-being of the wider population and so be gainfully and proudly employed.

Madam speaker, another necessary component of our health system is a National Children’s hospital. Our Belize Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP) identifies some of the major causes of death in children and disaggregates the data into the perinatal period and between the ages of 1-5 and 6-9 years with varying percentages attributed to various diseases.  Children, the foundation of our future human resource should have their own hospital since many children can potentially be infected with diseases carried by adults within a general hospital setting.

Madam Speaker, UNICEF and WHO in 1991, promoted the ‘Baby- Friendly Hospital Initiative and stated that “A child’s first right is to the Best start in Life”.  The UN Convention on the rights of the Child states that nations “shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”  Belize then, should step up to the next level, a dedicated, National Children’s Hospital.

Madam speaker, the priorities of this administration are totally out of order. I believe that it is high time for social security to invest the people’s monies in health. But we need a government and a board with the will to direct these investments. We need a government that will set priorities where it truly matters most. If only we had earmarked those monies from crude oil to health and education, today, we would be the envy of the region.  And we would not be having incidences like a person who enters the hospital with breathing problems and a week after hospitalization and treatment dies from internal bleeding.

Madam Speaker, the bureau of standards and or BAHA should be addressing this latest report of tainted meats coming out of Brazil.  Two mega companies that export meats are reportedly involved in selling rotten, spoiled meat and have been caught adding cartoon and paper to increase volumes of their products.  The US and Jamaica in the region have implement precautionary measures that range from increased inspections, laboratory testing, banning and taking off canned meats off the shelf.

We must protect our consumers. We must implement policies for importation of certain products like those containing Monosodium Glutamate and other additives/carcinogenics. These products are addictive and cause non-communicable diseases including kidney and liver damage. We import condensed and evaporated “filled” milk in which the natural butter fat is withdrawn and substituted with cheap, low- grade palm oil that is full of saturated fat and lacks three of the fat-soluble vitamins.

Works

Madam Speaker, once again we see the sizable allocations to the Ministry of works but there is not one single House meeting where you will not hear constituency members, especially for those with rural constituencies, asking, begging for some work to be done in their area. Yet despite the millions of dollars allocated to this ministry, the people  do not see the work being done to improve  the livelihood of the population.  One reason madam Speaker, is that the Ministry of works has no vehicles and equipment. When is the last year that the GOB has allocated monies for a fleet of appropriate and durable equipment?

Since the inception of Belize Infrastructure Limited, all we hear about is contracts here and there but no on-the ground development infrastructure, for example, those badly needed by the farming community in terms of feeder roads, farm roads and village streets and roads.

14 farmers in Santa Familia village have not been able to get their produce out of their farms adequately for the past 2 years. A plastic culvert moving water along a creek was burnt and was never replaced. This caused farmers to physically carry on their backs, hundreds of bags of corn, beans and other produce for a distance of about ½ mile, making hundreds of trips from the farm to the other side of the creek. Even though I approached the Minister of works in the presence of the Hon.  Prime Minister, and was promised to get help, that assistance never came.  But today, the 14 farmers and their families are happy and most pleased, since during the past three weeks we have been able to construct a large concrete Culvert/bridge to the tune of some 7,200.

This year there are 7 million dollars allocated for that airport link from the George Price highway. That is 7 million dollars that could be used elsewhere, for we already have a link to the airport through Burrell boom.

In the 2016/17 FY, budget allocations served to maintain 95 miles of village streets, and 195 miles of village roads, but alas! Not one inch of road or street was fixed or maintained in Cayo northeast.  I mention this madam speaker, because neither was it done during the years of plenty, and I refer to the Petro Carib bonanza and the large revenues from Crude petroleum which largely came from my constituency in Cayo Northeast. Yet, no monies were nor being spent in that Constituency. As a matter of fact, madam Speaker, our portion of Highway was relegated to be the last to be fixed and rehabilitated.

Interestingly, 4.5 million dollars were spent according to the revised estimates for FY2016/2017 on the George Price Highway rehabilitation. But, on the Performance and output indicators, the report notes ‘0’ miles upgraded/rehabilitated. And again, for this FY 2017/2018 budget allocation, it shows some 7.5 million dollars for the GP Highway rehabilitation under Capital III funding and an additional 1.5 million under Capital II for construction and maintenance of inland waterways on the GP highway. Yet the performance indicators predict fixing only 3 miles on this Highway amounting to some 3 million dollars per mile. Indeed, Madam speaker, I hope that this is an error in printing, otherwise we are truly being taken for a long and perilous ride.

Very important for the people in Cayo, there are “0” dollars allocated for maintenance of the Hawkesworth bridge that spans the Macal river giving access to San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Last year, there was an allocation of 160,000. Perhaps, it is perceived that with the advent of the new Macal bridge there will be no need for the Hawkesworth bridge and so the intention might be to retire the old bridge and use it as an historical relic.  Either way madam speaker, that bridge will need maintenance.

I will give the Minister of works credit for finally assisting with the construction of the Branch mouth cable bridge afforded through a loan from CDB.  Although not being constructed to the recommended specifications and without consultation with the villagers, it has been pending for 33 months and is most welcome.

Education:

I will be brief on this matter for my colleagues have expressed their views on this part of the budget. My concern here Madam speaker, and I may be wrong, is that I do not see a budget item for a ‘Truancy’ programme. In san Ignacio and Sta. Elena it is very common to see during school hours, children walking around and some that are selling some food item or the other.  These children should be in school and truancy officers could assist in this regard. After discussing with some friends, we realize that there must be a family need for them to have the children selling during school hours.

I also want to take this opportunity to Big Up a primary school in my constituency, St. Andrew, Anglican school for their consistent good performance in the PSE exams during the past few years, having at least one person in the top ten and last year winning the number one spot. You may have heard that every year parents sleep outside the compound when time for registration of children for the infant classes. Parents will be there from midnight until the school opens at 8 a.m. to get an opportunity for first come first serve basis.  Two days ago, was the ultimate, as parents were at the school compound earlier than 5 p.m. the day before.   Why don’t we get these high-performance schools to share experiences with other schools?

Lands:

Madam speaker, once again we note the low revenues from land taxes. Land taxes will not improve if we still have lands that are closed off from the collection of taxes. But much worse is the fact that many of these lands are leases in the hands of the rural poor who work and live off their lands. But now after 30 or forty years are losing their leases because they expire. When they request renewal, they are told their land has been cancelled because they did not pay. But how can they pay Madam speaker if their monies are not being accepted since 2008?

Yet madam speaker, there are certain individuals, who act as land agents and are well connected, who make it their business to sell these farmers’ lands. Just two or three years ago, these agents were hitching rides but today they drive expensive SUVs.

Madam speaker, these poor farmers who have lost their lands are not only being disenfranchised but are being dispossessed.  It may not be too far-fetched when the courts in our country will take on these cases and require the state to implement a course of Reparation.

(Human development) Women and Gender services

Madam Speaker, 50% of our population is women. Per the 2010 census provided by SIB, there are some 12,000 more women in the rural vs urban communities. Our constitution speaks of gender equality.  This administration has pledged to uplift women in our society and to  promote women and gender services. I note that there are allocations for the Ministry of Human Development in terms of salaries and other emoluments and some monies for workshops and training for a total Recurrent Expenditure of 785,879 dollars. 512,000 or 65% is spent on personal emoluments and the remaining 35% is on administrative costs except for 3,600 which is allocated for Individual grants and 6,700 for training. It is not clear whether the training is for women or for the staff.

In the 2016/2017 budget, Madam Speaker, there was an allocation under Capital II of 95,000 for the National Gender-Based Violence Plan and 671,875 for Violence prevention. In this budget Madam speaker, there are Zero (0) dollars allocated Violence prevention. What this budget is showing is the monies needed to run an office but no monies devoted to actually doing any type of work with our battered, abused, unemployed, unempowered and disenfranchised women. I ask madam speaker, did violence against women end with the 2016/2017 Fiscal year? The 2016 report from the US dept. of state on Human Rights states, that one of the most important Human rights abuses is harassment and threats based on sexual orientation or gender identity and includes domestic violence, discrimination against women and sexual abuse of children. Additionally, the COMPOL’s Statistics for 2016 presented to the media on January 11, 2017, stated that there were 23 incidences of Rape compared to 30 in 2015. Unlawful sexual intercourse accounted for 87 cases as compared to 74 in 2015, showing an increase of 17.6%. So, the answer is No– Violence against women did not end in 2016. Non-allocation of resources to fight violence against women is a clear indication of the importance that this administration places on our women.

And, that is not all madam speaker, as the output indicator on the budget shows that 25,000 women will be reached by advocacy and outreach activities.  This is a shame madam speaker, and I am certain that the women of this country will not forget this treatment in a long time. Especially, madam speaker, when it is presented to them during the celebration of International Women’s Month.

I however, do not want to think that this treatment, the lack of funding for violence against women is a thinly disguised misogyny.

Conclusion.

Madame speaker, our past few budgets have had fancy names such as FY 2016/2017 “Stability in a Time of Change, and now this 2017/2018 “Bouncing back, A Bold Belizean Recovery.” The language content of the budget presentation is manipulative, numbers crunched and punched to deceive the wider public and to satisfy their own illusion. What this UDP government is hoping from the Belizean people is likened to the term ‘Habituation’ which is a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus.

Indeed, Madam speaker, this type of budget is tantamount to ‘gas lighting’ but the government fails to see that in their attempt to hoodwink, they themselves are blinded and do not recognize the intelligence of the Belizean people. Henceforth, the wide discussion and the disillusion from the private sector, statutory bodies, the media and other stakeholders in the wider public.

And, so Madam Speaker, the Bold Belizean Recovery with this budget is just a Phantasm, a figment of the Imagination! And I cannot support the budget as presented.

In ending Madam speaker, let me take the opportunity to thank the People of Cayo Northeast for their continued collaboration and support.  In so doing, I also thank my hard working and dedicated executive committee for always being there not only for me but for our constituents.

Before I forget madam Speaker, I would be doing this Honorable House and the people of Belize a disservice if I did not update you on the status of the horse whose fate the member for Cayo Central so descriptively elucidated.  The member stated that the horse’s guts spilled out on the race track before a large crowd and the horse had to be put to sleep. I do not know if by way of divine intervention or some Lazarus syndrome, the horse owner says it is alive and well and will be running at the Boom racetrack on Easter Monday.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and if we do not have another meeting in the next two weeks, let me wish you and all members of this house a happy and fruitful Easter.

Rt.Hon. Said Musa Budget Speech 2017

Madam Speaker,

  1. It took successive governments of blue and red almost 30 years since Independence in 1981 (1981 – 2008) for the total national debt of Belize to reach $2 Billion. It took the Barrow government less than 10 years to increase the national debt to over $3 Billion ($3.363). As a percentage of the GDP that $3.3 Billion government debt – the legacy of the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister – is 87.1%. And according to the IMF and confirmed by the Statistical Institute of Belize that Barrow legacy of over $3 Billion debt is forecast to grow to 90% or more of GDP in 2017/18.

So Madam Speaker after this UDP Government has spent a billion dollars every year of monies collected in taxes for the past 9 years that’s 9 Billion dollars.  On top of that 375,000 Belizeans are left with a debt overhang of over 3 billion that this administration has become infamously known as a hard pay.

To add insult to injury they have driven the economy unto the ground.  To quote a former UDP Minister this economy is now in shambles.  His exact quote was “you can’t run a country with a Cabinet of idiots.”

His advice to Marion Ali who was interviewing him for Channel 7 when the UDP Government was putting Mayor Moya under manners for alleged under depositing and misappropriation of Council funds and the Prime Minister put Patrick Tillett in charge to watch the Mayor (the same man who is now involved in the shady trafficking of Visas along with Eric Chang). This same former UDP Minister’s advice was “listen to me when you see that group together: Esquivel Vasquez and what is the next one?  Barrow, stay away from them.  They have never yet been able to take Belize through a five year period without landing us on the reef…and that is exactly where we are heading now.”

This was an unguided missile that came straight from the belly of the beast.

  1. Madam Speaker this government has been running up fiscal deficits in every budget for the past 9 years. They have been borrowing and spending wild; taking away people’s property and refusing to pay for it.  Racking up huge legal bills in the millions to benefit family lawyers and sycophantic advisors and cronies.

Talk about wasteful spending and corrupt patronage?

How can we forget how this UDP administration blew away $40 million in one month just before the November 2015 elections?  How can we forget the $228 million of PetroCaribe loan money that the Prime Minister spent without getting any approval of the National Assembly, and he has the gall to point the finger at me.  ‘No watch me watch yourself!’  Watch all those over there who are bringing shame and disgrace to you, your government and our country.

Madam Speaker for a government that promised the Belizean people that they would practice greater transparency and accountability, history will record that this has been the most shady, the most secretive, the most incompetent and corrupt cabinet ever.

No Audit:  No Transparency

 

The Accountant General has not been able to audit the accounts of this regime because they have not provided the accounts to her office.  The PetroCaribe over $350 million have not been audited.  The Boost and Food Pantry millions have not been audited.  The $70 million spent in land hustle in the name of compensation for land acquisition have not been audited.  The millions spent by BIL in high priced million dollar basketball courts and multi-million dollar building projects have not been audited.

Corruption

 

Only two years of the Immigration Department have been audited and the massive corruption that took place in the illegal sale of visas and passports is mind-boggling.

  1. The rampant fleecing of public funds over the past 9 years has led us to where we are today.

Now Recession

The country is in a recession for the second time under the UDP (2009 and 2016).  Last year the Prime Minister came to this House and told the nation that under his great stewardship the economy will have a primary surplus of $37 million.  In fact we are now told it will be a primary deficit of $55.8 million.

He said he will bring down the overall deficit in the budget to $62 million.  He miscalculated by $100 million.  The overall deficit is $160 million.

$80 Million in more Taxes

 

Now he expects us to believe that he will turn things around in this new budget for 2017/18.  And he is doing it on the backs of the already overburdened Belizean people who will be taxed like never before.  Higher tax on fuel, higher tax (GST) on light bills, higher tax on building materials, cement and steel, higher tax on soft drinks, beer and rum.  Higher tax on everything imported through the environmental tax which will in effect raise the GST to 15.5% on all imported goods.  We are now worse off than under Mr. Esquivel’s VAT Tax. All can foods even fish we are importing all the way from Vietnam.  $80 million in new taxes on the backs of Belize people.

THE SUPER BOND

Madam Speaker, we have come full circle from 1998 to 2017.  When the PUP won in 1998 we inherited an economy that was stagnant on the verge of collapse.

The people were over burdened with higher taxes.  Crime was raging out of control.  Even savings were taxed.  Poverty had become endemic. Today it is no different.  The economy is in recession.  Stagnation is once again the order of the day.

But the Prime Minister is once again scapegoating all his government’s abuse, all his reckless spending, all their corruption, blame it on the super bond.

The Prime Minister says we have nothing to show for it.

Water Systems

  • Tell that to the thousands of Belizeans who live in the rural communities who have benefitted from the massive expansion of potable water systems in their villages.

Villages like Monkey River in the Stann Creek district, Cristo Rey, Billy White, Santa Familia, Los Tambos in Cayo, Trinidad, San Antonio, Santa Martha, Santa Cruz, Carmelita, Yo Creek, San Felipe, Guinea Grass in the Orange Walk district.  Yo Chen, Patchakan and San Pedro in the Corozal district.

The people in Toledo who received their good clean running water and electricity under the PUP they know better.  In Barranco, Santa Anna, Cattle Landing, Forst Home, Eldridge, Jacintoville, Jordan, Aguacate, Blue Creek, Laguna, San Felipe, Silver Creek, San Pedro Columbia, San Miguel, San Antonio, Big Falls, Midway.  Also Bellavista, San Isidro, San Pablo and Trio through the European Union.

Rootville and other extension areas of Belize City who benefitted from the expanded water system, from Double Run with new pipes all through Ladyville to Belize City.  An expanded and improved Belmopan water and sewerage system. And talking about water the source of life, who installed the new water system with reverse osmosis in Caye Caulker as in San Pedro Ambergris.  Who built the US$34 million Chalillo hydroelectric facility?  PUP.  Nothing to show for the Super Bond? He says!

Rural Electricity

  • What about the thousands of other households who for the first time received electricity in their communities, in their homes like Red Bank, Steadfast Village, Maya Centre, the Hummingbird communities in the Stann Creek district. Duckrun 1 and 2, Santa Familia, Billy White and Buena Vista in the Cayo District.  The entire Rural Electrification program cost millions and the PUP found the money. Of course we had to borrow to help people.  So don’t talk foolishness that we have nothing to show for the debt incurred during our administration.

Our government carried out the biggest expansion of electricity ever undertaken in the history of Belize especially in the formerly so-called forgotten district of Toledo.

PUP invested in the 115 K.V. Transmission line and provided the necessary investments for rural electrification which ensured that thousands of families living in the villages across Belize have been able to move from kerosene lamp and candles to a reliable supply of electricity.

  • Madam Speaker, we borrowed and invested over $100 million in the paving of the southern highway opening up the south for greater development.

What do we have to show for the super bond?  We built bridges across the country.  Deep River bridge, Silver Creek bridge, Golden Stream bridge, Caves Branch, Sibun bridge, Jordan bridge in Blue Creek Toledo, Agripino Cawich bridge in the Cayo district, the Beaver Dam bridge on the George Price Highway when the old bridge was washed away in the floods from Hurricane Mitch.

What do we have to show for the so-called Super Bond?  The two-lane Burrell Boom paved road connecting the North and the West – $17 million.

The $37 million invested in the Municipal Drainage Project dredging canals, building proper drains, installing culverts and sidewalks. A project which greatly improved the drainage system in Dangriga, Benque Viejo del Carmen, Orange Walk, San Ignacio and Santa Elena, Punta Gorda.

We borrowed and invested in land reclamation and upliftment on southside of Belize City in Port Loyola, Collet extension, Lake Independence, new residential areas.

The Orange Walk Bypass was a major development that has had a significant impact on traffic flows in Orange Walk Town and which has served to save countless lives from traffic accidents when the cane trucks had to pass through the town.

Housing Boom

 

  • Nothing to show for it?

Tell that to the hundreds of low and middle income Belizean families who were able to move into their nice two and three bedroom cement homes thanks to the Pup Government.

New subdivisions in Belama, West Landivar, Vista Del Mar, Mile 8 and Western Paradise on the George Price Highway, Fresh Pond at Burrell Boom Village, Ladyville and Lords Bank expansion, Los Lagos and Maxboro on the Philip Goldson highway; Mahogany Heights off the George Price Highway. Financing of hundreds of new homes in Belmopan – Picini, Cohune Walk, Orchid Gardens Extension, Mountain View. In Belize City Yarborough Housing Development, Lake Independence Housing, Caribbean Shores University Heights, Fabers Road Extension to name just a few.

In the Cayo district Bouganvilla Park in San Ignacio, Hillview in Santa Elena.

In Orange Walk San Lorenzo Housing Project.  In Corozal, the Venezuelan Housing Project, the Joseito Housing Project.  In the Stann Creek district many housing projects in the Hummingbird communities. Hope Creek and Sarawee, also in Independence Village and the outskirts of Dangriga.  In San Pedro Ambergris the DFC Housing Project in San Pablo.  In Punta Gorda, 75 homes in Hopecreek.

All across Belize a housing boom, was experienced through DFC and direct through the national budget with loans which were consolidated into one Bond in order to manage the debt servicing in a sustainable manner.

It goes without saying that all these new housing developments required major investment in infrastructure not only the cost of the houses but also land reclamation streets and drains, play grounds, water and electricity.

So we may not have built a monument like a fancy Central Bank building but the PUP built over 10,000 homes in our 10 years in office to benefit thousands of Belizeans.  This is a monument we are proud of.

UDP housing project was the mobile metal boxes which cost several millions, which incidentally was commercial credit part of the Super Bond.  More recently they have done some plywood and plycem houses.  Their record on housing is dismal.  There’s nothing much in the budget to do any housing project.  What this UDP Prime Minister knows to do is to write off loans for house (about $60 million) for electioneering – all built under a PUP government.

Nothing to show for the Super Bond the Prime Minister says:

Investing in Tourism

What about facilitating the first cruise port facility at Fort Street Tourism Village.  What about the construction of Marine Parade the pride of Fort George and Coney Drive that has opened up Caribbean Shores to greater development.  Millions were invested in the Tourism Product Development Initiative that included the building of Border Management Buildings at the Corozal Santa Elena border and at Benque Viejo del Carmen Western border.  This major tourism investment of $30 million also included Visitor’s Centres at the major Mayan archaeological sites at Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Cahal Pech and Altun Ha. This project provided jobs and business opportunities for the many communities in the area; San Jose Succotz, Cristo Rey, San Antonio and Georgeville in the Cayo District; Indian Church near Lamanai in the Orange Walk district, Maskal near Altun Ha in the Belize district and St. Matthews and Franks Eddy near Jaguar Paw.  Also in Cayo.

 

 

 

And that is not all Madam Speaker.  When the question is asked what we have to show for the Super Bond my answer is this.  We borrowed the money because we had to get the economic train moving again to generate jobs for our people and to create economic opportunities for a growing Belizean population.

Health for All

Secondly to make life better for our people; and provide opportunities for our young people by equipping them with an affordable quality and relevant education.  Also to provide all with better healthcare rich and poor alike.

NHI was a major health reform initiative that were the PUP still in government, would have covered the whole country.  Sad to say since the UDP took over NHI has been reduced instead of expanded.  Many of the benefits like affordable maternity delivery and pre and post natal care have been drastically cut back.

Major investments were made by the PUP during our term in office:  upgrade to Matron Roberts health clinic and Cleopatra White; Poly-Clinic in San Pedro.  A new hospital in San Ignacio, upgrade to KHMH and all the regional hospitals.

Talk about nothing to show for the Super Bond?

Education

What about the building of a new University of Belize campus in Belmopan with a Regional Language Centre.  What about the building of many new high schools such as Ladyville and Julian Cho in Toledo.  What about the Sacred Heart Junior College in San Ignacio and the Sixth Form Building for Wesley College and the new faculty building for Corozal Community College in Corozal.  And what about 872 new classrooms built for the primary education system throughout Belize.

Not to mention the many innovative programs implemented like free primary school text books and the teaching of Maya and African history.

Madam Speaker our Party is on record that an important part of education is for history to be taught in all high schools – African and Maya history as the foundation.  Belizean history that will imbue our children and young people with pride, dignity and patriotic fervor as we continue the struggle toward a free independent and sovereign nation free from the unfounded Guatemala claim and free (as Bob Marley says) from the mental slavery that continues to stifle our nation’s creativity.  We need not only Caribbean history but also Central American history for we are the bridge on the American mainland that can unite these two sub regions in trade investment and development.

Madam Speaker our Party is on record for education to be creative with an emphasis on the best use of modern technology.

Sad to say however, today our education system is in the emergency ward, in need of a drastic and dramatic overhaul of new ideas, new vision and a modern approach to teaching and learning that will prepare and equip our young people for a world or work that is innovative, dynamic and creative.

We are spending $250 million plus every year, a quarter of the national budget and that is as it should be for education has been and must continue to be our nation’s highest priority.

But as the Report of the Inter American Development Bank poignantly illustrated:

“Belize is paying a lot for education but getting little”.

  • More youths are outside the school system than in it, and many are failing to make the transition to the workplace.
  • More and more youths drop out of school and become involved in gang activities.
  • Action is needed if Belize is not to lose a whole generation of young people.

Page 8 of the IDB Report points out that completion rates in Belize are below the average in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Only two in every five children in primary school complete their primary schooling.

Only 45% of the high school aged children are attending school and less than a third of the children (27%) between the ages of 13 and 16 years complete secondary school on time.  One third of those who do not complete secondary school drop out before completing the 9th grade (i.e. first form) reducing their chances of getting a job.

The PUP government made major investment (over $40 million) in skills training at the ITVETs which were built in every district of Belize but these facilities are still grossly underutilized.

Our children’s performance in the PSE exams remains deplorable.  Less than 50% who took the exams had an overall grade satisfactory or above.  Most children performed very poorly in Math and Language.

However in the Budget Estimates for the Ministry of Education we are given a set of alternative facts.  I don’t know who is preparing the performance data for the Ministry.  Whoever it is, obviously is trying to impress the Minister to make him feel good – massaging his already inflated ego – but the performance figures given in the Budget book are a pack of lies, distortions and cooked up numbers.

The truth is that the education picture in Belize is bad.  If the Minister of Education were graded by the teachers and students he would get a big Fat F.

Is this why he has called the teachers ignorant, incompetent child molesters?

A certain school manager who shall remain nameless has given this commentary:    45% of all youth cannot get a secondary education.

Approximately 40% of those in school struggle due to financial burden.

Over 50% of our youths are at Central Prison in Hattieville, under the age of 18 years, many for the charge of murder.

This is not a pretty picture of our education system not a pretty picture of the state of young people in Belize today.

Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I cannot conclude my remarks on the budget today without saying something about the shameful mismanagement of our Foreign Affairs and international relations under the present Minister.

Just about every time this Minister opens his mouth, he becomes a national embarrassment, a national disaster.

On Tuesday March 17 on the visit of the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, the Minister pontificated again that in his mind we do not have any agreed borders with our neighbour Guatemala.

He completely ignores the historic fact that in 1859 a Treaty was signed in which our borders with Guatemala were defined.  He completely ignores the historic fact that in the 1930s surveys were done to the Western borderline and at which concrete monuments were put down at various points at Gracias A Dios and Garbutt’s Falls. And in1931 the Joint Commissioners exchanged notes stating that these monuments form parts of the boundary line between British Honduras and the Republic of Guatemala.

He says further that we do not have agreed maritime borders failing to recognize that the international law of the Sea clearly spells out what is the area of our territorial sea and our exclusive economic zone.  EE2 that we are entitled to.

Worse of all this Minister is telling the Belizean people that Belize does not really belong to the Belizeans.  We are only a bunch of squatters.

(Quote)

‘It is like you are on a piece of land all your life but you are a squatter.  You can’t do anything with that land.”

In any other self-respecting country for a Foreign Minister to make a statement like that in the face of another country that is claiming your territory, he would be fired from the Cabinet immediately.

We also learnt during the visit of the OAS Secretary General that the Report on the incident of the fatal shooting of the Guatemalan young man in the Chiquibul which was investigated by two independent experts from Mexico and the US completely exonerated our BDF and gave the lie to the Guatemalan accusation that he was shot by a BDF soldier.

That report has been kept secret and confidential and not published to the Belizean people because according to the OAS official the Government of Guatemala and Belize have requested the OAS not to publicize it.  What is going on with this Minister?

CONCLUSION

 

Madam Speaker

We have provided a comprehensive list of projects and programs for which our PUP government borrowed and invested.  Since the Prime Minister challenged us by saying we have nothing to show for the Super Bond.

The massive unprecedented investment in the nation’s housing stock was carried out through the securitization process.  And I will concede that we may have borrowed and invested too fast.

That is why we had to consolidate the commercial debt in 2006/07 into one US dollar bond with a 22 year duration.

Never once did we in the PUP default in the payment of our debts because we grew the economy.

Never once did we fail to grow the economy and carry out all these projects and programs that transformed the lives of the Belizean people for the better.  And we did all that despite the fact that we had to contend with not one hurricane or one storm but with 5 – Hurricane Mitch, Hurricane Keith, T.S. Chantal, Hurricane Iris and Hurricane Dean.  The ravages of these hurricanes amounted in financial and economic losses to over $1 Billion dollars and the PUP government had to borrow and spent for recovery and reconstruction.  We did not flinch but continued out our work to make life better for the Belizean people.  And we continued to grow the economy.

What is noteworthy is that the UDP Government carried out extensive investigations into the finances of government for the years when the PUP was in government.  The Auditor General was able to carry out her audit for the period up to 2008 and no financial impropriety was found against me or anyone else in the Pup Government.

The $200 Million Fantasy

The Prime Minister keeps talking about a $200 million that he says a Bear Sterns report claims could not be accounted for.  This is pure hogwash and the Prime Minister knows it is hogwash, utter nonsense – a complete fabrication that he chooses to perpetuate for political convenience. This Prime Minister who is planning his political departure now that he has accomplished his holy grail of a third term should for once stop playing political games and speak the truth instead of indulging in mendacity, duplicity and arrant nonsense.

Madam Speaker,

Not a Blaze of Glory but an Inferno

Last year I said that the budget was the worst budget of the Barrow government.  But this year the Prime Minister has really hit rock bottom.  He is not going out in a blaze of glory, as he had hoped, but in an inferno of scandals, corruption in government, with an economy near bankruptcy and the Belizean people saddled with mounting debts hard time, more burdensome taxes, pain and suffering.  But I don’t suppose the Prime Minister will be around to pick up the pieces when a fed up Belizean electorate apply the rod of correction and give them a good thrashing at the next general election.

Hon. John Briceno Budget Speech 2017

INTRODUCTION

After what was one of the worse years our country has seen since Independence.  After a year racked with some of the worse scandals and unprecedented revelations of UDP corruption by any administration.

After eight years of being pushed around by Ashcroft, loosing court battle after court battle, then bending over resulting in Belizeans having to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and in lawyer fees.

And after saddling Belizeans with 80 millions dollars more in new taxes, the Prime Minster presented his 2017 budget declaring that we were  “bouncing back”, he said that this budget would result in a “Bold Belizean Recovery”

Truth be told, there is no bold in this budget, what it is, simply put, is a Bogus Barrow Budget, filled with 19 pages of his usual fanciful rhetoric and 6 pages of made up numbers so outrageous that it is unworthy for the consideration of the Belizean people.  This Bogus Budget is no more than a feeble attempt to rescue what is an already crippled UDP Administration.

The Rt. Hon. Prime Minster with little passion introduced a budget that is once again void of imagination and lacking of any plan to rescue a nation that he and his UDP Administration has driven to the verge of bankruptcy and is bordering on a depression.

Today no one in Belize believes in his fancy words any more! No one abroad trusts this government any more!  No one is expecting anything positive to come from this UDP Administration, because the UDP has never really had any plan for our country. And while they borrowed over a billion dollars, and squandered 9 billon dollars in 9 years, they had to confess, to bondholders that they have put this country in a financial crisis.

By their own admission, they told bondholders that the Belizean economy is “imperiled.”

After nine years in office you can no longer try to fool the Belizean people by blaming the PUP. Everyone knows that we are in this mess today; because of UDP incompetence; because of the Prime Minister’s arrogance and because of their lack of vision and because of wrong UDP priorities.

Every Belizean knows this and this is why we are hunkering down and praying for the day that they call the elections so that we can run them from Belmopan.And after this failed experiment that is this UDP’s third term in office, everyone now knows that it is time for the People’s United Party.

Madam Speaker the Prime Minister and his Government has come back to us with the same lame excuses.   They continue to live in the past. After nine years in office they are still trying to blame the past PUP administration for the mess, which they have created.

And yet after taking 30 cents out of every dollar we earn, they present a budget that offers no plan to help the still struggling productive sector.   They will not build one new school; they will not reduce poverty by even a fraction of a percent.  No ordinary Belizean will benefit from anything contained in this budget.

The only person who benefited from last year’s spending by this UDP Administration, and the only one who will continue to benefit from this Bogus Budget is Michael Ashcroft.

Belizeans will pay and Ashcroft will benefit.

This budget fails the test of fiscal responsibility, as once again this UDP Administration will collect over a billion dollars in taxes and income, and they will add another 100 million dollars to our already 3.1 billon dollar debt leaving every Belizean man, woman and child, owing over $10,000.Yet this budget will offer fewer jobs and low economic growth if any.

During our consultations with the Belizean people many concerns were raised and a great many good ideas were put forward.  We thank all those Belizeans who participated in our consultations and who so freely shared their concerns with us.  It is a pity that we have an administration that is so far removed that they sent out the technocrats to talk with a few people in business and industry.

While we continue to be grateful to the people in the ministry of finance and those hard working finance officers all across the public service, it is the elected officials who must go out and listen to the people so that we can set priorities based on their needs and concerns.

We did this and today’s response from all of us on this side is a reflection of the mood of the Belizean people and their dissatisfaction with a Government whose budget could not be farther removed from the Belizean reality.

Before continuing Madam Speaker, Let me take a minute to thank the good people of Orange Walk Central for their continued support and encouragement, you, together with the thousands of PUP supporters continue to inspire my work.

 

BARROW’S BOGUS BUDGET

 

This budget reminds me of the Spanish saying: “Tarde o temprano la verdad alcanza la menitra” which in English means: “the truth will always catch up to the Lies.”

When you look on the expenditure side of the budget, you realize that this UDP Administration lacks any real fiscal discipline, for they are planning to continue splurging.  The burden of austerity is only for the taxpayers who are being asked to pay more taxes. In every Ministry we find elevated administrative costs. For reference you need only look at the budget and compare the approved recurrent expenditure for 2016/2017, which was 959,192,968 dollars and the projected out turn 995, 421,042 dollars. This UDP government in its recurrent expenditure spent 36 million dollars more than it budgeted.

The Prime Minster in his presentation said that the priorities for his budget will help government to live within its means, that it will support Belizean families,  invest in the skills of our young people, make Belize a better place to do business and to live.

Which planet is this Prime Minster on?

Is he aware that we had over 100 murders last year and this year already we have had 30 murders in 80 days?  Did he forget that our economy contracted by 0.8 percent?  Or that Belizeans are afraid in their homes, afraid in the streets and afraid on the job?  It is this kind of hyperbole that causes us to declare this budget Bogus.  How can he achieve any of this when he can’t even grow the Belizean economy? When the programs and plans will lift no one out of poverty?

The budget of any administration sets their ideological priorities, but these priorities have to be rationalized by real facts and figures not made up numbers and pie in the sky rhetoric.

Belize like other democratic societies of our size and scope is confronted with the formidable challenge of growing its economy in an ever-changing globalized world in such a way that it can meet the legitimate expectations of its people.  What we refer to as sustainable growth that translates into a shared prosperity for everyone.

The Prime Minister just told us in his budget speech that 60 cents of every dollar collected by Government goes to pay salaries, pensions and so on. In so doing his administration is admitting that once more they cannot afford to do anything to help the productive sector in any meaningful way.  We need to ensure that the productive sector and the private sector serve as the engine for economic growth.  For this to happen the cooperation between the government and the productive sector must not only be respectful, but symbiotic.

Here lies the failure of this Barrow administration, yes, there rhetoric speaks of partnership but in practice it goes contrary to the fundamental principles of mutual respect.  In reality all that the productive sector has come to expect from their government are a couple workshops and the annual budget consultation with the technocrats. The budget therefore cannot be seen as a genuine attempt to grow the economy when its formulation is so one-sided. As a result the budget is no reflection of our stakeholders and all the economic and fiscal forecast on which the budget is premised is Bogus, therefore the Budget itself is Bogus. On a more fundamental level, this budget is bogus because we cannot trust any of the figures presented by the Prime Minister.

Last year the PM said that there were 12,000 public officers.  In this year’s speech that number jumped to 14,000, but then in the statistics he provided as an appendix to his speech he lists the size of the public service at 16,000.  Which is it?  Did the government hire 2,000 people in a year when we were supposed to be trying to achieve stability in time of change?  Bogus “mi seh!”

How can we trust the numbers when he said that in 2016 he would collect 309 million dollars from taxes on international trade and transactions and was only able to report 174 million?   Either they are really bad at math or these numbers are just figures on a paper.

The Rt. Hon. Prime Minster was off by more than $130 million.   This is not just bad budgeting it’s reckless.  That is why we say this budget is Bogus.  Look what they did to the good people of San Pedro.

In the last two budgets we were told about funding for the upgrade of the San Pedro Health Center to make it a full service 24-hour facility. This project first appeared in the 2015 budget; in fact it was on page 16.  It was introduced a second time in the 2016 budget on page 18. This year it is gone, conspicuously absent from the 2017 budget.  Is this because the task has been accomplished?

Well obviously not, San Pedranos can attest to the fact that they have the same inadequate facility.  This was highlighted recently with the unfortunate passing of young Ms. Jordanie Olivera.

Could it be Hon. Member for Belize Rural South, that even you have given up hope that the good people of San Pedro will ever see a proper health facility on La Isla Bonita?

Like the abandoned San Pedro clinic upgrade, the reality of the budget when compared to the proposed project outcomes are so far apart that achieving any of the things they set out to achieve is just not attainable.

It seems to us on this side, as I am sure it does to the Belizean people, that this UDP Administration has no strategic plan to grow the Belizean economy and move this country forward.  They are bogus!

Where is the Plan?   What is the strategy?

If an objective observer were to scan the Belizean economic landscape, he or she would see an ailing economy.    To compound the situation this budget proposes a virtual freeze on government spending and additional tax measure affecting tourism and international trade.  So where does the PM expect this growth and rebound to miraculously appear from?

The fundamentals of the Belizean economy remain pretty much the same, so how can the PM come to the Belizean people and speak of a recovery, and a 3.5 percent growth in GDP?

The truth is that agro-productive sector in Belize has been taking a battering for some years now.  We have the shrimp, citrus and Banana industries that are struggling to stay afloat under the immense pressures of disease and changing market conditions.  These industries contribute significantly to GDP growth, while injecting vital foreign exchange earnings into the economy.

The PM failed to provide the nation with any plan for how this growth will be accomplished; I believe it is necessary to present the Belizean public with a real perspective of the challenges being faced by our productive sector. The Belizean economy is standing still and we cannot afford this, our population is growing, economic opportunities are being squandered and our people are once again getting left behind.

In trying to understand the effect of 9 years of this UDP Administration on our economic development we need to look not only on the last year, but also on the total effect of their administration on our national development.  How exactly have UDP decisions impacted our economic growth?  More so how have their policies benefit Belizeans?

Between 2009 and 2016, the annual GDP growth under the Barrow Administration, averaged around 2 percent 2.1 to be exact.  Per capita income increased from $7,119 to 7,603, which represents a seven percent increase after 8 years.

The Prime Minister loves to dwell on the past so let us look at the past and how Belizeans benefitted under the last PUP Administration.

During the PUP years, from 1999 to 2008, the GDP growth rate averaged 5.73 percent.  That is more than two times higher; in fact it was actually 2.7 times higher than what the UDP has done in the same time span.

Under the PUP per capita income increased from $6,058 in 1999 to $7,306 in 2008 that represented a 21percent increase in per capita GDP income. Now the question we have to ask here is this: considering that since coming to office this UDP Administration has spent over 9 billion dollars and increased the national debt by 1.5 billon dollars, are we getting value for money?

The unbiased answer is a resounding no.  This is not political. If the economy grew by an average 2.1 percent for the last 8 years, it means that over the past eight years our standard of living has gone down by 16 percent, meaning Belizeans are 16 percent poorer under Dean Barrow and the UDP, so much for being pro poor.

As I have said before, economists tell us that in countries like Belize, to ensure progress and betterment of the people, the national economy must grow and develop at the rate of at least 5 where is the Plan percent growth per annum.

So I ask again?

For sure it is not contained in this budget. Let me now turn to an overview of the Belizean Economy.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE BELIZEAN ECONOMY

 

Last year the Prime Minister touted that “the public finances of Belize are both sturdy and stable.” He went on to say that his “judicious financial management has produced an unbroken period of steady growth and optimal economic conditions”.

He estimated that the economy would grow between 1.5 and 2 percent and that he would oversee a four billion dollar economy.  He explained that there would be a primary surplus of 37 million dollars or 1 percent of GDP for 2016/2017 with an overall deficit of 62 million dollars or just under 2 percent of GDP, 1.7 to be exact.  This overall deficit, together with loan principal repayments amounting to 87 million dollars means that Government would need to borrow 149 million dollars for financial year 2016/2017.   He said all this, check out last year’s speech.

This year, with only one line alluding to macro-economic contraction of the economy and one reference to the $196.5 million paid to Ashcroft, we hear that we are bouncing back with a bold Belizean recovery.  He even tells us that the commercial banking system is the best in over a decade with non-performing loans falling to a low 3 percent.

But what really happened in 2016/2017?

Rather than the economy growing 2 percent in 2016, our economy shrunk by almost 1 percent.  If you believe their figures, we earned 200 million dollars less in 2016 alone than what they projected.  This is while the rest of the world grew by over 3 percent.  Instead of a four billion dollar economy, our economy shrunk to 3.5 billion.  According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, domestic exports in fact fell in 2016 by almost 135 million dollars or more than 25 percent. The balance of trade including the Corozal Free Zone sales and re-exports showed a trade deficit of over 1.4 billion dollars.

Our scarce foreign exchange reserves that support our 2:1 fixed exchange rate with the US dollar fell by over 60 million dollars as a result of the plummeting exports, the expanding trade deficit and the 196.5 million US dollar payment to Lord Ashcroft. As for the banking system, during 2016, the Prime Minister’s wasteful borrow and spend policy is exemplified by the failures of the National Bank.  Capitalized with over $35 million of borrowed monies from PetroCaribe, the National Bank has sustained losses of 13 million since it opened its doors.  This is 13 million dollars of borrowed money.

In 2016 alone, the National Bank suffered over 8 million dollars in losses with non-performing loans increasing from 1.4 percent of total loans to 26 percent of total loans by the end of 2016, but somehow the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister failed to tell the Belizean people any of this while explaining that non-performing loans in the banking system fell below 5 percent.  See why I tell uno this budget bogus!

All this is a reflection of the health of the financial institutions and not the system on a whole. On a weekly basis readers of the Belize Times and other local newspapers wade through the many pages of properties that have been foreclosed upon by the commercial financial institutions.  This is in indicator of a limping economy, a crisis that is visiting the doorsteps of more and more Belizeans.

As for the Prime Minister’s projected primary surplus of 37 million dollars, we ended up with a primary deficit of 56 million dollars instead, an actual shortfall of 93 million dollars or 1.6 percent of GDP.  This is in spite of the dramatic increase in fuel taxes. Instead of an overall deficit of 62 million dollars, this UDP government had an overall deficit of 160 million dollars, almost 100 million dollars worse than projected.

In other words, the Prime Minister went out and taxed us more, borrowed more and spent more, almost $300 million more of money the government does not have.

Not surprisingly, government’s debt as a percentage of GDP increased from 79.5 percent or almost 2.8 billion dollars to 87.1 percent or almost 3.1 billion dollars in just one year, what the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister refers to as “a surge in borrowing by the Government”.

How can anyone claim that to be judicious financial management?  That is outright reckless mismanagement and incompetence perhaps even actionable gross negligence. But what does that mean for us at the level of the individual?  In simple terms, we suffer more, a lot more, because of this Prime Minster and his incompetent UDP government.

Turning now to tourism, time and again we hear the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister refer to the tourism industry as the bright spot in the Belizean economy, more so now that his Petro Caribe bonanza is over.   Again and again he highlights tourism arrivals and tourism receipts as success stories, hoping to convince Belizeans that tourism is doing great for all of us.

But the truth be told, the tourism industry is not doing as great as we would wish and he would want us to believe. According to the BTB figures published for 2016, hotel occupancy, which is a key indicator on how the industry is performing, fell by a whopping 12 percent, from a country average of 42 percent to 37 percent for 2016 when compared to 2015. It is perplexing that the BTB can state that overnight tourism grew from approximately 341,000 to 385,000, a growth of over 40,000 tourists, yet hotel occupancy fell by 12 percent.

Even if you look at the number of rooms the country has to offer, the hotel plant only grew by 800 more rooms.  So, where are all these tourists staying? Like most of the figures provided in this budget, the tourism numbers have been manipulated and they are bogus.

Given this picture how then can the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister proclaim that 2017’s budget will provide the conditions for rescue and recovery?  Our economy continues to be in a recession and it is on the verge of a depression.  Our national debt will once again increase by another 100 million dollars and the government remains clueless about how to fix the key pillars of our economy, which is to restore private sector confidence and support the agro productive sector.

We cannot look at an overview of the Belizean economy without addressing the matter of the Superbond.  It has been at the centerpiece of our national discourse and the misinformation campaign by the government has been unbelievable.

The Prime Minister continues to extol the virtues of his renegotiated Superbond.  I will not say the Barrow Superbond that upsets him too much.

Moving on, with his first renegotiation the PM asserted that almost 500 million dollars was saved.  On his second renegotiation, he explained that there was another 600 million dollars in savings.  If by these two renegotiations, there are total savings of 1.1 billion dollars and the bond is 1.1 billion dollars, then there should be no bond to pay right? Wrong!  We still owe 1.1 billion plus interest. Unbelievable!  In truth, there are no real savings.

You see that 600 million dollars the Rt. Hon, Prime Minister is boasting of saving as a result of his renegotiated Superbond 3.0?  Remember now that was for 2019 to 2029.   Come 2034, we will have to pay the entire bond of 1.1 billion dollars plus interest.  So there is no savings.

The Prime Minister also told the media that the bond restructuring fees to the bondholders’ local and foreign advisers added up to around 12 million dollars. We have now come to learn from the budget estimates itself, in CAP II expenditures for the Ministry of Finance, that the bond restructuring fees will amount to 20 million dollars; 8 million more than he lead us to believe.

The bondholders got 2.6 million, an additional 5.6 million was paid to their negotiators and 11.8 million dollars went to the Belizean negotiators.  I wonder why we are once again paying our Belizean negotiators 6 million dollars more?  Whose retirement fund is this for?

GOVERNANCE

 

Madam Speaker it is not a part of our normal practice to raise the issue of the allocations for the Auditor General during the budget debate, however in light of all that is happening with this administration as it relates to corruption I have to raise the issue of the allocations for the Auditor General’s Office.

As it relates to this matter, I am concerned that only $55,000 was allocated under Cap II for the Auditor General’s office.  See Madam Speaker we on this side strongly believe that if we are serious about good governance then we must do a lot more than just sign the UN Convention against Corruption, we must also respect the constitution.

This UDP Administration spent 4 billion dollars from 2012 to 2016 and none of those 4 billion dollars has undergone the scrutiny of the Auditor General.  We cannot continue to spend tax dollars without giving account for it.

To show just how serious we are about good governance, and about ending corruption, one of my very first acts as Prime Minister will be to bring legislation to the National Assembly, which calls for a full audit of every government ministry and I say it in this place on this day.  Whomever is found to be involved in any illegal or corrupt act will be arrested and charged and if found guilty will go to jail.  This is my solemn pledge to the Belizean people.

Considering all that has happened over the 9 years of this UDP administration and the revelations coming out of the public hearings on the Immigration Scandal, we can safely say that there was never any real political will to institute Good Governance by this UDP Administration.

Last year, we in the PUP launched our Good Governance Agenda under the theme A Shared Responsibility.  This agenda outlined some of the major changes we propose to implement when we are elected to office. Our proposed changes encompass bold initiatives like an Empowered Legislature that will give more authority and autonomy to the Senate to ensure that all government officials, including ministers, are held accountable for their deeds and if found guilty in a court of law they will face the consequences up to serving time in jail.

Our Agenda speaks to the need and commitment of giving greater transparency, accountability and efficiency to the government’s procurement and contractual processes. The Agenda also commits to Election Reform, the Separation of powers, strengthening the checks and balances and ensuring that we have an Effective and Efficient Public Service.

PUP POSITIVE PLANS:  People Centered and People Driven

The Prime Minister in one of his earlier Budget speeches proclaimed that the mantra, the talisman, of the UDP was its commitment to the poor.  Again this year he spoke of a financial plan that will protect the pro poor incentives that he said has so distinguished his UDP administration.  Of course he only mentioned the word poverty twice in his entire budget presentation.  So I find it amusing when in the face of the current economic reality of higher taxes there is no expansion of the food and pantry program nationwide or any further roll out NHI.

Where in this budget do we find the assurance that good paying jobs will be created for the more than 17,900 unemployed Belizeans and the many young Belizean who will join the work force come June?  How will sucking another 80 million dollars in new taxes to pay for more government waste grow the middle class and help those on the margins who are working so hard climb out of poverty?

The difference between the UDP and the PUP is that we are focused on finding solutions to these problems.  Every day we talk with people, seeking ways to lift up every Belizean up.  The PUP has and always will put people first. We are interested in growing the economy; we are interested in borrowing, but only to invest in education, health and housing for the people. We want to be able to provide support to everyone in need, not just to the selected few.  We will always welcome and work closely with local investors because we know that there are many Belizeans with great ideas and we will work with all of them regardless of political leaning.

As we speak there is a group of Belizean investors prepared to work on a project valued at over 250 million Belizean dollars.  This is the Stake Bank Project, and when realized would form a crucial part of the cruise ship industry resulting in first 5,000 new jobs in construction and later 3,000 permanent jobs.  And while government would collect a portion of the head tax and Belizeans will have jobs and stimulate the economy, this project will ask nothing of the Government, or cost the Government of Belize a single penny.

Our belief, our mantra is that all of us must join the work to build Belize.  We do not feel in any way that we alone have all the answers.   This is why we are interested in working with the private sector to expand business and create good, new jobs. We want the private sector to be the drivers of our economy.

Likewise, we want a productive sector that is leading the way in finding new foreign markets where the made in Belize label is displayed.

In sum, the PUP believes in personal responsibility, we believe in sustainable human development, we believe in helping people to help themselves, our upliftment programs seek to provide a hand up, to lift Belizeans out of poverty.

JOBS

Any real people centered development begins with jobs. When it comes to jobs the objective should always be to reach full employment, to create jobs that will provide for our Belizean workers the best possible salaries.  Yes we know this is very difficult to achieve but bold governments dare to dream.  While working towards this goal we must always keep in mind the jobs of the future so that we can educate our young people so they can qualify for these jobs. This of course is in direct contrast to the current reality.

The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister in his budget announced that unemployment was at 8 percent.  I hope that he will provide us with the source of his information, for the SIB in its last jobs report, which was released in September put unemployment at 11.1 percent or 17,952 unemployed persons in Belize.   The SIB report also stated that more than 24,000 Belizeans were underemployed.  By far more women than men are entering the labour force and they are also more likely to be unemployed than men.  The fin Sec. also recently told the press that unemployment was at 12 percent.

It is the basic right of every Belizean to have a reliable job that enables him or her to earn a living wage, to be able to live a life in accordance with their dreams, personal skills and opportunities.

HEALTH

 

If Jobs are fundamental, so too is health.  This is an area that I know is very dear to your heart. As a health professional yourself, you know better than most of us in this Honorable House –particularly the member from Corozal Bay — that being healthy is not only desirable but an essential part of human welfare.

The experts tell us that good health plays a substantial role in economic growth. And that here in Latin America and the Caribbean life expectancy has an important correlation with income.  Health is not expenditure; smart governments know it is an investment.  For this reason we signal our serious concern that a mere 3.1 million dollars of the more than 135 million dollars proposed in the estimates for health is dedicated to Caps II and III.  This signals that the current UDP administration does not see health as an investment.  Belizeans deserve better.

EDUCATION

One of the key pillars to our development is education.  If we are to provide the next generation with the capacity to earn a living wage then we must make education meaningful and learning relevant. 

If our best resource is our human resource, then Belizean education must be built upon three major initiatives.  A readiness for the tasks of nation building, a literate population where our children, adults and the poor in particular can see education as a vehicle for economic independence and relevant education that seeks to develop a well informed Belizean with the capacity to think critically, be informed and is able to participate effectively in the development of the nation.  Education is the key to uplift and in creating a 21st Century Belizean fit for an ever-connected world.

A BELIZE THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

 

I know, we on this side know, that governing is not easy. We know that tough decisions will have to be made if we are going to reduce out debt. We stand ready to give serious consideration to any initiative that will improve Government’s fiscal position. We continue to resist the temptation to oppose everything this government does for I believe we best serve Belize by being constructive in our opposition.

After all we are the government in waiting and while we will hold them accountable and expose those actions and policies that are bad for our country, we will support those that will benefit Belize and Belizeans.

Today I want to share our vision with the Belizean people.  It is rooted in a philosophy that goes back to the Father of our Nation the Right Hon. George Price.  Mr. Price always believed ours was a work in progress; he led a revolution, one that is at its core peaceful, always constructive, progressive and uniquely Belizean.  These values remain true today and form a part of our PUP Creed, one that seeks to achieve social economic and environmental justice.  It is a commitment to the socio-economic improvement of all Belizeans.

This is why last week when I spoke to a group of Junior College Students I told them that my plan is to rid Belize of poverty.  To us poverty is an ugly scar on our nation’s collective conscience, and no amount of cosmetic surgery can paste over the suffering of close to half of our people who live on less than ten dollars per day, most of whom are women and children.

This is not only a task for governments, we all have a stake in this enterprise, but government must lead and bold leaders must show that they truly care.

For us the task ahead is clear, to build a Belize that works for everyone, so that every Belizean should come to expect five things, for the lack of a better term I will call it our Belizean Bill of Rights:

First, every Belizean should have access to a piece of land.  With land we immediately create opportunity for uplift and personal growth.

Second that Belizeans are able to own a decent home.  The 17th Century Jurist and politician Edward Coke in speaking on human rights said: “A man’s home is his castle.”

Every Belizean in 2017 should expect such an entitlement whether they live on Bokotora Street or on Sea Shore Drive.

Third is education, every Belizean should be given the chance to go to school from kindergarten to junior college.  We have to make education free from pre kinder to Junior College. If we will give our young people a chance at success, it must start with a good education.

Fourth, basic health care, which means every Belizean should be enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program.  If we can invest 42 million dollars in a basketball stadium, then we should be able to provide basic health services to all.

Fifth and most important, the driving force behind it all is jobs.  Good jobs that can lead to meaningful careers; jobs that will give Belizeans a chance for personal growth and prosperity and provide a hand up for those at the very bottom of the economic ladder.

If we do these things, if we create a fair and just society, if we build on these principles we will then be able to change people’s lives and together we will rid our shores from the scourge that is poverty.

I want us to start the work from now and for this reason I am once again saying to those on the Government side that we in the PUP stand ready towork with you to:

  1. Reduce the national debt, let us work smart and pay down the debt and only borrow for development.
  1. We will support the Prime Minister in efforts to strengthen our democracy and will support legislation for the conduct of re-registration in this budget cycle. If we can pay $20 million in fees for the Superbond renegotiation, then we should be able to fine the money to strengthen our democracy with a re registration exercise in 2017.  Let’s get it done PM.
  1. Although we are not convinced that the UDP is fully committed to seriously helping the poor, we support all the initiatives that fund the Food Panty and Boost programs, and would support a supplementary that would see us reduce spending on office equipment and new vehicles across the board and use those funds to at least return the Food Pantry to last years levels of spending, we are only talking about 385,275 dollars. Also while you are at it, can we please take another million from office furniture and sundries and put it towards the violence prevention program.  Last year you spent over 600,000 dollars on violence prevention and this year you plan to spend zero.
  1. We will support any plan that would offer much needed support for our struggling productive sector. All of us were hurt to see Belizean farmers standing amidst thousands of dollars worth of rotting potatoes. It brought back the painful memory from last year when our onions could not be sold and were left in the field while imported onions flooded the market. We have to help our Belizean producers.
  1. I say again, the PUP stands ready to work with the government in a bi national effort to enhance confidence-building measures with our neighbour Guatemala and to find a lasting solution to Guatemala’s unfounded claim to Belizean territory. We look forward to working to finalize an agreement on the Sarstoon that will see Belizeans able to safely and freely traverse the Sarstoon River.
  1. It is time for us to stop locking up our young people for a stick of weed. The time has come for us decriminalize marijuana smoking and prepare the necessary research to move to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes and in small quantities.
  2. We will only build this nation if we see one Belize, where we are judged more for who we are than who we voted for.  I am sure I speak for all on this side when I say we stand ready to work with any Belizean committed to these just objectives.

 

CONCLUSION

 

I am an optimist; I have never met Cassandra, so I say this with all sincerity, I wish with all my heart that I could support this budget.  I wish with all my heart that I could lead my party to support it as well, but I can’t, we can’t.

How I wish we could say to the Belizean people that this budget would do something good for Belize, after all the last budget left us on the verge of bankruptcy and I feel the anxiety of Belizeans, it is ubiquitous.

I wish I could say that this budget will in some way help poor Belizeans who are struggling every day just to put food on the table, but there is nothing in this budget that will lift one single Belizean out of poverty.

I wish I could say to the young Belizean about to graduate from UB or Galen or UWI that this budge will result in the creation of new jobs. But that would be a lie.

Yes,all of these things I wish for should happen and could happen Madam Speaker but not with this administration — not with this incompetent, inept corrupt UDP Administration.

But a day is coming soon when the people of Belize will see this red cloud lifted and in its place, a clear blue sky. and the sun will shine ever so brightly.

And there will be jobs again and our children will have better schools again, the private sector will get back to growth again, the productive sector will produce, and NHI will be universal.

Confidence will be restored and the Belizean spirit renewed.

We in the PUP have never given up on HOPE,

we have never given up on the idea that Belizeans are amazing people who only need the opportunity to succeed.

We have learnt the tough lessons from the past.  We have the people and the talent to lead this nation to prosperity.  We have positive plans and we are united. We are ready to lead this nation back to prosperity. So to everyone across this nation we say come home to the PUP, believe again and together let’s build a Belize that works for everyone.

Madam Speaker I still believe in Belize.

 

Thank you.

POLITICAL LEADERS CALL FOR VOTER RE-REGISTRATION IN 2017

POLITICAL LEADERS CALL FOR VOTER RE-REGISTRATION IN 2017
BELMOPAN – Leaders of the political parties inclusive of the PUP and the VIP met last week to call on the Government to comply with the rule of law and immediately begin the legally overdue re-registration of electors.
The leaders agreed that in light of the revelation that a number of persons were given fraudulent nationality certificates, which allowed these individuals to register and vote in elections in Belize, that a proper re-registration exercise was the only way to ensure that future elections are free and fair. The leaders agreed that the current voter register is compromised and as a result illegal. They also expressed serious concern over the padding of voter lists in a number of key constituencies.
With municipal elections set for 7th March 2018, and the possibility of an early referendum on the matter of going to the ICJ, the leaders are insisting that re-registration occur before the planned re-divisioning announced by the Election and Boundaries Commission. They maintain that re-divisioning before re-registration is a nonsensical proposition, which appears to have gerrymandering of electoral divisions as its sole purpose to create a more favourable advantage for the incumbent UDP.
The leaders are also calling on labor unions, civil society and religious organizations and all Belizeans to support the request for re-registration this

Letter to PUP Soldier

14th February 2017
Dear friends and Supporters:
Greetings. As you have already seen, 2017 will be a year of increased activity in our Party. Also, in
2017 we will be actively taking on the UDP, calling them out for their gross incompetence, corruption and hypocrisy.
By now it is clear to everyone that the UDP is completely out of touch with the Belizean people. In
an effort to try and cover up the many problems they face, they have engaged in a great deal of orchestrated distractions, none more obvious than their efforts concerning Michael Ashcroft and the foreign arbitration awards.
I first wish to make it absolutely clear that we will always stand with the people of Belize, as we
always have and always will. The PUP is Belize. This year, when Mr. Barrow and his incompetent
government introduced the Crown Proceeding (Amendment) Act and the Central Bank of Belize
International Immunities (Amendment) Act two UDP poorly drafted new laws in the National Assembly,he said this was done to protect Belize’s foreign reserves. In a show of our solidarity with the Belizean people, although we had no prior notice of these proposed laws and no opportunity to consult or receive proper advice on their merits, we did what we felt was in the best interest and in the service of the people of Belize and all PUP members of the House and the Senate voted in favour of these laws.
Based on advice I have received from the PUP legal adviser, it is now clear that the foreign reserves of Belize held in the USA are completely secure and at no risk of being attached by Michael Ashcroft or anyone else. Mr. Barrow blatantly lied to the House of Representatives. Also, attached to this letter is an explanatory note, which helps to clarify the position of Senator Courtenay’s law firm.
With the UDP’s popularity and approval rating at an all time low, they now seek to attack and fight
at every turn in their efforts to distract from any real issues. In particular, they have attacked Senator Eamon Courtenay. However, this UDP attack is not about Eamon Courtenay or these laws. The UDP is afraid of Eamon Courtenay. They are afraid of the man who had the former Director of Immigration confess to the mass illegal nationalities and registrations. This is UDP fraud. Now the UDP want him out of the Senate because they fear he will soon begin to question these corrupt ministers. No doubt, the UDP fears what will be uncovered when Senator Courtenay skillfully exposes their heedless corruption.
Of course this sideshow will not distract the people from the real issues:
• the theft of the 2012 and 2015 general elections through massive voter fraud;
• the illegitimacy of this UDP government;
• the absolute need for reregistration to stop the UDP fraud in national elections;
• the Sarstoon debacle and the destruction of our territorial integrity at the hands of
Guatemala and this inept UDP government;
• the rank and rampant corruption in every corner of this UDP government;
• the refusal of Andre Vega to return the $400,000.00 from a questionable land compensation
done by his father the former Minister of Lands;
• the increasing likelihood of default on the UDP superbond;
• the complete mismanagement of government finances and our country’s economy teetering
on the brink of bankruptcy;
• the impendent increase of taxes on an already overtaxed people to raise another $100
million in new taxes;
• the retrenchment of specific public officers to cut $200 million in government expenditures;
• the secret agreements between Barrow and Ashcroft that led to a payout in excess of over a
half billion dollars to Ashcroft, almost entirely in US currency and now leaves us faced with
the real prospect of devaluation;
• the over $600,000.00 so called compensation paid to the Prime Minster’s son after three
years as the executive chairman of BTL;
• the peddling of the shares of BEL, BWSL and BTL to different wealthy Belizeans and
financial institutions including using the people’s money from Social Security to try to cover
their wasteful spending and corruption.
We, as a Party, need to focus on and hammer home these issues. This illegitimate, corrupt and
incompetent UDP government has run our country into the ground. It is time that we all stand up across Belize. It is time that we save our country from this bogus Barrow and the UDP. This is the only way we can take our country out of the crisis it faces and end the suffering of our people. This must be our work, our singular focus in service of the people.
We must get on with the business of building a Belize that works for everyone.
Yours faithfully,

 

John Briceño
Party Leader

PUP Congratulates Dolores Balderamos Garcia

 PUP CONGRATULATES ATTORNEY DOLORES BALDERAMOS GARCIA
Belize City, Friday February 10, 2017
The People’s United Party congratulates Attorney-at-Law, Dolores Balderamos Garcia on her appointment as Senior Counsel. In speaking on her appointment, the Chief Justice of Belize His Lordship Kenneth Benjamin highlighted her stellar contribution through her years of practice and also through her public service in the legislature where she led major changes in the law that positively affected Women, Children and Family Law.
The PUP also acknowledges Balderamos Garcia’s contribution to the development and practice of family law and her unwavering support and work with Women, Children and HIV which she did as Special Envoy during the PUP Government 2003 – 2008.
On behalf of the United Women’s Group (UWG), the women’s arm of the PUP, of which Dolores is a stalwart member, we congratulate her on her great achievement and continue to be proud of her.

PUP Supports Sen. Eamon Courtenay

PUP SUPPORTS HON. SENATOR EAMON COURTENAY
The People’s United Party voted in favour of the legislation brought to the National Assembly because the PUP believes in defending the national interests and specifically the foreign reserves of Belize. Belizeans will recall that the Hon. John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition, brought to light that no notice was given by the UDP regarding the details of the legislation so that proper research and consultation be done.
The PUP has concluded its research and wishes to inform Belizeans that according to the laws of the United States of America, Belize’s reserves in the Central Bank are safe and cannot be attached or executed against by anyone including Lord Ashcroft’s companies.
Section 1611 of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of the USA states:
“the property of a foreign state shall be immune from attachment and from execution, if— (1) the property is that of a foreign central bank or monetary authority”. The advice the PUP has received from US based attorneys is that this law fully protects Belize’s foreign reserves.
The PUP’s legal adviser has drawn to the attention of the Party that the Central Bank of Belize (International Immunities) Act, which according to the Prime Minister is needed to protect our foreign reserves, has no application in the United States of America and therefore does not protect Belize’s foreign reserves held in US banks. According to Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, “Belize’s foreign reserves in the US are fully protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.” In true
fashion, Prime Minister Barrow continues to demonstrate he is all glitter but no substance.
The truth is that as always, the UDP is once again trying to distract attention from their incompetence, mismanagement and corrupt ways. What the UDP needs to explain is why the Prime Minister, whose law firm continues to represent Lord Ashcroft’s companies, signed a blank check to the former owners of BTL that ended up costing the Belizean people over $557 million for a part of a company that’s worth a little over $100 million? Why did Senators Godwin Hulse and Steve Duncan mysteriously drop their case in the Supreme Court in 2009 when they were challenging the BTL Accommodation agreement?
Today Belize has the most corrupt government ever. The Senate Inquiry into the Immigration scandal has revealed that the former Director of Immigration has admitted that there was electoral fraud in the 2012 General Elections. Now, Ms. Candelaria Saldivar, the sister of Minister John Saldivar has said that Senator Godwin Hulse knew of the Immigration scandal. It has also been exposed that many ministers were visiting the Immigration Department trying to influence the issuing of visas, nationalities and passports.
These are the UDP Ministers and Senators who have betrayed the Belizean people. These are the people that need to do the decent thing. These are the people that need to resign!
For the record, Senator Courtenay has done a stellar job in the Senate highlighting the wrongdoings of this government and continues to enjoy the full support of the Leader of the Opposition.

Congratulations to the 13th Senator

January 10, 2017
Congratulations to the 13th Senator
The People’s United Party congratulates Osmany Salas, current President of the Belize Tourism Industry Association, on his election as the 13th Senator representing NGOs in the Upper House of the National Assembly.
Based on past experience, we are forced to note that Mr. Salas’ election is just one stage in a long-delayed appointment. It is now the Government’s responsibility, as committed, to accept that nomination and complete the process of swearing-in the NGO’s choice. Of concern is the fact that government’s political operatives, prior to the nomination today, were openly condemning the election and appointment of a 13th Senator. It would be detrimental to our democracy if government were to backtrack, again, at this point.
The People’s United Party is confident that Mr. Salas is able to discharge his duties as a Senator with integrity, objectivity, rationality and consideration for Belize and her people.