Opposition Leader Kicks Off Budget Debate 2016/2017

By
Updated: March 22, 2016

Day one of the 2016/2017 budget debate got underway this morning in Belmopan inside the House of Representatives. As is the tradition, the leader of the opposition kicked off the debate. Hipolito Novelo reports.

HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING

“Kicking off the debate was the Opposition Leader, John Briceno. He said, after consulting several groups such as the private sector, unions and civil society, he managed to formulate a speech that would best reflect the will of the Belizean people.”

JOHN BRICENO

“This 2016-2017 budget I’m afraid does not reflect any of the qualities that we see in our collective Belizean identity. This is not a budget that is optimistic, this is not a budget for Belizeans. It is not creative and it is neither hopeful nor resourceful as we are. The priorities set out in this budget if any are not the priorities of the Belizean people. They are recycled initiatives and programs put in place by an administration that lacks the competence to find real solutions to the serious problems that face our generation.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING

And one of the serious problems facing the country is the decline of the agriculture industry.

JOHN BRICENO

“Our agriculture products suffered major hits and we go into this new financial year with no real plan to help the primary sector recover and return to growth. Capital Financial flows have gone down by $100 million dollars. Big companies like Fruta Bomba in the north are packing up and the Meridian Group in the South have already closed down and the oil is drying up. Well the chickens have come home to roost and in 2016 as the soca song says “the party done”.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING

“According to Briceno, this budget quote, “lacks the imagination one would expect from a new administration.”

JOHN BRICENO

“This budget will not make us safer, it will not provide those much needed jobs that will grow our economy, it will not encourage any new growth in the business sector, it will not expand education for our young people who are out of school and it is not reflecting the fairness we need if we are to lift up all Belizeans.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING

“Briceno says that’s because petro Caribe is not rolling anymore.”

JOHN BRICENO

“Indeed after the tax increase on fuel levied on us just days before the budget speech Belizeans listened to the Rt.Honorable Prime Minister’s speech with fear, afraid that with Petro Caribe money all but gone that this government may be one pay cheque away from bankruptcy. Everyone knew that the elections, now behind us, this would be a year with pain and sorrow.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO REPORTING

“But this year, according to the title of the 2016 budget, should be the year of stability in a time of change. Not so, says Briceno.”

JOHN BRICENO

“The truth is that this 2016 budget is no celebration of stability, there is no boldness in this budget. The big picture here is that Belizeans will take a lick in 2016 and when the step up on Super bond 2.0 comes next year we will take an even bigger licking. In 2015 our economy grew by a meager 1.2% well below the 2.5% that government projected and well below the average world economic growth of 1.3%. Government overspent by more than $143 million dollars. In a $4 billion economy, government spending seems out of control. Government is spending .25 cents out of every dollar in our economy. At the end of 2015 we owed $2.35 billion dollars and we are going to borrow another $183 million this year and according to the Rt.Honorable Prime Minister we should end up at about $2.8 billion by this time next year, I will say more on this later. The national debt will soon be at 80% of GDP. The government spent Petro Caribe money bonanza style over what he called an emergency with a small e and we squandered even more borrowed Petro Caribe money on feel good projects and tacos in an election year. In October alone government spent $44.7 million dollars. According to the auditor general we continue to be plagued by a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability.”

Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.

 

 

We will have more of today’s debate later in our newscast.