In last Friday’s House Meeting, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agreed on one thing – that Election Day should be a public holiday in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This prompted the Belize Chamber of Commerce to write a letter to the PM stating their reasons why this decision would negatively impact the business community. They are hoping that any future decision would take into consideration those businesses who simply cannot afford another holiday. BCCI’s president, Marissa Longsworth, expanded on their concerns.
Marissa Longsworth, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “First of all it’s plain old expensive for the business community. For any holiday that occurs remember that if a business does have to operate they have to pay at a holiday rate then you will have some businesses that will have to make a decision as to whether they don’t operate at all which really is a day of not earning any money. When you consider the fact that in the last five to six months Belize has been in a low to non productive state in business to have another holiday at this point in time specifically for election day just doesn’t seem like the best idea to the business community. If you give a holiday you give a holiday to everybody not just your registered voter so you might actually still encourage if two out of five of your workers are registered voters who will go out and vote then the worry about overcrowding and drinking and partying during the time could actually apply to the three who will not be going to line up to vote but will now just have a free day that will become a day of revelry essentially. To go back to the point of saying that any employee that has to work on a holiday has to be paid at a holiday rate by law hotels can’t close down because we’re having an election day and they have to pay their employees more. Restaurants can’t either particularly when they’re serving tourists that will depend on them for those services and so it also goes back to the point of saying we’ve been so unproductive as a nation for so long because of COVID in particular and so it’s just not the right time to allow the country to go into a day of paralysis.”
Longsworth stated that the have received a response from the PM, but it is not the response they were hoping for.
Marissa Longsworth, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “The response was not a positive one with a claim particularly about the Sunday election not being suitable for those who have the religious beliefs and religious norms about a Sunday. You’ve heard me speak about our thoughts on Sundays and the fact that other events have been held and so despite that response we are looking at responding to that response as well to reiterate some of our points. We are not sure what the final result will be but we just want to ensure that the points that we have are being very carefully considered.”
According to Longsworth, election time is already a very disruptive time with election fatigue and culture shock. She also stated that more creative ways to facilitate elections are required, such as electronic votes.