Prime Minister John Briceno has told Love News that the reports of Government’s proposed salary cuts for public officers/teachers are false. Both the Public Service Union and the Belize National Teachers Union have received reports of the proposed salary cuts, but say that they have not been officially briefed on the issue. On the heels of the union’s criticism and reaction to the proposed salary cut, a letter purportedly from the Belize Business Bureau (BBB) was sent to our newsroom. It turns out, however, that there were two different letters in circulation. After some digging, we found out that the government did not propose a salary cut for public officers, and that it is the BBB that is proposing the cut after a budget consultation meeting last week with players in the Ministry of Finance. Our newsroom reached out to the President of the BBB, Arturo Lizarraga, who confirmed that no such recommendation was made by the Government.
Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “The Business Bureau position is that we’re recommending the 15%. There has been no decision by the government. Whatever the opposition or whoever has proposed that probably is something that was used during the process of revision and feedback from membership. The final position with the Business Bureau, the official position is that we are recommending the 15% because clearly the government will not send home people or retrench so that is not the position but the 30% loss in revenue forces them to take measures and we believe that a 15% cut is just. It’s not the full answer because it really it is just an attempt to stem the hemorrhaging in terms of public financing.”
Lizarraga went on to explain to our newsroom that the recommendation of the salary cut was only one of twenty recommendations given to the government in the letter.
Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “And if you look at the items we’ve listed is that we believe that those quick start – that we’ve recommended in the earlier recommendations are just short term but they could help. They could help in terms of providing food and jobs as well for example one of the things I think the PSU should focus on is the digitizing of the GST that could stem the leakage of a huge amount of revenue that is lost. There’s no real receipt given when you go to purchase at a grocery store and suppliers are being paid in cash and that shouldn’t be. A retail outlet should pay digitally and the government should collect everyday and that should be digitized where the sales are reflected in the records by the minute. That is I think a way of revenue enhancement in terms of government. So there are lots of issues on the thirty points that were made and we’ll be free to come in and talk about it some time. I also believe that government Minister Coye and FinSec Joe Waight should be on air explaining how bad the situation is because it’s really really bad and we cannot delay discussing it, we cannot delay making a decision on it.”
Just before the start of the House Meeting today our team also caught up with Minister of Education Francis Fonseca who echoed the statement that government has not proposed any such salary cut and the everything is under consideration.
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “Well absolutely no decisions have been made about any of that, that is all talk I don’t know where that’s coming from. As you know the government is engaged in budget consultations. We are having consultations with the private sector and I have been asked by Cabinet to lead the consultations with the unions. So we’re meeting next week with the Public Service Union, we’re meeting with the BNTU, we’re meeting with the NTUCB and the Association of Senior Managers all of those unions will be consulted and coming out of those consultations the objective is to try to arrive at some consensus some common ground on how we can meet and fill this massive financing gap that we have been left by the previous administration who just washed their hands and walked away leaving the country in a $500 million dollar hole. When Mr.Barrow very casually and nonchalantly said apres moi le deluge , after me the flood, he was not kidding. He was not kidding. He left Belize in a financial mess but we have a responsibility to fix it and that is what we’re doing but we need to work with the unions, we need to work with the people of Belize, we need to work with the private sector to come up with specific targeted actions that we can take together to fill that gap.”
Earlier today we also contacted Prime Minister Briceno via text who explained that consultations are still ongoing, and following the meetings a way forward in attacking the 500 million debt incurred by the previous administration will be finalized.