CEO Dr Osmond Martinez from the Ministry of Economic Development says the government’s fiscal situation is on an upward trajectory. The report of improvements in the economy could prove beneficial for the unions as they continue to seek ways in having the ten percent salary cut restored. On Friday, we reported that the Joint Unions Negotiating Team (JUNT) requested as many as eleven reports from the Government as they relate to the country’s revenue and expenditure. The JUNT explained in a release on January 7 that the request for the reports is for them to review and prepare for its upcoming meeting with the government on January 12. Our newsroom spoke with CEO Martinez who says he expects the upcoming meeting with the joint unions will be progressive and productive.
Dr.Osmond Martinez, CEO, Ministry of Economic Development: “ I think the discussions have made significant process. I see that this is something that will have to be dealt more with the ministry of public service but there has been a significant improvement. The government is doing everything possible to grow the economy but in reality it’s not growth, it’s recovery, recovery why because remember that in 2019 our GDP was around $1.8 billion US then it went all the way down where we lost 14 points in 2020 in part because of the pandemic and another part because of already the country was in recession by the end of 2019. But now we are back to the levels of 2019 which shows that yes we had growth but at the same time it was a recovery where the government and this is the leadership of the Honorable Prime Minister where kudos have to be given to him now the recovery period has only taken one year and so this shows the capacity of the Briceno administration to boost the economy and to bring back the economy back to the levels of 2019.”
The unions are also asking for a full list of the statutory bodies that the government subsidizes and whether they are holding these bodies accountable via financial statements. The unions say they are looking forward to discussing the benefits to public officers and teachers including special facilities at the National Bank and the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). While that is what the unions are requesting at this stage, Doctor Martinez conceded that the economy is still facing challenges and the economy is not there just yet to return the ten percent.
Dr.Osmond Martinez, CEO, Ministry of Economic Development: “Of course if the economy would grow I I think the Prime Minister will be the first one who wants to give back the money to the public officers however we have to note that the economy is not yet solid and I will tell you why. We are not sure what will happen tomorrow with COVID some countries for example Australia I believe at the end of November they had to lock down, I believe one of the European countries went through a lockdown period and God may not allow it. I mean if we have to lock down Belize again we will go back to square one and that is not good. So the economy is growing but it’s still fragile it’s not that it is solid as per say we oh we have a very good boost in everything. If you look at tourism, tourism is still a fragile industry whereby during the Christmas break almost 6000 flights were canceled all around the world and tourism actually is, tourism and agriculture are dictating the pace of the growth of our economy and as such we have to understand that the growth of the economy is still in a fragile stage.”
The other reports being requested by the unions include the government’s fiscal strategy statement; its collections of revenues and its expenses spanning over the past six months; its payments of interests and principals on the country’s debt; the issuance of public grants; the repayment profile of the Blue Bond; the pay-off of the Superbond; a detailed report on the supplementary appropriations; plans for new fiscal measures for the remainder of this fiscal year.