The Coalition organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) issued a press release this morning on the topic of Belize’s economy and the recent report from the International Monetary Fund. The organization has registered serious concerns at Belize’s economy based on not only the findings of the IMF but also from confirmations they have reportedly gotten from within the Ministry of Finance. The release states, quote, “Government has not responded publicly to any of the critical points raised by the economic experts at the IMF, even though COLA has confirmed that government officials are already examining austerity measures to plug the hole in the economic dam caused largely by irresponsible spending, arbitrary and arrogant nationalizations and very suspect decisions at the very highest level of political office. The IMF report speaks clearly of an imminent crisis, stating that – “The economy is slowing and fiscal and external vulnerabilities are rising.” GDP growth fell in 2015 and is projected to fall further in 2016. Exports continue to fall and because of compensation payments for BTL and BEL, international reserves have decreased. The IMF speaks to a widening of the fiscal deficit based on settlement of a loan to BTL, an increase in the wage bill and a ‘large overrun’ in capital expenditure as well as rising public debt. These are all matters of great concern, but for COLA the proof of economic crisis is in the recommended measures to restore sustainability, including “strong revenue and expenditure measures, broadening the tax base and implementing other tax reforms, and containing the public sector wage bill. Clearly the IMF is recommending increase in taxes and retrenchment as the ‘ONLY’ way to rescue a haemorrhaging economy, yet the Government has remained silent, leaving the Belizean public in a state of uncertainty.” End of quote. Meanwhile as we shared with you yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition has also levied concerns over the economy as he informed the media last Friday that the Government of Belize was forced to go into overdraft in order to meet salaries for the last pay period.
“The issue of the economy, we know that we are going into a deep recession, we know that businesses are in the worst state ever whilst the banks are flushed with cash. We know that businesses have been slowing down we have all our major industries from sugar, banana, shrimp, citrus all are under severe pressure so people don’t have jobs. The government is running out of money. Last month they had to do in overdraft to be able to make their salaries because they have run out of money and they have the income tax department and GST and business tax department going through every business that they can trying to squeeze out as much money as they possibly can. No we know the IMF when they were here they recommended that they have to increase the GST from 12.5% to 15%. The IMF also recommended that we need to reduce the amount of goods that are exempted from paying GST, they have said that for every five employees from government that stop working or are retired you should only hire one and that there should be no increments for the next three years that there must be a wage freeze for the next three years and that if that doesn’t work that there would probably have to be retrenchments within the government. They have prescribed some serious medicine to the mismanagement and the abuse and the drunken spending spree that the UDP went on to be able to win, some may say buy, the election last year. Remember just in October they spent $44.7 million dollars. In two years they spent $325 million dollars of PetroCaribe funds that is apart from what has been approved in the budget before so all of these things are linked into one another.”
In the final paragraph of the release from COLA, it stated that the Belizean people have been duped by this administration. It reads, in part, quote, “We were told that we should support the takeover of BTL because the ‘white devil’ was raping our people. Yet through the direct actions of the Barrow administration, the Ashcroft Group of Companies is wealthier and more powerful now that it has ever been. And there is another judgment coming soon which legal experts tell us may be as much as half a BILLION dollars. Because of the actions of this government, government attorneys have made millions in litigation, Family members of the Prime Minister have made millions, the Ashcroft Group has made many millions (with many more to come) and only the Belizean people are left with crippling public debt for years to come.” End of quote. According to the release, members of COLA will be engaging in consultations in order to present facts and figures to the Belizean people. An endeavor, they say, the Government seems unable and unwilling to do.