On May 26, 2016 we brought you the story on the preliminary report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the outlook for Belize following a 2-week assessment done in-country by one of their teams. The report cited several causes for concern, starting with the slowing of the economy and the increase of the country’s fiscal and external vulnerabilities. With Senator Godwin Hulse being charged with Government Business in the Senate, we had asked him to weigh in on the report. Hulse told the media, quote, “this is not by far the worst we have been; we have seen far worse than this. In fact, it is better now than it used to be.” End of quote. Mayor Kevin Bernard for Orange Walk Town disagrees with Hulse’s comments as he noted when we spoke with him last Friday.
“I don’t know if Senator Hulse is living in Belize when he makes those comments because I could recall back in 2007 they were harping on the IMF report, slamming the tables of government saying that the country was in a mess because the IMF report was saying that. Now when it is their turn everything is different, you should not pay attention to the IMF report. We need to understand that the IMF is not just anybody, these are some people that go across the world focusing and monitoring the finances and how the government is operating within a country so definitely we must be alarmed, definitely we must look at what is really happening in Belize and definitely the government needs to take a serious look. They may not want to say it because they are the government but then we as the citizens and taxpayers what will affect will this have on us because at the end of the day you are hearing about the proposal of increasing GST and talking about freezing the wage bill, you are hearing about all sorts of effects that it can cause on our Belizeans and so I disagree with the senator that we should not worry about the IMF report, we should worry about the IMF report. But apart from that it’s not only the iMF report we should worry about all the things that are happening in this country. Fuel prices have been going up everyday and we are not seeing any difference and this is my position and I have said it before it could be any government, it could have been a PUP government and I would have said the same thing but at the end of the day this is the government in place right now and we need to say to the Belizean people come out and tell the Belizean people exactly what is happening, let us not hide behind figures, let us not hide behind our offices, come out and tell the Belizean people exactly what we are facing and where we are going.”
Hulse did note that there are some concerns including shrimp, banana and the downward price on sugar; he added, however that he is confident that those commodities will bounce back. The IMF report, however, indicated the expectation of decline in growth for 2016. “The economic outlook”, according to the report, “has worsened further since the 2015 Article IV Consultation and is subject to significant downside risks. Growth is projected to decline further to 0.5 percent in 2016 and average less than 2 percent in the medium term. In the absence of fiscal measures, rigid current spending would fuel high fiscal deficits and add to the already high public debt burden. The current account deficit would slowly improve due to recovery of exports, but would still remain high, putting downward pressure on international reserves. These vulnerabilities could be exacerbated by both domestic and external risks, such as a the end of PetroCaribe financing, protracted period of weak growth in trading partners, and challenges posed by withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships.” End of quote.