Looking now at PUP Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat’s presentation, he opened highlighting his support for an assessment exercise of Belize’s legislature against the updated commonwealth parliamentary association’s Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures.
Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo West: “Including in that benchmark it states, 7.22 “the legislature shall have a reasonable period of time in which to adequately scrutiny and debate the proposed national budget.” Madam speaker it is unacceptable that the Prime Minister comes to this honorable house and makes a budget presentation, hands us a draft estimate for revenue and expenditure for fiscal year 19/20 and then gives us five working days to be able to adequately scrutinize and debate the proposed budget, that is unacceptable in Belize and it’s unacceptable in any jurisdiction within the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Madam Speaker the adequate benchmark from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association stipulates that a pre-budget report should be submitted to all members of parliament no later than one month before a budget is introduced. Then after the budget is read at least two to three weeks must be given to parliamentarians to properly analyze the document. It also states that the document should be legible Madam Speaker. I don’t know about the rest but the letters are so small it is extremely difficult even to comprehend. Benchmark 7.23 Madam Speaker it states “oversight committees shall provide meaningful opportunities for minority or opposition parties and independent MPs to engage in effective oversight of government expenditure. Well Madam Speaker this takes us right back to the Public Accounts Committee, it takes us back to the committee that we have been clamoring for the longest to have the participation of our social partners that are presently in the Senate. We have been clamoring for all committees, not only the Public Accounts but for all committees to be held in public. This is because transparency is of utmost importance for governance and the times when we have done things in the darkness cannot continue Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker parliaments have to run their operations in the open, transparent and encourage the engagement of its citizens in the parliamentary process. At the end of the day Madam Speaker we are trying to defend our rights in a democracy.”
In addition to this, Espat says that the CPA bench mark will also allow for further analysis of the budget in a manner that is not being done.
And turning into the actual budget, Espat spoke of the government’s continued neglect of the productive sector.
We will be bringing you more on the budget debate in our subsequent newscast.