National Assembly Kicks Off Budget Debate with Lengthy Presentations

National Assembly Kicks Off Budget Debate with Lengthy Presentations

In years past, we have seen heated debates around this time when the new budget is being assessed.  Today, however, it wasn’t much of a debate, rather than 8 presentations lasting some seven hours at the National Assembly.  Today was day one of three days of presentations surrounding the Briceno Administration’s Revenue and Appropriations Bill for the upcoming fiscal year.  The Budget Debate is an important part of Belize’s governance as it is a detailed look at how the government plans to spend public monies.  Speaking first at this morning’s session for an estimated 90 minutes, was Leader of the Opposition, Moses Shyne Barrow.

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “A budget of lies and deception that fails to meaningfully address the needs and aspirations of the Belizean people is the accurate description of this stay off track presentation of the draft estimates of revenue and expenditure 2024 made by the Prime Minister and his government. Madam Speaker this is not a budget that makes the necessary investments, short, medium and long term change our nation needs for the better Madam Speaker. This budget will not increase economic growth. This budget will not safeguard the health and security of our country for generations to come Madam Speaker. This government has not put forward a budget that will ease the devastation of inflation. Nothing outlined in this budget Madam Speaker adequately alleviates poverty and strengthens the guardrails that protect the working class from being driven past the margins Madam Speaker. This budget is tone deaf like the Prime Minister that presented it. Disconnected is how you can only describe the presentation by a lame duck Prime Minister who has already checked out mentally and emotionally. I would pray that the government wold abandon its arrogance. That they would abandon their hubris and focus on delivering on the promises that they made to this nation three years ago when they were ushered into office Madam Speaker. But I suspect that the PUP led by this Prime Minister is incapable of such humility required to truly serve the people of Belize Madam Speaker. And this budget is a betrayal of the George Price social justice ideals. Member from Fort George you should hang your head, he would be ashamed to see the way that you have abandoned the social justice ideals Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker the lies and deception need to stop. It does the people of Belize no good when the government projects these false statistics as accomplishments. Rather than accept the reality. Own up to where you are. Own up to your performance and understand and appreciate that it has been less than spectacular Madam Speaker. It has been in some instance average, on par with what the UDP government was able to accomplish and in most instances less.”

Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde took the mic after the opposition leader.  His presentation didn’t focus on the figures in the budget, but rather he did a revision, of sorts, on the works done by the government.

Cordel Hyde, Deputy Prime Minister: “We had to listen for the member talk about what the UDP will do, that they will do this and they will do that and they will do this and they will do that and I wondered whether he was here the last thirteen plus years when they were in government when they had all the time in the world to do all these things. The great Katt Williams says that to be confident and not delusional is a great skill. You would have expected that the member would have come here with some introspection, some looking in the mirror, some analysis of what went wrong and what they could have done differently and apologize to the Belizean people because really what we just listened to suggested as if though the people owed them an apology for not voting for them. Something is wrong there. But I promised myself Madam Speaker I won’t talk about those people today right ? Yeah because on March 6 the people were very clear that we’re supposed to stay on track. See Madam Speaker it’s easy to talk about all the wonderful things we’ve done. There are almost ten thousand of our children who will be getting free education this year. The tens of thousands who will benefitting from NHI all across this country from north to south. The thousands who are getting land for the very first time. And the hundreds who are getting those fine concrete houses. This is the year that we have to get those monies or housing, this is the year that we have to get monies for home improvement  because our people have to live better than that. This is the People’s United Party and that’s what we do. This is the year. See Madam Speaker poverty is more than material deprivation. It’s not linear, it’s a bundle of things wrapped up together that diminishes and dehumanizes us. It’s a pilling up of issues, of shame, of pain, of broken dreams of a slaughtered spirit, of hopelessness. Poverty kills, it destroys, it deforms, it distorts. We have to wage war against it. We’re not a perfect government, no government is, only in heaven will the government be perfect but by and large I must say that our ministers and area representatives have demonstrated a certain fealty, a certain loyalty to the ideals of our manifesto. They have stayed close to the people, loyal to our oath of service, soldiers of social justice and I must commend them for that because the truth of the matter is that power can get you heady, power can get you carried away because all the people around you they pretend like you’re the big man now and they worship you and they swell up your head and they tell you all kinds of things ‘because you are the minister you know you can do anything that you want.’ and then when you get into trouble then you’re on your own. But that’s what happens when you’re in power. You can get carried away, you can lose contact, you can lose touch with your people. But we didn’t do that. Whatever successes we have achieved so far have been a team effort led of course by my friend our Prime Minister. Madam Speaker the truth is modern governance is not easy. The world comes at you fast and furious, it’s rapidly changing. In a typical day we bury a beloved city administrator in the morning and by mid afternoon we are settling once and for all with the CWU and the stevedores. But we cannot rest easy. We still have the sugar situation in the north and the Mayan Communal Land Policy in the south to resolve. I’ve said before that as a government we have to be honest brokers, there’s no way everyone can get what they want. They have to compromise, they have to find the middle ground, they have to work together because we all have a mutually assured destruction pact; one fails the other fails, one thrives the other thrives. Of course the Devil is always in the details but if we approach the details with cordiality and empathy and a willingness to talk until we agree we can untangle the details and put down the Devil. But we have to see our survival as depending on each other and egos must be tamed and parked at the door and the joint negotiation unions have already served notice Minister Fonseca and the government’s negotiating side that they want to see some specific actions in twenty one days and thirty days respectively and we may be too close to the expiration of twenty one days for comfort. But we on this side take full responsibility for the stalled talks and we beg our joint negotiating colleagues mea culpa, mea culpa. There was nothing insidious or treacherous about the delays. In fact we could have signed the long outstanding CBA from December. It is from then that the Cabinet approved a resolution to proposal twenty two that will see the government pay the full salaries of all teachers and support staff at all the government aided secondary schools and tertiary level institutions. That’s a big deal you know and we’re rather proud of our Minister of Education for shepherding that breakthrough under the most difficult of circumstances.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Francis Fonseca, was third on the list of presenters.  His address had several key areas considering his hefty portfolio.  Additionally, Fonseca also presented on the affairs of the judiciary on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.  Of course, his address did not go without a few jabs at the opposition leader.

The Budget Debate resumes tomorrow morning at ten o’clock./

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