National holidays were also debated in the Senate with a keen focus on the January 15 in honor of the Right Honorable George Cadle Price. While Senator Michael Peyrefitte rendered respect to the first and former Prime Minister he did caution the Briceno administration to tread carefully.
Senator Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Party Chairman: “We need to be very careful that we don’t set the precarious precedent of singling out politicians from your own party for national recognition. We need to be very careful. What we did when we were in government we established a heroes day and benefactors day and what we did is that we told the nation that there is a day and that day still exists to this day, March 9th, when we celebrate all of our national heroes and all of our benefactors and all those who have contributed greatly to the country of Belize. So Madam President Mr.Price already has his day. To be safe since one of them was put there by the UDP and one by the PUP we celebrate both them on one day because then their contributions should be above the fray.”
Senator Osmany Salas who too agreed that there is none other like Mr Price he did indicate that a committee should have been formed prior to the declaration of the holiday.
Senator Osmany Salas: “The fact is that the late George Cadle Price was our first First Minister, our first Premier, our first Prime Minister, nobody else can lay claim to that. From my growing up and my encounters and everything I’ve read he was a force to reckon with, was larger than life. He lead our efforts to secure our political independence against all odds- nobody else can lay claim to that so I have no problem with supporting the creation of a special day as the motion says to “memorialize his sacrifice and efforts in the achievement of our country’s independence.” However, I must also say that there was no need for this motion and I’ll explain. The Holidays Act specifically section 9 empowers the minister to appoint special days to be observed as public and bank holidays. So really and truly there was no need for this motion but I guess we can also say that it’s a good thing that this is here because it gives us the opportunity as my colleague before me has said to make some very important points and the one I want to focus on is one having to do with process. The key part of this motion for me, the most important is the one that refers to the establishment of a committee to review all public and bank holidays, this is what should have been done first. So in a matter of speaking we are putting the cart before the horse.”
Staying on the topic of national holidays Senator Kevin Herrera who represents the private sector rose, and honed in on the economic impacts additional national holidays would have on the business community.
Senator Kevin Herrera: “The problem Madam President is the cost. The lead time and the process for declaring these holidays. The business community takes the brunt of this. We’re still in the throws of the effects of COVID-19 and the effects of the two hurricanes Eta and Iota. It’s been a tough year for business, extremely tough year for business and now that the president administration has reached out to the business community on several occasions in terms of trying talk to us about how they can address certain issues but I would not think that the feedback that they have gotten from us would be that we need an additional holiday to pay for another unproductive day. Many sectors are earning virtually zero I think about the tourism sector, the local airlines, the airport taxis, tour guides and then many products such as beer, soft drinks – yesterday evening I was listening on the news where dairy producers were saying that you know things have been down and how they go about so that they don’t have to dump all this product is that they’re making it through cheese but there’s only so much that the local population can consume. And so it has been difficult Madam President, extremely difficult. Just try to weather the storm the business community has been taking on debt, debts that will affect its competitiveness for the next four to six years. This is not a struggle that we brought on it’s something that we have to deal with and we are dealing with it but we want to impress on the government that try not to make this struggle a little more difficult that it needs to be holidays really don’t help the situation right now.”
The other declared holiday is August 1 as Emancipation Day.