Prime Minister John Briceno on Friday read a forty-five page budget speech, informing the nation of the fiscal disaster which the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, in Belize. Briceno told parliamentarians that Belize is the sixth most indebted nation. According to the Prime Minister, the scale of just how much the Government owes today is breath-taking: the equivalent of $10,000 for every man, woman and child. The Briceno Administration has devised a recovery plan which seeks to restructure and re-profile the public debt, spur economic expansion and enforce revenue collection. The government is projecting that $247.5 million in recurrent revenues will come from income and profits while $6.4 million from property and $137.7 million from international trade and transactions. Revenues collected from goods and services is projected to be $484.7 million. Non-tax revenue will total $81 million, the two notable line items being Royalties, forecasted at $29.4 million, and levies collected by Ministries, forecasted to be $32.6 million. Capital Revenues are projected to total $5.2 million. As for expenditure, Briceno informed that Overall expenditure will total $1.204 billion, of which recurrent spending represents $905.9 million and capital spending $298.6 million. The wage bill alone is $413.7. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) is reviewing Briceno’s speech and President Luis Martinez says that GOB has to provide accurate figures especially pertaining to the staff list.
Luis Martinez, President NTUCB: “We have to examine the budget speech collectively and the figures presented has to be with the figures that we wish to request from the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance along with the Ministry of Public Service when it comes to the staff list. We don’t believe that we’re getting matching figures and we have had this discussion with the team already and we told them that look if we are going to be assisting in this process we need the information. You can’t get news if the people don’t give you news correct? So that information we appeal to the government of Belize to share the necessary information with us.”
In his budget presentation, PM Briceno warned those who evade the tax system, that without hesitation, that the state’s enforcement agencies will adopt a muscular approach to revenue collection and enforcement. Martinez responded to the Prime Minister’s warning.
Luis Martinez, President NTUCB: “Last week I talked about the revenue crisis that we are facing. We keep on talking about the expenditure ‘Oh the wage bill is high.’ the revenue, crisis BTL owes the Government of Belize approximately forty million dollars. I’ve said a very close relative of the Prime Minister owes the government of Belize over eleven million dollars that is fifty million dollars. Fifty million. You know how much they want from public officers ? Eighty, that’s more than half of what those people want from us and you will come and tell that no money is there when you don’t want to collect the money ? No man.”
Reporter: In his budget speech the Prime Minister said that the ten percent salary cut and the continued increment freeze is necessary.
Luis Martinez, President NTUCB: “I don’t know who is advising the Prime Minister but who is advising the Prime Minister needs to take a step back and listen to the advice of the unions.”