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Panton Criticizes GOB’s Move to Reduce The Judiciary’s Budget

Day two and the final day of the budget debate unfolded today in Belmopan and unlike Thursday, there wasn’t that much bickering across the political isles. That’s because House Speaker Valerie Woods reminded members of the Standing Orders and cautioned them to be on their most respectable behaviour. Rising to speak on the budget this morning was Albert’s Area Representative, Tracy Panton. One of the issues she addressed was the struggles currently being faced by the population. Panton first criticized the government’s decision to reduce the judiciary’s budget before focusing on the rising crime rates.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative. Albert: “The allocation for the judiciary has been reduced to 0.62% of total expenditure. How? Tell me how are we going to ensure that justice is being served? Is this Madam Speaker, a fair and inclusive approach? Similarly, crime continues to be a major problem in  Belizean society. My good friend from Caribbean Shores will agree. It’s a wicked problem for all of us on both sides of this House and one would imagine that there would be strong prioritisation on this issue in the budget. In this fiscal year, however, crime prevention support for the Ministry of Home Affairs, is budgeted at 6.88% of total expenditure and in the case of the DPPs office, the allocation remains the same. I ask again, is this a fair and inclusive approach? Education is indeed one of the priorities of this budget: Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry Responsible for Infrastructure. However, it  was this administration that came to the people and promised that education would be a key component of the socio-economic upliftment of Belize. The Government had promised easier access to education for Belizeans and that greater investments would be made. Is this, free education, you know Madam Speaker, free education from preschool to 6th form, is this a fair and inclusive approach?”

Panton also touched on an issue that the public is very upset about- the continued increases in prices of fuel. The Albert Area Representative told those on the government that it is time for the public to feel some sort of tax relief.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative. Albert: “Madam Speaker, it is time. It is time for the people of Belize to begin to feel the positive impact of this growing economy. It is time for us to accelerate the housing program for low income families. It is time to provide greater fuel subsidies to our small farmers and other members of our local productive sector so that our commodities can remain competitive because you said, sir, you would do it differently. There have been 54 price adjustments in fuel costs since November of 2020. Madam Speaker, everyone, every Belizean knows that almost 42%, almost half of the fuel at the pumps, is the result of the taxes imposed by this Government. Yes Government needs revenue but also our productive sector needs some temporary relief. It is time to actively review – these were commitments you made in your Plan Belize Manifesto Prime Minister.- so it is time to actively review the baskets of goods upon which tax relief can be guaranteed and to vigorously increase enforcement of price controls and adopt measures to curb price gouging.”