Responding to the Joint Unions today was Prime Minister John Briceno. The Prime Minister was interviewed by the Press Office during his visit in Orange Walk. PM Briceno described the meetings as cordial and respectful. Briceno says that while the government respects the Joint Unions’ position, the government has a responsibility to keep services available for the public.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “In the meetings the meetings are very cordial, they’re very respectful everybody they put their different perspectives as to what is it that they wish. Our disappointment is that when we finish the meetings we feel we have an agreement but whenever they go to the membership or at least the group that participate in the meetings are obviously that probably are the ones that are more worked up or more not wanting to settle for what they have been asking and we have been giving. So that part is disappointing but as I said we do respect the unions, we do support their right to work but at the same time as a government we have the responsibility to the rest of the nation to ensure that the country continues to work, that the schools are working, that there can be teachers teaching our children, that the hospitals are working that there are doctors and nurses available. These are services that are critical to the development of any country so we have not only a legal but a moral responsibility to ensure that we continue to offer these services to the Belizean people.”
Briceno believes that the unions’ strike action isn’t having a major impact. He says this is because the public understands the government decision to cut salaries.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well fortunately it seems that it’s not having a major impact. I believe that generally Belizeans understand what we’re doing. Belizeans understand that we’re not acting out of malice. Belizeans understand that there is a financial crisis. Belizeans understand that many of them, thousands of them lost their jobs. Fortunately the public service including the teachers they kept their jobs, they’ve been getting their salaries but it has gotten to a point where we just don’t have the money. We wish we could be paying them and giving them even more and helping all of those that don’t have a job but the truth is that we don’t have the money. For the past two years Mr.Barrow and the UDP borrowed over $700 million to pay salaries, to pay the light bill, electricity and rent; we can’t continue doing that. In this new financial year with the tightening up of our belts and just spending monies where we really need to spend in education, economy and health but with all of that the 10% cut that we’ve already done because the budget has already been passed we’re still short of almost $100 million to be able to pay salaries so we’re still not collecting enough to be able to pay salaries and that is what we’re trying to tell the unions. We don’t have it and we can’t continue to print money. If we continue to print money we could have hyperinflation and God forbid even a devaluation and we will not allow that to happen. A PUP government will not allow that to happen we’re going to do everything possible to protect the Belizean dollar.”