One of the many demands that the Joint Unions has made is for ministers to be stripped of allowances. Prime Minister John Briceno says that these allowances are used to assist constituents and describes this specific demand has spiteful.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “As it is we’ve already taken a fifteen percent cut. We’ve already cut our allowances by fifty percent but what a lot of people – well they do or they don’t want to fully accept at this time is that those allowances are basically we use that money to be able to help people in our constituencies so it’s not as if we’re taking that money for ourselves we’re using it. I found it ridiculous when some people in the union are saying we should not even get a vehicle allowance for those that are using our own vehicle. I’m using my personal vehicle and now they’re saying they even want to cut that, that’s being malicious that’s not being reasonable. So I think we’ve been doing our part. As to the collecting of taxes what is the irony about this is that when a union member talks about government not collecting they are the ones that are responsible to collect the taxes it’s not the ministers they are the ones. And I would challenge any public officer right now to say that I have called as the Minister of Finance telling them don’t charge tax to anybody, we need to collect the taxes but to try to collect taxes it will take a process. Some of these people that haven’t paid some don’t want to pay, some don’t care and some just don’t have the money. The point is that it will take time for us to be able to collect those monies and we don’t have time right now. Every month we have to write cheques and make direct deposits to pay salaries, every month our over draft goes up and then we continue to borrow more from Central Bank so we simply don’t have. Belize has run out of time. These actions should have been done two years ago, Belize was in a financial crisis before COVID and the Barrow administration was printing money to pay salaries before COVID that is the reality but they hid it and the other irony about this whole thing is that the very same people, union people or some of these union members that are hurling accusations they’ve been in there for thirteen years, what is it that they did for the past thirteen years ? Why didn’t they be making noise and talking about the waste and the corruption that took place during the past thirteen years ? And now they expect us that in less than six months we’re going to fix it. I mean if I had a magic wand and just let it disappear I would happily do that. If I could sign a paper and it disappears I’d be happy to do that.”
Responding to PM Briceno was NTUCB President Luis Martinez. Martinez says that the unions have not been asleep but rather active in the past decade.
Luis Martinez, President, NTUCB: “Some people talk about “What were the unions doing thirteen years ago?” the unions haven’t gone anywhere. We have been from a long time. Or Christopher Columbus needs to come tell us all over ? Right ? We don’t need Christopher Columbus to come tell us that the unions have been working hard to represent every single sector in this country. Every single sector from the public sector, private sector, the people that go to church , the people that don’t go to church we have been there and we’re not going anywhere.”