The Wage Bill is perhaps the most talked about issue since late last week when reports surfaced that the public officers and teachers would be affected. As we noted earlier, budget consultations are ongoing. The first consultation meeting was with the private sector in which over twenty recommendations were made to assist in the deficit. Prime Minister Briceno spoke on those recommendations.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “We are open to look at every idea. All the recommendations that they’re doing and we have Minister Coye and his team in the Ministry of Finance taking a look at all of them but the reality is that we have this crisis in front of us. The UDP left us with a $500 million dollar deficit and by the time you institute some of these things I mean you would not see the effect until months to come or over a year from now and the crisis is here and it is something that has to be addressed. As I’ve been saying it over and over that we come in good faith with the private sector and with the public sector, we are presenting to them the facts and then telling them okay let’s sit down, let’s throw ideas, let’s see how we can address this huge financial crisis that the UDP left on the hands of the Belizean people and it is not something that we are doing with any sense of being happy to say let’s blame the UDP; we do it with a heavy heart because it is now something that will require all of us to be able to do some form of sacrifice to put us back into financial sustainability. The wage cut would be the last thing that we want to do but we will look at what their recommendations and see what will be able to give us the quickest results starting the first of April.”
As the government seeks to address the five hundred million deficit there is the question as to the role of the Financial Secretary Joseph Waight. Waight has served under multiple administrations in that capacity; it has proven curious as to whether he had provided advice to the former administration regarding expenditure and the country’s borrowing which could have avoided the current economic crisis.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “We have not sat down to ask him those kinds of questions. The reality is that – well what he did point out if I could point out when we took him the Financial Secretary and the Former Prime Minister to court for spending unauthorized monies he did say that in many instances he advised the Prime Minister that these monies should not be spent because it’s unauthorized by government and the Prime Minister still signed the waiver and said well I am authorizing or I am overruling you and say yes we’re going to be spending these monies. So from that end we do know.”