Parliamentarians met this morning in what would be the quickest Budget Debate the country has ever seen. Prior to the debate of the budget, the Speaker of the House, Laura Tucker-Longsworth took a few minutes to express a few sobering thoughts on today’s sitting and the looming COVID-19.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Madam Speaker we’re all being called upon to make sacrifices at this time and accordingly as a small gesture but every little bit will help even a widow’s might I want to announce that all ministers have agreed to forego one month’s salary having that amount go instead to the fund that’s going to be chartered for the relief efforts, in my own case I will take no further allowances salaries or allowances from government for the rest of the period during which we’re dealing with this emergency. I want to call on CEOs of statutory bodies, on the chair of the boards of directors for statutory bodies, on the CEOs and chairs of the majority government owned utility companies that is BEL, BTL and BWSL to join with others in offering a gesture of sacrifice whether they would agree to take some monthly cut in salary or whether they want to do an all at once thing. I certainly believe that as critical leaders they ought to join in trying to set an example and indicating to the people who will be especially squeezed, the people at the margins that we are certainly prepared to do our little bit to assist.”.
During today’s session, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that all Cabinet members have agreed to give up one month’s salary to be re-directed to the funds for Belize’s COVID response. The PM went even further, however, by stating that he will be giving up his salary and allowances for several months.
Laura Tucker Longsworth, House Speaker: “I wanted to comment a little bit because I came to the meeting this morning, in fact I didn’t sleep very well because I agonized coming to this meeting where we’re sitting shoulder to shoulder in defiance of the four feet separation that we need and you’re all the elected members of this house we are depending on you all in this house to move us forward and I think that we have got to set the example and ensure that we follow the science of social distancing. In Belize like other nations when we receive our first news of confirmation it will not be one person, it will be probably be between ten and fifteen persons inundating our health system and our health services and that’s the truth and if you watch the international news you will see our first world countries they are having a hard time keeping up with the supplies, pharmaceuticals, health professionals are becoming infected so I wanted to ask this honorable house and I notice the media as well you’re standing shoulder to shoulder and you follow you are the ones who are reporting why, there’s lots of space why are you not apart ? Are we not really understanding what we’re facing in Belize? I think that we have to keep in mind that our health system we have only about a thousand six hundred and twenty six health workers, you can probably add another fifty eight if you add dentists. Of that number you have possibly about eight hundred nurses, you have perhaps three hundred or so doctors and so on how are we going to help our people? This morning I brought my tape measure to make a point. You’ve got to take care of ourselves.”