The Briceno administration is working on coming up with three hundred million dollars to remedy the severe debt that they inherited when they took office in November 2020. According to Prime Minister John Briceno the previous administration had borrowed in excess of five hundred million dollars in 2020 alone. Last Friday in speaking with Prime Minister John Briceno he explained that the majority of the government’s expenses is the wage and pension bills.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: They’ve been borrowing to the tune of almost a million dollars a day to be able to pay salaries and to pay electricity, to pay light bill and once you do that you virtually bankrupt.”
Reporter: Prime Minister one of the hard and fast questions or actions that people are looking forward for you to to take is to basically address the wage bill. It’s weighing down in terms of the government expenditure is this something that you’ll be looking at in the immediate future ?
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well we have to look at everything. As it is right now the wage bill and the pension bill combined is approximately about over 80% of the budget and we in December announced that we will start. We have taken a 10% cut into our salaries as a gesture of good will to show that we’re prepared to do what is necessary. We’re going to sit down with the unions and with a blank sheet of paper and we’re going to see what are the steps that we can take to be able to cover this huge crater in the budget, how we’ll be able to try to reduce the debt that we have. I mean the UDP alone just of late over the past year has borrowed almost a billion dollars all from paper from Central Bank and it’s unsustainable. We have to fix it and we can only fix it with our partners of which both the Public Service Union and the Teachers Union they are our partners and we have to do it together, it’s not myself or them but all of us together as to how we’re going to fix it.”
Reporter: Is the government now considering retrenchment in the public service and those who remain employed receive a 20% pay cut ?
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “We haven’t considered anything. As I said we have a blank paper and we are going to sit down with our partners and together we have to make the decisions and whatever decisions that we come that will be able to get us on a sustainable footing we are going to do that but we cannot continue to spend money that we don’t have because if we continue like that you know everything is going to crash.”
Reports have been circulating over recent weeks that the Briceno administration had spent extravagantly on the purchasing of new vehicles for CEOs. The Prime Minister explained to the media on Friday that they did make some purchases but it was a special agreement made with the CEOs.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “That is not true. We have acquired five vehicles for a total of I think $360,000 and the reason that we did that is because simply the previous government sold all of the good vehicles and the vehicles that they left are junk that you can’t use. Many of us are using our own private vehicles, I am using my own vehicle, I have not had the government buy a vehicle for me simply because we don’t have the money. So we cannot be buying luxurious vehicles I mean when I hear that people in the opposition and some in the media are saying that we have bought vehicles that are costing over $200,000 that’s an absolute lie. We have been buying these small vehicles like the Rav4s but in the Ford brand which are cheaper than Toyotas because we need to keep the cost down. Some CEOs have decided to buy their own vehicle and they’re paying for that it’s not the government that is paying that because then with the vehicle allowance that is what they use to be able to pay for their own vehicles. We do not have the money to splurge and we’re doing everything possible to ensure that the little we have we spend it where it’s needed most and it’s not in vehicles.”
With the government spending an estimated one million dollars per day to cover its operational expenses the Prime Minister explained that they are looking at every expense to see how it can be streamlined including the Superbond payments.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Right now it’s a little less than a million dollars but yes we still continue to do that. That is why we have set up a high powered economy recovery task force. We got the best of the best in the different sectors of the economy and now they are trying to see they are coming up with ideas as to how they could get the economy going. The point of the matter is that we have to get the economy working. We have a debt recovery team that is starting to look at the process. I will be coming to the public soon as to what is the process that we’re taking but we are looking at everything is on the table, everything. And I said it when I was in opposition that when we look at the restructuring of the superbond or the renegotiation of the superbond we are looking for a haircut we don’t want no differing of payments and so forth because it just continues to cost the Belizean people more. So we are going to tell them plain we are going to tell them plain we have to get a cut that’s the only way we’ll be able to settle this once and for all.”