Senate Considers Request for Additional $69 Million for Various Projects

Senate Considers Request for Additional $69 Million for Various Projects

Senators met in session today in Belmopan where several matters brought forth from the House of Representatives.  One of those matters was the request for additional monies, referred to as the General Appropriation Bill.  The Government is seeking to get an additional sixty-nine million dollars for various projects across the country.  The sixty-nine million dollars, to be gotten from CABEI, include one point nine million for a rural financing program, six million dollars for upgrade of the Corozal Border Port; four point five million dollars for an upgrade of a portion of the Southern Highway, from the Dump to Jalacte; twenty-four million dollars for the Philip Goldson Highway; and 30 million dollars for the Belize Integral Security Program.  It is a hefty sum for the government to be requesting just two months after the budget for this fiscal year had been debated and approved.  Senator for Government Business, Eamon Courtenay, explained why this request was necessary.

Eamon Courtenay, Senator: “The first reason Madam President for which no one can take any pride is that it came to the attention of the government, specifically the Ministry of Finance that a number of projects that were ongoing and which should have been included in this year’s budget did not reach the budget book. It arose according the Financial Secretary in his brief to the Cabinet that when payments came due the Ministry of Finance realized that a number of ministries had failed to submit ongoing budget requests for projects that were ongoing and therefore funds had to be appropriated to meet the ongoing projects. The second reason Madam President is that grants were received from partners after the budget was debated. Those monies again relate to two things new projects as well as ongoing projects. When the budget was prepared money had not been received and therefore we could not appropriate it, we had no idea when it would come in. Those funds, approximately just over $10 million dollars have now come in and therefore we’re putting them into the budget to meet the projects that they are indexed to meet. And then of course Madam President there were of course urgent and unforeseen expenditures for example the fire for that school that burnt down, the decision by the government to provide support to the Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association in terms of fertilizer that again was not budgeted and had to be appropriated. So in terms of timing one, there are ongoing projects that should have been budgeted and regrettably and for which we are as a government have to accept responsibility which should have been budgeted and were not budgeted they’re now being brought forward. Secondly, grants that came in after the budget was debated and which we need to finance projects. Thirdly there are urgent and unforeseen expenditures which is required by law for us to get the permission of this honorable senate where possible to approve those expenditures before they’re undertaken. Madam President in addition to that there are expenditures for which parliamentary approval is sought in compliance with the constitution, that is to say a decision taken by the government to appropriate further sums not budgeted but which the government wishes to pursue and which require parliamentary approval not to spend the money and then many years later come and seek approval.”

UDP’s Lead Senator, Michael Peyrefitte refused to accept Courtenay’s explanation, saying that such a request reflects poor management and-or the need to fire all the CEOs.

Michael Peyrefitte, Senator: “You can’t just come to the Senate Madam President and say “My fault.” You see the ministries that have a management team, Minster, FO, AO, CEO, they just didn’t submit things when they were supposed to submit things and what you want us to do about that ? But it’s a lack of management. It’s a lack of planning. Then you need to fire your CEOs. You see Senator Montejo when you come to me or come to this Senate Ministry of National Defense and Border Security and you budget for the whole year $222,988 for operating costs, which ominous by itself, my bad there were some expenses we didn’t know we made or we didn’t turn in so now you come for that line item and ask in a supplemental for $304,844 dollars. Less than three months after your national budget presentation you come with a supplemental in a line item that is more than what you budgeted for for the whole year. That’s not a mistake. Madam President forgive the kriolism but how you get deh ? How you in planning your budget for 2023/2024 say you know we have something named Resilient Rural Belize we need $150,000 and in less than three months come to the National Assembly and say we were off by one million eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It doesn’t smell good. It doesn’t look good. Either somebody is mismanaging the funds or you’re not planning correctly because you cannot be that off.”

Union Senator Elena Smith also rose to speak on the supplementary budget.  She noted some concerns over the expenditure, and the accumulation of loans.

Elena Smith, Senator: “We are concerned as the National Trade Union Congress of Belize in terms of the bringing of this supplementary appropriation here before us so quickly after the budget exercise. And while we understand that there are areas within this document that are indeed important and that are necessary we believe it’s concerning because we are as I said we’re just in June. What will happen another month from now ? Two months from now ? Three months from now ? And we will end up by the end of the fiscal year where end up and we keep saying from our end that while we as public officers and teachers sacrifice for the benefit of this entire country to get us out of a hole we are slowly inching our way back into that hole. And I know I am going to be told “that’s no so.”  but when we look Madam President at the constant increasing and we’re looking at again as we see loans and so forth coming in then we have to believe that we will end up to that point again. We once more as we normally do will caution that when we are preparing our budgets that the time is taken to properly go through what each ministry will need and to also look at what might come so that when we prepare these budgets they’re closer to what it should be instead of having to come here so early and having us to look at an amount of this magnitude.”

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