Senate Debates $14 Million Loan to Strengthen Belize’s Fisheries Sector
A loan motion was also taken to the Senate today. The loan is for fourteen million dollars, and will seek to strengthen the fisheries sector and fisher folk. The motion did meet objections from the opposition through UDP Senator Anthony Herrera. His objections, however, were quickly responded to by Senator Eamon Courtenay, who said it is important that the public is not misled or misinformed.
Antonio Herrera, UDP Senator: “We’re here again for another loan. $7 million dollars. $14 million Belize dollars. Madam president first of all we are to note that on section 204 it states that this loan will be dispersed over a five-year period meaning that it’s about $1.4 million per year. So now we are here again saying why didn’t we budget for this small amount of money. It’s going to be over a 5-year period anyway but yet we are coming again with a loan saddling the Belizean people with another loan. My brother even if interest is small we still have to pay. Once we borrow it we have to pay. Therefore we are saying why not budget? We are in agreeance that the sustainable fishing is very valuable, very important. It’s very needed at this point.”
Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The Belizean public are listening. We have students present and I don’t want to get the wrong impression. The documents were provided to all senators but not all senators read it. Senators got up and spoke not having read it and misinformed the Belizean people about what actually this loan is about. It is important madam president to first of all state for the record what the objective of the loan is. It is to improve income generation capacity for artisanal fisherfolk and to maintain export levels of fisheries products while contributing to the sustainable use of commercial oceanic resources. We need to do things differently. One, we want to increase the income of the artisanal fisher folk. Two, we want to ensure that the data that Senator Chanona is available and the paper if Senator Peyrefitte had read it would see that it refers to both the past data that is in existence and the data that is to be collected is going to be collected, systematized and used in order to adopt sustainable fishing practices. And thirdly madam president we have to ensure that over the long-term the ocean, the sea, that we have will be able to provide a livelihood not only for the current generation but for the future generation.”
Also responding to the opposition’s rejection of the loan motion was Senator Christopher Coye. Coye responded particularly to the criticism of increased loans under the Briceno administration.
Christopher Coye, PUP Senator: “I can see why things were so bad under the past administration. It’s a complete lack of vision, complete lack of vision. Thinking about today not about tomorrow. You refer to this loan here as more loans, more loans. But what had been happening in the past was a bucket full of loans leading up to 2020 including 2020 but no growth so that’s why we couldn’t pay the bills. That’s why the past administration couldn’t pay the bills. But in the functioning of a government you’re always dealing with debt. Day in day out you’re always dealing with debt but you have to be know how to manage your debt clearly the past administration had no clue how to manage debt, how to manage the public finances. This administration does and what is critical is how you grow the economy. By growing the economy you can have debt because you know you can pay for the debt, you can service the debt and that’s what easily we have been doing over the past several years easily. So you don’t have to be a financial guru to know that, that’s just basic math. So I really would appreciate for us to hear something new rather than the same old all the time which honestly makes no sense if you watch the numbers.”
The motion was approved by the Senate with support from the private sector as indicated by Senator Kevin Herrera.
Kevin Herrera, Senator: “Generally I don’t have an issue with multilateral low interest loans that have long-term repayment. And so we’re looking at a loan right now of 25 years and it was borrowed to address an area in the productive sector which is in the fishing industry. Now we all know madam president that when you’re looking at the extractive industries, sustainability becomes key. I support the motion of course I also have concerns with debt in general but from a multilateral standpoint madam president with low interest, longer payment periods especially when they are directed at the productive sector I think this one is very justifiable and I fully support it.”
Janelle Chanona, NGO Senator: “I think we support the purpose of this loan in so far as putting action to it, creating this environment but please do not think for one second that one 7 million US dollar loan is going to play anywhere because as a senator Coye has called out the conservation organizations of this country for decades have been soliciting grants all sorts of financial mechanisms to support these sectors. So while it does my conservation heart go to hear the senators call this out I want to emphasize that what we need is to take action because to put these resources in financial terms we are borrowing it from the next generation but if we exhaust it, if we don’t take care of these resources we have nothing to onlend. We have nothing to put forward and it is critical that we don’t get stuck in saying “oh we need a research paper for this.” I am telling you we have the data. We just have to get together and start to make decisions based on that data so that we have decisions to make. If we continue to do the same thing and expect a different result we will be left with no choice, no choice. So as hard as whatever decisions are already here that we know we have to make we at least have some choices left to make but the window is closing. So that is our contribution this morning on this loan madam president thank you.”