Senate Debates $86.9 Million Appropriations Bill for Public Sector Expenditure

Senate Debates $86.9 Million Appropriations Bill for Public Sector Expenditure

The Senate convened today in Belmopan where they debated several Bills brought from last week’s House of Representatives. Among them, was the Appropriations Bill where government is seeking authorization from the parliament to an additional 86.9 million dollars to its expenditure?  Senator for Government Business, Eamon Courtenay, explained that the monies are to be used within the public sector.  The specifics entail, 37.6 million for recurrent expenditure; 31 point eight million dollar for Capital Expenditures 2 and 17.4 million under Capital Expenditures 3.  During his introduction of the Bill, Senator Courtenay said that a meeting was called with the other Senators to discuss the Appropriations.  Opposition Senator Beverly Williams conceded to the meeting, but said it was too last minute and poorly planned.

Senator Beverly Williams, Opposition Party (UDP): “I’m not certain that the details were provided. We did not get the long form and I would like to register our objection to the approached used in calling us before a meeting to explain without sending the documentation. Madam Speaker I attempted to look at the excel sheet that was sent to us and what can we say ? It’s recurrent indeed $37 million dollars most of it salaries, materials and supplies, operating costs. And I know my colleague Senator Coye might say we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity but calling us on the last minute is not the approach we like, I reiterate that. It just goes to show in my mind and looking at this poor planning as usual. We expected a supplementary in this quarter and if we look at that traveling and subsistence $1 million dollars. Operating costs $1 million dollars. Maintenance $1 million dollars. Grants $1 million dollars. Who is going to get those grants and why $1 million dollars, $1 million dollars,  $1 million dollars ? Compensation and indemnities $2.1 million dollars. I don’t know the $1 million dollars is it rounding up ? Is it just a figure being thrown in there ? Speaks in my view to poor planning. Under the – Senator Cal be careful – Attorney General ministry $1.5 million dollars. Maybe the Attorney General will tell us if the people in prosecution branch will finally get their due salary increase there. Other than that the grants Madam President there are donor funds so there’s not much to say there and again in CAP 2 of note is the $2 million dollars for the Caracol Road. I think Honorable Espat is big on boasting about saving $29 million dollars but we come back for $2 million dollars for Caracol Road under the CAP 2 project. Other than that poor planning Madam President what is to say it is will go through the House anyway, the Belizean people should know that we get up and we look at it there’s nothing much here that we can say about this bill other than poor planning.”

From the perspective of the private sector, Senator Kevin Herrera, in his debate on the Appropriations Bill had an issue with the six million dollars being appropriated for the Lands Department.

Senator Kevin Herrera, Private Sector: “The last point I wanted to raise Madam President is under the Ministry of Natural Resources, Petroleum and Mining. $6 million dollars. This one here Madam President I think there’s a lot more to this story I think than is being told and I really think that at some point the government should state to the public how much contingency liabilities exist in the Ministry of Natural Resources in terms of land acquisition or issues that they may have run in legally with respect to land owners but I understand it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars Madam President and I think this is a huge issue for us and we’ll continue to see this $6 million dollars and $10 million dollars coming in before us but to me it doesn’t tell the story. What we’re seeing here could easily be glossed over as additional monies needed in the ministry for it to run properly but there’s a larger issue underneath the surface here and I’m hoping that at some point government will be a little more transparent in this area Madam President. There’s a huge huge liability here and I don’t think the Belizean public is aware of how big this problem is and so I’m not very supportive of giving any money to the Ministry of Natural Resources as well until many of the issues that linger in that department that we’ve been hearing for years and years and years are addressed in any significant way. I think there are better uses for this type of money Madam President until there’s a serious effort to try to correct many of the ills in that ministry.”

Government Senator, Christopher Coye, also rose to speak on the appropriations, saying that many millions are being used to accommodate matters that the previous administration had left unattended.  Those matters include the raise for crown counsels, the acquisition of a catscan machine for the health sector, as well as the fulfillment of Proposal 22 for the BNTU.

Senator Chris Coye, Government Business: “And under whose purview was this matter ? Senator Peyrefitte ? Yes Senator Peyrefitte had responsibility for this, this was under the AG’s ministry. When there were adjustments to salary over the past administration for pubic officers, Crown Councils were unfortunately left out to the tune of 17% salary adjustment or being behind on that salary. So this is as Senator Collet mentioned a corrective measure. So it’s costly yes but it is what the Crown Councils area entitled to and we are honoring that obligation as government. When we look at the points raised I have to concede that it is yes a challenge to find the monies. This is a tall order but we have to respect the ambition of this government to meet the needs of the people and to honor the obligations of a good government.”

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