Senator Herrera Critiques Budget Draft, Questions Allocation Ratios

Senator Herrera Critiques Budget Draft, Questions Allocation Ratios

Senator Herrera utilized the full-time allotted to each member. In the last leg of his address, he spoke on the ratio of staff to monies allocated for salaries.  In the following byte, Herrera questioned the draft estimates in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing as well as the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources. 

Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “Madam President in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing there’s 415 members of staff now, and it’s projected to decrease by 406, which is a nine-person decrease. But in the budgeted there’s $10.7 million budgeted. No, there’s $10.7 millio -“

President of the Senate: “Senator, just a reminder, you have about seven minutes more to go.”
Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “I shall be wrapped up by then, Madam President. Thank you. There’s a spending of $10.7 million dollars and there’s a projected next year of $11.1 million, which is a $370,000 increase, Madam President. Like I said, there’s a nine member staff decrease but then there’s an increase in the emoluments of $370,000. Just pointing it out again. In the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Madam President, 256 members of staff, now 259 projected which is an increase of three. But then in this one, we see emoluments, the spending and emoluments in this current year was $5.9 million. Next year it’s estimated at $8.4 million which is $2.5 million increase, I don’t know where that is coming from for three additional members of staff. This is in the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples Affairs. $2.5 million for increase in three persons. Again, I don’t know if something went wrong there but it doesn’t, it seems like something is off there, Madam President. Ministry of Natural Resources, 152 members of staff, now 264 persons projected which is an increase of 112. That 112  $7.7 million dollars was spent this year $7.8 million dollars next year which is 105. 112 persons Madam President additional in the department should cost a lot more than $105,000 more. Again, the numbers seem a little off on that one.”

Herrera did not stop there as he also probed into the salaries of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “In the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Madam President, the increase in staff at 4,845 has not changed and will not change next year. But there’s an increase of $2 million in the emoluments in that area. And the last one I want to point out Madam President is in the Ministry of Health and Wellness. 2,088 staff, 2,085 projected which is a decrease of three persons but the emoluments in that area is going from $55 million this year to $63 million next year which is $7.4 million increase in emoluments. And again, something seems woefully off on those numbers. Madam President, I appreciate the time that you’ve given me to go over some of these numbers. These are things that really jumped out at me, and these are some of the bigger ones. I looked at things that had deviations of 5% or more, and so I didn’t want to belabor the point. I just wanted to make the point that some of the numbers did not seem… did not seem as realistic as perhaps they should be.”

After all was said and done, Senator Herrera presented the most thought-out assessment of the budget and the actual figures.  In the end, he gave the budget his thumbs up.  Here is how he explained it.

Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “In closing, this budget  overall I think is a fiscally respectable one. We have a growing GDP, we have an increase in revenues, we have relatively controlled expenses as we’ve seen in the overall. We have lower inflation, inflation is going down which is a good thing. I’m hoping that we’ll also see that people will also be able to feel it. I think that for a while we’ve been saying that inflation has been going down but people are still seeing all the high prices in a lot of areas, especially in fuel. There is a primary surplus, a small overall deficit, and a manageable foreign debt. While this is so, it also presents an opportunity to do more for the productive sector, more for accountability, more to tackle crime, more to tackle corruption and overall, Madam President, more for us to achieve a better quality of life. Let us use this year to develop creative solutions and build a more sound future for all the citizens of Belize because I think that this budget, these budgets and future budgets will present us an opportunity to go after projects and programs and initiatives that can improve people’s lives. And if we do it in a prudent way, if we do it in an efficient way, Madam President, if we do it in a way where we’re not only spending the money but we’re making sure that we’re getting value for money spent. If we tackle the areas of corruption and inefficiencies within the system, I think that we can achieve that future.”

We will have additional highlights of today’s Senate sitting in subsequent newscasts this week.

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