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Sparks in Senate Over GOB Second Supplementary Bill

Another issue coming up at today’s Sitting of the Senate is the supplementary bill that was presented at Friday’s house meeting. The General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation Bill is a request by the government to the National Assembly that they be authorized to spend monies that was not originally accounted for. Rising to speak on the request for additional monies was the lead opposition senator, Michael Peyrefitte. The basis of most of his argument centered around the fact that it was only six weeks ago that the government had presented a Supplementary Appropriation Bill.

Michael Peyrefitte, Senator: “I think it would be helpful for us to understand in plain English and bad manners what a supplementary appropriation is. The government comes out with a budget in March for the fiscal year to go to the following March but life happens and sometimes things that are not anticipated come up and you have to come back to the National Assembly for more money. In plain English. So I budgeted $100 for human resources and during the year I realized I need $20 more dollars so I come to the National Assembly for $20 more dollars. What you would expect Madam President,  and I got into some trouble for praising the Minister of Finance the last time you know. The titular substantive, defacto in real Minister of Finance Senator Coye. When you budget Madam President say a hundred dollars and you come back and say you want another five dollars, or another seven dollars, you can understand that you could be off, contingencies, it is reasonable. But when you come back and say I want twenty five more dollars then there is something wrong with your budgeting and you’re not anticipating what you may or may not need or you better come up with a good explanation as to what requires you to divert from your budget in such an extreme fashion. Especially Madam President we came here in October 25th with a supplementary. Now, we’re coming back here December 6th with another supplementary. So what this government is telling us Madam President is that in October they anticipated they needed more money that they had budgeted for to take them to March 2022. So we have to assume that when you bring a supplementary budget in December you are saying that something happened between October 25th and today to make you believe that you need more money that you didn’t anticipate that you needed in October. The government has to explain the urgency.”

Senators for the union, the private sector and the NGOs shared the sentiments of the opposition Senator. Each explained that there were additional factors that they have based their objections on.

Osmany Salas, Representative for Non-Governmental Organizations: “My colleague before me you presented a very comprehensive list of questions and I’ve quite a few of those and I won’t repeat them because the questions have been asked, I have asked my own questions in preparation to this meeting. I reached out to a few ministers and I received some responses but I look forward before the debate closes for the government’s side to respond to some of these questions for the record and as we know and as we said several times a supplementary appropriation bill is a money bill no matter what we say or do or how we vote this is passing but it doesn’t stop us from asking the key question and my colleague before me asked a lot of the ones I was going to ask and I won’t be repetitive but there is one I want to go back to. I want to go to one in particular and it’s the one my colleague just now ended with the supplementary constituency development support. And yes I was going to point out, and I will again, I will repeat that in October three and a half million dollars was approved and now we are at three point one five million dollars. So if these funds are equally divided among all the thirty one representatives it amounts to just under a a quarter million dollars each that’s a lot of money in these hard times but also in these times that requires fiscal restraint.”

Elena Smith, Representative for the Unions: “My colleague on the other side has really and truly gone into what we would have raised anyway but I must say Senator Peyrefitte I agree with you. I fully agree with you if that makes it better. For us Madam President when we look through this supplementary for example and we look at these personal emoluments as my colleague said my goodness this is a slap in the face to us. Those of us who had to sacrifice, we had no choice. We were here October and we’re here again and when we look at the amounts that we’re approving again it really and truly begs a lot of questions. We can only hope Madam President that this is not going to be how we are operating going forward. Because if it is that we have to come here in October and the come again in December and it’s like every six weeks we are coming we are really and truly not doing what we ought to be doing. And so we often expect a lot of other people and we often criticize when people are not being accountable and transparent and again I must say we have a government who came on the platform of accountability and transparency and we are not seeing that the way we expect that that should be seen.”

Kevin Herrera, Senator, Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Belize Business Bureau: “The area that I would like to zero in on to make my point there is on the constituency development fund I believe it’s called. If you add the supplementary in October and the one in December here you’re looking at I believe six point six million dollars increase in supplementary. In my view Madam President I think that type of allocation, and if you look at the one for December it’s the second largest line item increase in the supplementary three point five million I believe, but I believe a lot of that is for partisan political work in these constituencies and like I said we made a lot of sacrifices in March. I voted to support the budget back then with the understanding that we would have been making these sacrifices. In my opinion putting six point six million in the constituency development fund for October and December is a bit much.”