Sustainable Development Minister discusses ministry priorities during Cabinet retreat
Yesterday, we reported on Prime Minister John Briceño’s Cabinet retreat. He and his ministers paid particular focus on some of the achievements of Plan Belize, the party’s manifesto. In addition to citizen security, there were discussions on how Belize can improve the services of the Fire Department and how the country meets its international conservation obligations. Both these wide topics fall under the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management. The media asked Minister Orlando Habet today for some specifics.
Orlando Habet, Minister of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management: “During our discussions in the retreat we looked at a broad array of different topics and areas certainly one of the more concerning ones is finance because any project that we want will require finance. We are restricted because of the national budget and how much we can get by each ministry and so historically ministers or the administrators would even submit a 10 -15% additional amount so that when they cut from one side you get what you actually want. Our Ministry of Finance is sort of operating differently trying to see exactly what you mentioned that we can provide the priority areas, budget for it and see how we can fit within. We have to try to see what we have and then we budget. For our ministry in reality the areas that are largely operational like fire, NEMO for certain which is important when we have incidents every year especially with the advent of climate change, those are areas that we have to prioritize. With the Forestry Department it’s not as significant because they will generate some funding, they also have projects like the Selva Maya project and other projects that we can get some funding to operationalize the Forestry Department and the National Biodiversity Office. Climate change also is important but as far as we can attest what we have to do from our ministry now is to provide alternatives to government. For example we are going to try to see how we join the rest of the world in reducing the use of fossil fuels, trying to have efficiency in our electricity and energy so maybe even these bulbs which are fluorescent bulbS can go LED’s because you reduce the amount of energy that you use. Also in terms of trying to see how we can encourage investment into more solar energy production. There is contemplation of even looking at wind power to see if that’s feasible so we are looking at those areas and hopefully also what we can contribute from our the ministry is to assist in identifying those investments for projects that will green the economy.”
Also, during the two-day retreat, the Minister of Health and Wellness Kevin Bernard highlighted several areas of concern that will be prioritized this year. One of the key initiatives is launching the NHI program throughout the entire country. This will be rolled out shortly in Orange Walk. Also, the ministry is looking to hold a discussion next week about its budget for this year. Minister Bernard provided additional details during a press encounter earlier today.
Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “The health system and the health of this nation is a critical component of those discussions. We’re talking about ensuring that primary care is improved across this country. Our ministry, our directors have been putting their very best foot forward to ensure that we put strong policies forward. Now Cabinet has agreed and we all know that health is a priority just as education, just as making sure that we see more of our people get employment but my function as the Minister of Health is to take our needs and our challenges to Cabinet and lobby for us to be able to get the necessary resources and this is why I mentioned that the improving of the Central Medical Store, the improving of delivery and services, to ensure that the drug inspector unit is fully functional, we have made sure that we have a new drug inspectorate that heads the unit and our people are now out there getting out there making sure they’re doing the inspections. We’re talking also about making sure that we can expend the NHI. NHI is going to be rolled out across this country over the next few years. We’re going to be doing that in Orange Walk pretty soon and we’re talking about almost 268,000 Belizeans that will be able to benefitted once we roll out to Orange Walk. When we fully then roll out NHI over the next few years you’re talking about more than 400,000 Belizeans that will be able to access, needy Belizeans, that will be able to access health services especially primary care health services. And so the more we provide these type of initiatives and programs to assist our people and addressing primary care the less strain it is on our regional and tertiary facilities. But at the end of the day healthcare starts from a very young age. You have to protect and prevent. So it’s about prevention, it’s about education, it’s about ensuring we’re addressing primary care at every level, at the rural community, at the urban level and at the countrywide level. So it is imperative that at the Cabinet retreat that these issues were mentioned.”
Minister Bernard also indicated that his ministry will put more focus on cancer-related programs, similar to the ones for diabetes, hypertension and HIV/AIDS.