The Dean Barrow administration will be demitting office in about twenty three days. With thousands of unemployed Belizeans currently receiving Covid-19 relief via a weekly stipend or the Boost program, many are concerned over whether the assistance will continue with a change in administration. During Friday’s press conference with Prime Minister Barrow he explained that currently they are still seeking additional funding to leave enough money behind to continue the initiative.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: It’s something like fifty odd thousand that we’re dealing with in phase two and we’re going to be able to pay out everybody and conclude phase two be the end of the first week in November. Now we are still negotiating with CABEI for something like $20 million US dollars to help with the unemployment relief that’s taking a little bit of time to come through. I expect that it will come through before the elections and it may well be that we- I would certainly propose that we start phase three. Clearly we will not get very far and it will be for the incoming administration to continue it but with any luck at all we will get that $20 million or so US dollars from CABEI so that a phase three can start but phase two will be finished at the end of the – in other words everybody who has been approved will have been paid out by the end of the first week in November. Except of course there are like ten thousand or so persons who were longer term unemployed that had been provided for in phase one they have not been provided for in phase two they are to move to BCAT the Boost 2.0. As Judith would tell you unfortunately because of the documentation that was required it’s approved but we don’t see that happening until – they pay at the end of the month, we don’t see that we can get all the ducks in a row to start paying them at the end of October and so it will happen at the end of November. I hope whoever comes next will be gracious enough to acknowledge that it will be happening because your humble servant made every effort to get the funds unlocked including harassing the poor president of CABEI but on a serious note that’s what’s going to happen. Phase two will be completely taken care of by the end of the first week. We could possibly start phase three with just a week to go knowing that it would then have to be continued by the incoming administration. And in terms of the longer term unemployed as I say for sure they will be put on the Boost 2.0 and they will get their first payment at the end of November.”
And while the government is seeking additional money from CABEI, there is the issue of external and domestic debt that the next administration will have to face. On Friday Prime Minister Barrow spoke of hope for debt forgiveness; in that same light he also spoke of ‘a poison chalice’ that the next Prime Minister will have to bear.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “These are people who are steeped in the ways of the world and in the ways of international finance and who recognize that this is a once in a generation pandemic and disaster and so they must know that coming down the pipe there will have to be a day of reckoning in which they are going to have to grant substantial relief on the sums that we have borrowed and continue to borrow from them. It’s, I’m afraid, a poisoned chalice that’s going to be handed to the new Prime Minister but I continue to think that because the international environment will have to facilitate debt relief, will have to facilitate debt relief together with expanded financial assistance. I have to think that because when you hear about all the air lifts that are coming back I have to think that tourism will recover and recover fairly quickly I have to think that the vaccine we just saw where is it Pfizer indicated it will be applying for emergency use authorization from the authorities in the states by the third week or so in November that with all these things we’re going to come out of this thing certainly from the health point of view by the middle of next year in the meantime if our economic recovery especially in terms of tourism can continue apace and you add to all that the absolute requirement that there will be for the international community, the international financial institutions to do what they have to, what they must in terms of debt relief and we get through the kind of restructuring fundamental restructuring of our commercial debt that is required that really okay.”