The next two days are anticipated to be long and drawn out as the Briceno administration and the opposition will go head-to-head in debating the new budget estimated at just over one point two billion dollars. It is a figure that will make you whistle, albeit a smaller proposed budget than the previous fiscal year. For the fiscal year 2021-2022, the Briceno administration is projecting revenue collection at just over one billion dollars while the crippling wage bill will take more than fifty percent. To date, there is a deficit of eighty million dollars that the Government is looking to close, and are seeking the help of the public officers and teachers to do so. The problem is that not all public officers are on board. Prime Minister John Briceno first presented the budget to the house on April nine and it was on this occasion that the opposition side of the house walked out mid-proceedings. In his presentation, PM Briceno noted, quote, “With an economy already firmly in recession, having contracted all of 2019, the pandemic quickly turned the UDP recession into a full-blown depression. In addition to the thousands unable to find work before Covid-19, sixty-four thousand more Belizeans lost jobs, thousands of businesses pivoted to emergency mode after a mandatory lockdown, and the Government, hamstrung from years of excessive borrowing, mismanagement and distracted by a pre-election feeding frenzy, could do very little, except, of course, to borrow, borrow and borrow more. By none other than Mister Barrow himself.” End of quote.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “The financial crisis that the UDP left the country and by extension us as a new government it is something that we just can’t play over or just breeze over it. It is important for Belizeans to fully appreciate what we’re trying to do ; that we cannot continue in the ways where we’re just spending and spending and not seeing as to the revenues that are coming in and to address the underlying fundamental issues that are affecting the country. The issues that how we’re going to grow the economy, how we’re going to create jobs and by extension that can help us to be able to get into fiscal sustainability within the government. We basically said that the wage cut is going to be there, we’ve been consulting endlessly with the unions and we’re prepared to continue talking to them but the fact of the matter is and without being in any way disrespectful is that we just don’t have the money. There is no money to be able to continue to pay the amount of wages that are in front of us.”
The hardships and the struggles currently facing the country come at no surprise as Belizeans and politicians were warned of these days of reckoning.
Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister of Belize: “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.”
The budget debate begins at nine in the morning in Belmopan. It will be carried on Love FM, Love Television and on our Facebook LIVE.