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A Lazy and Ineffective Budget

March 30
10:58 2019
  • By Nefretery Marin – 

On March 15th, 2019 Prime Minister Dean Barrow presented Belize’s National Budget for 2019 -2020, under a fantastic title; “Moving ahead with strong and steady economic growth; expending of opportunities for business and personal advance; and rededication to basic social protection.”

But then he announced that the larger portion of his 1.2-billion-dollar budget will go to even more infrastructural projects, namely roads and bridges. That is a scary budget.

It is in fact a very lazy cash-based budget; it does not give us the full picture. The PM has failed to explain in his budget how he plans to service our liabilities. We must not forget the bond, Mr. Ashcroft, Venezuela, the new loans and all the other debts we still have. None of this is really reflected in this budget.

It does not plan for the future. It does not plan for any disasters and what is not forecast will not materialize.

The building of roads and bridges is good for any developing country, but the kickbacks and the low quality of projects topped off by all the engineering mistakes they try to hide from the public will be too much for our people to pay back; especially when presented with such an ineffective and unsustainable national budget.

There is no investment in industries and in people.

The problem with such an ineffective budget is that it undermines the ability to reorient spending towards the poor; this stems from political reluctance to recognise the need for sustainable, better paying jobs for our people. They ignore the need to protect our industries by cutting down on imports that compete with our local produce and products. They fail to attract new investors for the creation of industries, training and education.

The Prime Minister does not seem to understand that while we protect our local enterprise, we must make it a priority to finally grow our middle class while lifting up the poor.

Tough choices must be made for budget discipline, because any and all ill-disciplined approaches to the national budget in months nearing election will be detrimental to his Party, if in fact he had one last miracle to his name (which I highly doubt).

There are no simple solutions, and none of us have all the right answers; though a strong common-sense approach could have suggested that this UDP government is aware of the implications of the choices they are making on behalf of our people…

Still, the fragility of the commitment to invest in our people is evident in all of the pages upon pages of this budget.

As far as I am concerned, Belize’s public expenditure must better serve the interests of our people before we can say we have a healthy economy. To achieve this, however, we desperately need political will to confront difficult choices as it relates to necessary and unnecessary spending.

The PM is very proud of his paved roads but has failed in quality control which will result in much more deaths on our highways. In their attempt to keep all the money for their families and cronies and to collect kickbacks, they have forgotten the importance of human life. I strongly advise Belize to keep a close eye on the Iguana Creek junction and the road leading to San Antonio, in Cayo.

They spoke of building new schools but have forgotten to maintain what we already have. I saw no investments in new programs for our High Schools or colleges. I would have loved to hear that we will invest in Science and Technology, in Art and in Music…no such luck for our students.

It would have been good to learn of a new canning factory, or new incentives for local farmers…no such luck for our farmers.

It would also have been nice to announce a day care centre for government workers…Nope, we did not get that either.

It would have given me particular pleasure to hear that after 2 plus years of a broken Air-Conditioning unit at the San Ignacio Policlinic, we would get that fixed – that more of our villages would be getting new health clinics, but no, that was not important either.

I believe that with such a rise in hideous crime around our country, it would have given us a “particular pleasure” to hear that our PM would have a state of the art Forensic Lab and training for Forensic investigators; but no…Sorry Belize the Caracol road and bridges are more important than human life. They are more important than justice, more important than health and certainly more important than your jobs to feed your families.

Prime Minister Barrow, the hardships we are facing are real. They are difficult, and they are embarrassing for your government.

When families cannot eat 3 healthy meals per day, or our children must drop out of school because we cannot pay the tuition…when a boy must choose between practicing a sport he loves or going to school because he only has one pair of shoes for the year…but your children have shoes for each outfit…that Prime Minister, is UNACCEPTABLE!

When families cannot afford basic needs like water and electricity, or cannot afford much more than Ramen; when a mother carries her two month old baby on her back to pick beans in a field to make ends meet and she has an Associate’s Degree tucked away in her drawer out of embarrassment…Prime Minister Barrow, when these things are happening and you are proud of your Budget, this means you are not fit to lead. You have failed our people!

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