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September 21
20:37 2019

Saturday, 21st. September 2019 –

Today, as is customary every 21st day of September, representatives at every level of government and Opposition, members of the diplomatic corps, clergy and judiciary, invited guests and observers gathered at the foot of the National Assembly for the official ceremonies marking Independence Day.

While various persons including Mayor of Belmopan Khalid Belisle addressed the crowd, each year Belizeans have anticipated nothing as much as the addresses by the leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, who befitting the occasion play nicer than normal, but true to political form, never fail to throw blows.

Today’s addresses were toned down more than on previous years, and Prime Minister Barrow, who will be demitting office next year, stuck to the government script – we are living in a good country.

“And one testament to that is the economic headway that 2019 has so far brought. Given the fears of a global slowdown precipitated by the trade wars and other geopolitical realities, Belize’s economic performance in the first quarter of this year has been reassuring. GDP grew in the three months from January through March, by an unusual 5.2%. And the even better accompanying news was that the unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 7.6%. Admittedly, second quarter GDP greatly lagged the first quarter and an actual decline of 0.8% was recorded. But when the two quarters are put together, in aggregate we are still much ahead of par and much ahead of peers in the region, stated the PM.

PM Barrow made reference to serious challenges, like that posed to agriculture by the prolonged drought and also made mention of what the government and Central Bank have done to minimize the impact to the banking sector of the loss of Choice Bank and Atlantic International Bank Limited. And as to crime, he says GOB is doing what they need to do – “We found the money to pay for the new Police recruit intake, all 200 odd of them. But this is only the beginning. Every effort will be made in various ways to strengthen citizen security in Belize City and the District Towns. Here again our nationalized BTL will play a key role as it partners with the Belize Police Department to turn, first, the old Capital into a safe City. We are looking at the purchase, via BTL, of at least 200 new cameras that come with advanced facial and license plate recognition software. But we are also exploring with the Taiwanese their willingness to help based on the model safe cities program they have already pioneered in their own country.”

Leader of the People’s United Party John Briceño was not hesitant in throwing blows, and came out swinging, claiming that Belizeans are a people now weary

with worry. “The promise of endless possibilities that were to come in this current decade have been shattered by lost opportunities due to incompetence, corruption and now a general sense of malaise. The result of all this is a people weary from worry; worry about their personal safety. Worry about their economic security; about poverty and deprivation. Worry about an uncertain future and more so worried about the kind of nation we are building for our children.

“How could they not feel this way when our poor instead of being uplifted are being dragged into greater poverty due to an all but stagnant economy? How could they not feel this way when our middle class is shrinking and collapsing under burdensome taxes and the lack of vision by their government? How could they not feel this in the absence of any enthusiasm in the productive sector or when their children are not receiving the quality education needed and when their grandparents cannot receive adequate and affordable health care? To put it all in perspective, at present we are a nation weary from worry.”

The event, as has become traditional, included the ceremonial inspection of the Guard of Honour, as well as presentations and music.

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