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Waste of Time Print E-mail
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Written by Jamil Matar   
Thursday, 11 March 2010 00:00
The present PUP leaders, in their so-called countrywide “consultations” with the people, continue to include in their list of talking points that the poverty levels which exist in our country today is the sole responsibility of the government of the United Democratic Party. In an effort to put this poverty issue into proper perspective, using quotes and all, I tried to locate a copy of the PUP’s 1998 Manifesto, “Set Belize Free”, but I guess I inadvertently disposed of it some time ago. And I say inadvertently because I usually keep those marvelous words of wonder, called manifestos, which the PUP produces every five years, in a very safe location.
  
To cut to the chase, I recall the above mentioned 1998 manifesto stating that not only would the PUP commit to eliminate poverty, but also the root causes of poverty. In other words, in addition to ensuring that every Belizean got relief from the clutches of destitution, the PUP would also not allow any other Belizean to become poor. Phew! A lofty goal if you ask me, and later on I guess they could have given the U.S. advice on how to implement this splendid accomplishment in their country!
   
But seriously, the PUP basically claimed that this undertaking would not have been very difficult to achieve, since they had a plan, which was to introduce “growth economics”. Every time a talk show host would ask a question about the grand promises in the “Set Belize Free” manifesto, the words “growth economics” would flow so smoothly into their response as if a panacea to all our country’s woes. So many of us believed them, and we all so hoped this would be true.
   
Now we all know the true course of the PUP’s ten year devastating economic train, which had at its helm these same shady characters who are going around the country condemning the UDP on one hand for the present poverty levels, and on the other hand making the insincere statement that they have all the answers. We all know the truth on that story; the PUP’s growth economics did not work, and it will shackle our economy for over 20 years yet to come.
  
The position which I wanted to expand on today was that, how can these “new” PUPS actually go on a rostrum and blame the UDP for the rise in poverty levels highlighted in the recent survey? Truly, let’s look at the situation objectively. What has the UDP done economically which would adversely affect the workers’ paycheck each week? Has there been increase in PAYE taxes or in Customs and Excise duties? Have new taxes been introduced which have affected the unemployed, or the “catch and kill” worker? Nope.  In fact, even the PUP has celebrated that GOB has announced a fall in revenue collection in the past three quarters.
  
What the UDP has done at a cost to the national coffers since February 2008 is to directly assist 8,000 secondary students with partial scholarships, and significantly increase the number of full scholarships at all levels of schooling. The Government has also transparently distributed over $10 million in housing grants for the poor and invested several millions in poverty alleviation and rural development projects.
Most importantly, this UDP government has reduced RRD’s on fuel, removed GST on medical services, medicines, and on educational material.
    
All of these measures were taken to alleviate the poverty situation in Belize, not aggravate it. So tell me, in which period did we get poorer? In all the years that the PUP was in office, every budget exercise included an increase in revenue generation. This was in addition to sale of all our national assets and natural resources, the raping of SSB and DFC, and the borrowing of hundreds of millions. Yet they have the gall to say that not only is the UDP to blame for poverty escalation, but that they, the PUP, again has all the solutions. What a waste of time!