Belize Successfully Navigating Through Troubled Waters Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 August 2013 00:00

It is not the United Democratic Party telling the world that Fonseca and Musa are bad for Belize, but rather it is the most brilliant legal minds in the region, the Caribbean Court of Justice, describing the actions of the shameless duo as “Malignant Tumors”.

It is not the United Democratic Party telling us that we are living in a good country but rather it is leaders in the region proclaiming hard times ahead for their people.

One recent such revelation was made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs of Barbados, the Hon. Christopher Peter Sinckler, in presenting his country’s 2013 financial statement and budgetary proposals to the House of Assembly of Barbados on August 13, 2013.

While the Government of Belize continues to successfully navigate through troubled waters occasioned by the international downturn into which it was elected in 2008; domestic investments is on the rise, despite the international badmouthing of Belize by some selfish and unpatriotic member of the opposition; foreign investors, like American Sugar Refinery, Green Tropics and Norwegian Cruise Line have either landed or are coming to our shores.

In the Barbados scenario however MP Sinckler Noted the loss of over 300 million dollars in reserves in just over three months, “it would be reasonable to deduce”, he said “that much of this could be attributed to a decline in the level of overall confidence in our economy by foreign and domestic investors alike. The prolongation of the international downturn, the persistently high budget deficits of the government and its unsustainable debt levels, together with the sluggish growth figures can be highlighted as the chief contributors to this apparent declining confidence.”

While the Government of Belize is firmly committed to NO RETRENCHMENT, increase in salaries for public officers, increase of allowance for the police, expanding of education subsidies to high school students and a possible further increase in the threshold for personal income tax, MP Sinckler told the people of Barbados that “On the expenditure side, the measures aimed at reducing current expenditure by $285 million over the adjustment period target.  Some of the expenditure areas most known to consume large amounts of government revenue, such as personal emoluments, subsidies and transfers, grants to individuals and organizations, specific areas of procurement and tax expenditures.”

He went on to tell the people that “Government has been careful to design these expenditure adjustments in such a manner as to limit the potential for major job losses in the public service, through instructing line ministries and statutory entities to use retrenchment as a last resort, while preferring to institute creative programmes for work hours/days/week reductions among staff. The Ministry of the Civil Service and the Ministry of Finance will assume general oversight of the implementation of this aspect of the measures so as to ensure that the targets are achieved while adherence to the preferred approach outlined by government is maintained.

Additionally, we have also determined that in order for these expenditure targets to be achieved and maintained the following must be strictly adhered to, and as such a zero tolerance approach will be adopted in relation to them:

1. Effective immediately there will be a total freeze on all new hiring in the central public service and across all statutory entities. Deviation from this policy will only be countenanced in cases of extreme criticalness and will have to be approved by the Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Service before execution. The above policy will also extend to the hiring of substitutes, temporary and/or casual workers as replacements for appointed staff proceeding on leave.
2. Departments and Boards who breach this policy will not receive any resources to cover the salaries of these persons if they cannot be accounted for in the system.
3. There will be an immediate freeze of all non-critical established posts which have not been filled in the last six months and are unlikely to be filled in the near term.
4. There will be a strict policy of limiting supplementaries within budgeted expenditure targets. Ministries and departments have been advised that the Ministry of Finance will not accept any requests for supplementaries where commensurate savings from their overall budget cannot be found.

Overall the proposed revenue and expenditure policy measures will result in total savings estimated to be $435.9 million over the adjustment period.”

MP Sinckler further informed that “Government has decided that in an effort to assist  in meeting the exploding costs of university education, it has now become necessary to ask students attending and desirous of attending the University of the West Indies to contribute to their education in a more direct manner.

Therefore, effective 2014 Barbadian citizens pursuing studies at campuses of the UWI will be required to pay tuition fees from academic year 2014/2015, while the government will continue to fund economic costs. According to the most recent scale of fees, tuition fees for students in the Faculties of Humanities and Education, Social Sciences and Science & Technology tuition fees are $5,625 for a full time student (half for part-time) and economic cost is $28,125. For the Faculty of Law tuition fees are $8,808 and economic cost $44,040, while for the Faculty of Medical Sciences - Clinical tuition fees are $16,618 and economic cost $83,090, and for Medical Sciences - Pre-Clinical tuition fees are $65,000. The Government of Barbados will continue to pay the economic costs. This policy will reduce the transfer to UWI by an estimated $42m a year.

“There comes a time in the life of any nation” said MP Sinckler “when all who inhabit it must pause and reflect on those things that sustain their existence and that of the place they call home. The times in which we live today are far more challenging. The cost of our existence is that much higher and the chance of failure that much greater. If we wallow in defeatism we have already lost; if we speak failure each time our mouths open we will never succeed; and surely if we refuse to act in the best way we know how to save ourselves then die we will. It will not be easy nor will it be painless, but it will be worth every effort in the end. For the pain we bare now, will be the gain we secure in the future. Let us rally around our country and rebuke those that only see negative and only speak gloom. Let us replace intellectual arrogance and know-it-all attitudes with a spirit of openness to new ideas and new path ways. Let us choose togetherness over division, hard work over lethargy, success over failure.”