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PM New Year’s Message - GOB to pay for CXC’s , NHI expands to Corozal Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Monday, 30 December 2013 00:00

pm barrow.jpg - 67.98 KbMy Fellow Belizeans:
The various periods of relentless rains in the last quarter of 2013, including the prolonged spells in December, played havoc with our road and street infrastructure, our agricultural crops, and in many cases our homes and livelihoods. We were, of course, spared the full force of any hurricane. But the flooding, the water damage, the marooning of entire villages that even now remain cut off from road access, at times appeared nearly as bad.

God, however, never takes us to a place from which He can’t bring us back. And the troubles caused by mudslides and rivers and lagoons bursting their banks, by the loss of corn and beans and cattle, brought once again to the fore the resilience of the Belizean spirit. In the affected areas Government and people came together to manage calamity: to replace destroyed household items; to find alternative means of transportation; to provide the wherewithal for replanting; to repair bridges and highways; to pick up the pieces.

In any case, it is not as though the rains meant unrelieved gloom. Indeed, throughout the year, including the final stanzas, much was happening that was good. For one thing, crime and violence were contained and the murder rate dropped dramatically. This came after five years of tough sledding, as well as constant slogging. And it no doubt had a lot to do, as the Security Forces readily acknowledge, with Government’s employment creation. The growth in jobs came principally as a result of this Administration’s vaunted infrastructure drive. It is a drive that saw rapid acceleration in the last three months of the year, with the start of the Lake Independence Boulevard and Civic Centre projects in Belize City, and countrywide work on streets, drains and roadways in villages and towns.

Certainly one silver lining among those dark clouds that seemed to be continuously opening up the skies, was the cheap hydro power that overflow dams, both in Belize and Mexico, brought us. The nationalized BEL, now proudly owned and operated by Government and people, did splendidly. And we can look forward to significantly reduced electricity rates as soon as the PUC’s Annual Tariff Review decision is made final.

But in 2014 there is much more to expect from this Administration’s commitment to continued progress, and record of promise fulfillment. And principal among the headline grabbers is the raise of pay for Teachers and Public Officers.

Now it is still too early to calculate exactly the percentage of the salary increase that will be paid in August, but retrospective to April. The formula is that the Public Servants will get 50 cents out of every additional dollar of recurrent revenue, over the agreed base year, which Government collects. As of December those recurrent revenues were up significantly over original projections, and this trend is expected to continue through the end of the financial year. Thus, the preliminary estimates are that, when coupled with the annual 2% fixed increments that this Administration restored, the raise for all those paid by Government will be substantial indeed.

Another piece of New Year good news is the increased access to cheap development and consumer financing that Phase 2 of the National Bank will provide all Belizeans. As of January 1, new construction, as well as refinancing, mortgages at this People’s Bank, will have their ceilings raised to 175 thousand dollars. There will be a similar maximum amount for small business loans; and the Bank’s menu of options will now also include vehicle loans.

Infrastructure will remain Government’s principal instrumentality for economic stimulation, defeating unemployment, and improving quality of life. Therefore, we will add to the already operational 100 million dollar, multi-dimensional, multi-district plan that is chartering the signature sporting complexes and community centres in each municipality. That addition will come by way of the new 78 million dollar road, bridge and street repair programme, birthed by the necessity of comprehensive remedial work in consequence of the rains.

Equal pride of place, though, must be given to two new initiatives that I now have the honour to announce. First, the rollout of NHI to the North of the country, beginning in Corozal, to be funded by the 2014-2015 Budget. This will mark a signal advance along the road to our ultimate objective of affordable health care for all Belizeans.

Second, I announce another achievement in casting ever wider the net of Government-funded education so as to provide universality of access at the primary, secondary and Sixth Form levels. This Administration will, starting in 2014, pay the cost for students sitting CXC exams up to a maximum of six subjects. The students would come from all High Schools and all ITVETS, and would be inclusive of everyone qualifying on the basis of need.

These two, Belizeans will agree, are banner proclamations behind which to march into a year of what I truly believe will be historic milestones for our country.

We will also, therefore, consolidate the National Security gains in terms of both territorial protection and citizen safety. And we will press ahead with the Reform Agenda by reconstituting the PAC, remedying omissions such as the failure to appoint the Integrity Commission, and by revamping Government’s procurement and financial management policies.

And so we greet the New Year, welcoming January’s traditional sunshine and the literal and metaphorical re-growth that this presages. We look around and we see retrenchment and wage freezes in sister CARICOM states. We see a pitiless economic contraction continuing to stalk the region. But in Belize we are able to count our blessings. We give thanks for hard work; for sound husbandry; and for the providential fortune that was ours in 2013. It is a combination that propels us now into 2014. For we are powered by optimism rooted in native confidence; by a belief in God’s goodness; by the incontrovertible evidence of a successful outgoing year; and by the realistically drawn prospects of a bright incoming one.

Happy New Year, then, to Belizeans at home and abroad, and I wish peace, progress and prosperity to everyone. 

Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 13:34