PM addresses Rod of Correction Print E-mail
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Thursday, 12 June 2014 00:00

The grouping of activist groups calling themselves the Rod of Correction were addressed by the Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow, at a press conference held on Wednesday, June 11. Just about every member of the grouping was taken to task by the PM. He noted that what the ROC is trying to create is an impression as if the country is being plagued by large scale crises such as what the PUP administration was being plagued by in 2005. At that time the government was cutting deals, signing illegal contracts and concealing it from the people. With all that, the principal player of the entire debacle the PM singled out as Ralph Fonseca, and even in the midst of all of the shenanigans Said Musa pledged his love for the man.

The UDP’s tenure is in stark contrast cited the PM. As it relates to the Penner issue, it was he who brought it forward to the people when it could have been covered up. “That is not my style!” he said. “We have accepted responsibility, and we have acted to correct the situation,” added PM Barrow.  It is now up to the DPP to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute him. 

NTUCB Demands
He then addressed the issue of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize which he had earlier on described as disrespectful, confrontational and rude in recent press releases that it has issued. Nonetheless the PM explained that, “it takes two to quarrel. I am not going to be responding in kind.”  What he did do was to go over what is causing the NTUCB’s consternation. “The prime motivation of the NTUCB is self interest,” he said. They are looking to continue negotiations with government over issues that simply cannot be addressed.

The Prime Minister explained that government employees will be getting no less than a 6% salary increase come July of this year. That is in addition to their annual 3% increase amounting to a hefty 36 million dollars in government’s wage bill. To this expense, unions that can help have not done so despite them having formed committees to cut waste in the public sector. What is driving the meeting of the new expenses are all actions being taken by government such as the taking over of the IBC companies registry which is providing a windfall for the government.

The PM went on to explain that negotiations with unions have gone extremely well for them. They have received increases in allowances to the tune of 6 million dollars a year. Most of the allowances have been increased by 50 to 100%. To mention a few these include cashier, revenue, housing, daily subsistence, hazardous, entertainment, travel, and motor vehicle allowances. Teachers have received a 60% increase in responsibility allowances for principals and vice principals; there is now a 20 - 25% increase in commuting allowance; a 100% increase in rural hardship allowance; and a $500 and $1000 subsidy for student-teachers pursuing Associates and Bachelors Degree programs. Even motor vehicle advances has gone up from 10 thousand to 20 thousand dollars.

Even with so much already given, the unions want to continue negotiating and the Prime Minister stated that more cannot be given without the bill being passed on to tax payers. But that does not mean that the negotiators do not keep on asking and they want the tax structure to change where the income tax threshold is raised. That cannot be done, said the PM, since the very system under which the public officers will be receiving their increases will then be affected. The PM noted that the negotiators request even go further to setting up a health insurance scheme for them while government is currently engaged in expanding the NHI coverage to Corozal. Then they are also asking for government to find finances to pay for a period between 95 to 97 when there was some gentleman’s agreement between the unions and government to pay for increments which were lost. There is also a request for GOB to foot the bill during the PUP era when salaries were frozen. All the demands however, stated the Prime Minister, are unreasonable especially given the fact that the unions have gotten so much. “We have a responsibility to the entire country.

Harmonyville Buffer Zone
As to the issue of the Harmonyville Buffer Zone, the PM stated that he could not understand how the NTUCB could ask the government to engage in an illegal activity by allowing corn to be planted there. He explained that so far there have been 1,040 leases processed for persons in that area and government has spent 1.99 million dollars in acquiring the land. He went further to say that if those in Harmonyville are interested, seeds and extension services will be made available to them through the ministry of agriculture. He said that even bulldozers can be secured for them to clear their land. All this however under the condition that they plant on their own land.

On the issue of Satiim and their seeking to be a player in negotiations with the oil company drilling in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, the Prime Minister was clear to state that they have no proper standing to be involved in negotiations since they are an NGO. The government will countenance consultations with the proper representatives in the area and will also comply with any court decision on this matter. For the time being, it is supporting drilling efforts which are about to commence by U.S. Capital.

Puerto Azul
Puerto Azul was another topic addressed by the Prime Minister. On this matter he stated that all this is a concept and it has not gone beyond that. He said that when the players met with him on the issue he told them that what they were describing was unrealistic. If ever this group were to come up with a proposal it will be thoroughly reviewed and only after it is carefully studied and analyzed and they meet all criteria would it be considered.
All told the Prime Minister said that the Rod of Correction’s spark has not been lit and they can’t force feed the process.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 12:17