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“Strengthening Public Private Partnerships for Growth” Print E-mail
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Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00

pm forum.jpg - 117.65 KbThursday, July 17, Belize City
Attendees at the Prime Minister’s business forum had a chance to participate in intense two-way dialogue with the UDP Government last Thursday at the Best Western Biltmore Plaza Hotel.  This marks the third annual Forum hosted by the Prime Minister and exceeded all expectations, proving the importance placed by this administration on the need for partnership in growing the economy.

Over 200 top level business and government leaders attended the Public and Private sector dialogue. This event made it clear that this administration under Prime Minister Hon. Dean Barrow has made a concerted effort to reach out to the private sector to discuss and address its concerns on Belize’s national development. The event echoed the theme of “strengthening partnerships for growth,” while also reminding the attendees of the diligent efforts of the Government to achieve this goal.

Ms. Amparo Masson, Director of the Public-Private Sector Dialogue elaborated on the work of the Economic Development Council (EDC) in the Welcome Remarks and video presentation. Currently, the EDC comprises of ten (10) members including five (5) senior private sector representatives along with five (5) Government CEO’s. The ten (10) key actions that the EDC is currently focusing on were elaborated and include: (1) Review of Tax Regime, (2) ITC platform, (3) E-Government, (4) Public Sector Transport, (5) Lands Department Reform, (6) Real Estate Bill, (7) Port Study, (8) MSME Study, (9) Tourism Reform and (10) Private Sector Dialogue.

Prime Minister Hon. Dean O. Barrow, in his keynote address, highlighted ways in which this partnership would foster the achievement of “sustained improvement in the standard of living and the levels of gainful activity of our Belizean people.” The PM also highlighted efforts to stimulate domestic investment in the economy from all sources: foreign and domestic, private and public sector, in order to increase jobs, incomes and production in all key areas. Development projects and pipeline initiatives mentioned also include: National Trade Policy framework guiding trade negotiations, National MSME policy implementation with credit facilities from credit unions, the National Bank and Development Finance Corporation (DFC), National Export Strategy (NES) being supported by a new entity called EXPORT Belize under BELTRAIDE, the Medical Tourism Strategy and Association and also the ASYCUDA world system amongst other developments.

The Prime Minister stated:   “It is well, though, to reiterate that this is a two way street, and it is an accepted fact that government cannot do everything…I see that presenters and discussants on a range of areas are on tap for today. I am hoping that the interchanges among them, and between yourselves and them, will help us better crystallize our joint effort of taking Belize forward by continued economic growth, and by the expansion of business activity, social mobility, and enterprise creativity.”

The forum then comprised of business sessions with public and private sector panelists moderated to highlight key developments, while fostering a dialogue of any issues or concerns garnering feedback from the PM himself. The four (4) panel discussions were held under the following business session themes:

1. Business Climate & Service Delivery: Achieving Efficiency in the Business Process and Delivering Service with Pride
2. Banking & Finance: Hindrances to Lending; Stimulating Investments
3. Investments & Trade / Exports: Driving Competitiveness, Fueling Innovation, Accelerating Growth
4. Infrastructure & Technology: Beyond Shortcomings to Harnessing our Potential and Seizing the Opportunities

Each panel discussion spurred various questions from the audience that were answered in a timely manner. Some of these queries included: bandwidth rates, real estate taxation and the Real Estate Bill, Central Building Authority (CBA) and Lands Department bottlenecks, expansion of productive sectors, tax reform updates, credit financing activities under the National Bank and credit unions, agricultural legislation, power service delivery and efficiency under BEL, inventory of renewable resources and infrastructural developments.

In his usual frank and proactive manner, the PM intervened in the discussion to address a number of issues brought out by the business community.  As an example, in the wake of concerns raised regarding efficiencies at the Lands Department, the PM invited the CEO of Natural Resources to update on a number of measures being taken to improve services and to curb any potential irregularities in that department, while making a commitment that at all levels of government service improvements is a priority for the UDP.  Likewise, in response to a call by the Business Community to conduct a comprehensive tax review, the PM committed to ensuring that this is given top priority by the Ministry of Finance in the short term.

This forum signaled the launch of a program to formalize the establishment of the Council as a permanent institution in Government.  This means that the standard mode will be one of open consultation between leaders in both Government and the Private Sector.  As the UDP nears its mid-term, it is without a doubt that it is in an environment whereby the economy is strong, growth is a reality, and the outlook is bright. 

By contrast, the UDP, in 2008, following 10 years of PUP mis-management, inherited an economy on the verge of collapse with rampant unemployment, and suffering from bloated secret contracts with a special few.   The business community was up in arms against these excesses which led to two consecutive victories. 

The feedback and interactions between public and private sectors at a productive forum was then brought to a close by Mr. Anthony Chanona, Master of Ceremonies, who echoed the event’s theme which shows that this is a politically inclusive exercise.  Mr. Chanona, a former PUP Mayor of Belmopan took the time to lay down political differences and stated :

“Despite our cultural political and economic differences, look at who is standing here today. We all want to see Belize succeed. We must put aside our personal differences and all that prevents us from working together as a people to achieve the common good.”
The hallmark of this administration, as witnessed at this third Business Forum, has been the important balance that has been struck between the unprecedented outreach by government to implement its poverty alleviation program, while ensuring that the Business Community is fully engaged and can operate in a positive environment to create jobs and economic opportunities for all Belizeans.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:43