Ch 5:

A tale of 2 economies: P.M. & Opposition Leader’s Independence Day Speeches

There were conflicting tales of the same economy on Independence Day by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño. One presented a picture of an economy on the rebound and the other spoke of a society gripped by extremely low poverty levels and rampant crime. According to the Statistical Institute, the consumer price index shot up by one point eight percent in May, due to high fuel prices. But what we heard from PM Barrow, who quoted generously from the same SIB, was of a growth in the economy, which the SIB says was spurred by the population and housing census. But according to Briceño, we are shackled by an economic recession whose untrammeled effect is being felt in every settlement, village, town and city in our Jewel. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports on the Independence Day addresses at Belmopan.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The ceremonies for the twenty-ninth anniversary of Belize’s independence were held in Belmopan on Tuesday. While the uniform parade was held through the principal streets of the Old Capital, Garden City hosted dignitaries including members of the diplomatic and consular corps, the clergy as well as the opposition People’s United Party. The traditional inspection of the military guard of honor was also conducted by Governor General Sir Colville Young. Prime Minister Dean Barrow, whose arrival under heavy security detail appeared rather unusual, later spoke on Belize’s financial state of affairs considering that the global economy may be heading back into recession.

Dean Barrow

“The implications for us in terms of remittances, investments, export and tourism have been harmfully consequential but the data shows, this is the objective collection of the figures by the independent Statistical Institute of Belize, the data shows that we have been remarkably resilient in the circumstances. The SIB recently confirmed that for the first half of 2010 our economy grew by two point four percent.”

Opposition leader John Briceno had a contrary view; in his address he highlighted the extreme state of poverty in which Belizeans are finding themselves in despite minimal economic growth in the first two quarters of this year.

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Never before have so many Belizeans been so poor. All over our jewel so blessed by nature our farmers struggle; working harder, earning less. The problem faced by almost every sector of agro-industry: sugar, citrus, banana and papaya mount daily and aquaculture faces disaster. In the services sector business is increasingly precarious and in tourism the numbers continue to decline.

Depending on which of the two accounts you choose to believe the country is either on the economic upswing or it is spiraling downwards uncontrollably. Back in July the Statistical Institute of Belize announced that there was a recovery of three and a half percent within the first three months of 2010. Rebounding strongly was the tourism sector.
Dean Barrow

“Tourism, I don’t know where some people get their figures from, tourism in particular is up with hotel revenue from April to August of 2010 increasing by eight point three-nine percent over the same period last year. The SIB confirms bananas and citrus are doing well. Construction, energy generation and petroleum production are all robust. Aquaculture, even aquaculture is on the rebound and non-traditional exports are experiencing their own great leap forward.”

On the issue of crime and violence, a swelling problem that is haunting the Barrow Administration Briceño noted that the upsurge in homicides which currently stands at ninety-eight is sparing no one.

John Briceño

“We are killed in our homes, killed in the streets, mothers, fathers, families weeping over the bodies of loved ones while our prisons overflow. Never before have there been so many failed investigations and prosecutions or so little justice for Belizean families.”

With the conclusion of major events during the September Celebrations the seemingly dormant Restore Belize which is most popular for its I Am Belize theme song than it appears to be effective in addressing certain aspects of the plague, the P.M. admitted there is no initial budget but it will receive additional funding from G.O.B.

Dean Barrow

“In terms of Restore Belize I once again make an appeal for national commitment. Altogether government will be spending around two million dollars in the rest of this fiscal year on the various aspects of the initiative. Now this is money not budgeted but it must be found since everything has to be done to defeat this scourge of gun violence and murder now overtaking the Belizean way of life.”

Reiterating that commitment was the leader of the opposition.

John Briceño

“It is the responsibility of government to keep our citizens safe and so on the twenty-ninth anniversary of our independence let us be brave like those before us were brave. Let us determine that we will not give in to fear, that we will not allow anyone to take from us our right to live in peace, our right to live in a society where justice and liberty prevail over fear and vindictiveness.”

Finally, among the other issues re-hashed in the prime minister’s speech was infrastructure development scheduled to begin in various parts of the country, including the Kendal Bridge in the south.

Dean Barrow

“The contract for the new lot of road reconstruction works in the north of our country, in the territory of the leader of the opposition, will be signed imminently thus twenty-five million dollars will begin to be spent now on the Orange Walk to San Lazaro Road and the Orange Walk to San Estevan to Progresso Road.”

Other monies have also been earmarked for drainage and street works in the different municipalities as well as to the Southside Poverty Alleviation initiative in Belize City. Pending however is the construction of a new bridge on the Kendall River in South Stann Creek which has been promised by the United Democratic Party government since taking office in 2008. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.