Belmopan, 21 March 2012 – Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow says his re-elected government will continue its pro-poor plan for the new term and consolidate state control of public utilities. The PM was speaking today at the ceremonial opening of parliament at the City of Belmopan where the Senate and House of Representatives met in joint session to be sworn in. The ceremonial opening was held under a tent in front of the National Assembly building at Independence Hill and was attended by invited guests and supporters of the ruling United Democratic Party.
Speaking in 90 degree weather at the start of the Belize dry season, Mr. Barrow said he will continue with a series of projects including cash and food handouts and loan forgiveness programs to alleviate the crushing poverty suffered by a large portion of the Belize population. These projects have been criticised by the opposition Peoples United Party and non government organisations in Belize who say it amounts to the use of state resources to buy support from voters and encourages a culture of dependency and reliance on political patronage among Belizeans.
The Belize Prime Minister said he will create a state-controlled bank to compete with established commercial banking and financial institutions such as credit unions, so as to make money available to the poor. And he reiterated his vow to engage Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to obtain support for cheap fuel under the Petro Caribe project promoted by that South American country.
Mr. Barrow said:
“We will, without a doubt, continue and expand our trademark pro-poor policies and increase social and second chance opportunities for those at the margins. As just one example, we will now begin the extension of the food pantry program to every single District Town.
“We will scale new heights with our education subsidy, either by increasing the amount to first and second formers or by making it available to third formers.
“We will offer a third tranche of mortgage write-offs to distressed, long-standing homeowners, this time to those whose indebtedness is with the Development Finance Corporation.
“We will guarantee the 10% equity deposit required by the private banks for individual building loans of 100 thousand dollars or less.
“We will offer tax credits for new residential and commercial construction. We will overhaul the entire tax code so as to provide greater fairness to the middle class and to the business sector. We will continue to bring down the cost of capital at our financial institutions.
“We will renegotiate the super bond.
“We will source Government fuel supplies out of Venezuela under PetroCaribe, so as to lessen the cost and expand the reach of our countrywide, job-creating infrastructure drive.
“We will create a national development bank particularly to service the credit needs of the productive and export sector.
“We will rehabilitate the roads to all major archeological and tourism sites.
“We will increase the size of the Police Department and the BDF so as to provide for greater national security.
“We will consolidate and defend nationalist gains, especially as these relate to public ownership of our essential utilities.
“We will broaden the legal and institutional infrastructure necessary to support transparency; work the oversight role and system of the Senate; and promulgate new Finance and Stores Orders to guide Government procurement practices and guard the spending of public money.”