2012/2013 “will be a difficult budget” says Belize’s PM Barrow
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
The Prime Minister of Belize Rt. Hon Dean Oliver Barrow addressed the nation in his first quarterly report during his second term of office on Wednesday June 13th. The event was held at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza to a packed audience which included members of his Cabinet, Chief Executive Officers and senior personnel in the different government departments. Following the address, PM Barrow entertained questions from the media.
In opening, PM Barrow detailed the current health condition of his wife, Kim Simplis-Barrow who is battling cancer. He outlined that Simplis-Barrow will be seeing a heart specialist abroad who specializes in cardiovascular problems secondary to radiation and chemotherapy treatment after which she should return to Belize.
Moving into government business, PM Barrow explained that in the fiscal year 2012-2013 the government will operate on a difficult budget. “There is no doubt that this will be a difficult budget. Reason number one is what is happening with global oil prices. The significant drop is good news for consumers at the pump but our country’s export earnings are being hammered and government will experience a $30 million falloff in tax revenue as a result of these far lower oil prices and also because of declining BNE’s (Belize Natural Energy) production.” PM Barrow said that discussions are ongoing with BNE for the establishment of a local oil refinery. He also said that his government will look at the possibility of tapping into the Venezuelan PetroCaribe initiative through the local oil subsidiary Puma Energy International who supplies fuel to Belize. If successful the Government of Belize (GOB) will also seek to take advantage of the concessionary financing agreement that is accompanied with the PetroCaribe initiative.
According to PM Barrow, while GOB will be facing serious financial constrains during the 2012/2013 fiscal year, it will not affect the Ministry of National Security since “GOB is committed to the war on crime as should be the commitment of all Belizean.” Speaking on the issue of the upsurge in crime including what appears to be urban gang warfare; PM Barrow insists that the government brokered gang truce is still holding. As to the effect crime has on the tourism industry, PM Barrow explained that the issue is a serious cause for concern; however his government’s first responsibility is for the safety of Belizeans.
The outlined of 2012/2013 budget as stated by PM Barrow will not include the introduction of new or increase of taxes. A series of benefit packages will be introduces such as loan write-offs for people with debts of $20, 000 or less at the Develop Finance Cooperation (DFC) and who have paid a given percentage on their original loan. The Barrow administration will also be writing off loans as it relates to people who have property at Mahogany Heights on the Western Highway.
The PM will be taking his budget to Cabinet on Thursday June 22nd after which will be presenting it to the House of Representatives on Friday June 29th.