Independence Day Address by Prime Minister Honorable Dean Barrow
Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
Delivered on September 21, 2016 in Belmopan
Tourism remains, of course, the brightest star in our constellation with success following success and overnight arrival records constantly being shattered. NCL is on track for its Harvest Caye November start, and the exploratory probe into the feasibility of the new Belize City Port Loyola Cruise Terminal has yielded initial results that are encouraging. Our dollar continues strong and securely underpinned, though our correspondent banking woes are still a problem. Three out of the four local commercial banks now enjoy full correspondent relationships with US or UK banks. But the fourth is still searching and until it succeeds its inability to route external flows for its customers does create a foreign exchange choke point. But our Central Bank is working to solve that problem.My confidence today, then, is for a full return, by the start of the next fiscal year, to GDP growth and financial system normalcy. But that confidence is marred by one thing: fear of that other hurricane called the SuperBond. So I will say just this. If it is the last thing I do before I leave office, I will solve once and for all that problem. And it will not take anything like the four plus years I have left on my Constitutional mandate.I hope, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I have succeeded in showing that our sovereignty and strength are intact, resilient, perdurable.But that ‘together as one’, that latter part of the formulation urged by this year’s theme, is more problematic. It requires us to summon up all our energy, all our goodwill, all our patriotism to make it happen. Let us therefore be inspired by all things available, such as our Hurricane Earl experience, the scores of stories coming out of that fateful night and early morning. For these were stories of courage and extraordinary solidarity. These were stories that told of the heroism not just of the Police and the BDF, but of ordinary folk braving the raging wind and surging sea to rescue from collapsing houses occupants utterly and helplessly at the mercy of the elements. They were stories of the drawing forth of every vestige of national empathy, in some instances captured in real time such as when Love FM’s Doctor Villanueva froze in on-air shock and fear, face turned ashen for the woman trapped by rising water whose desperate call to the station was cut off in the middle of her SOS.It is that spirit of ultimate oneness which must now help with the binding up of our wounds, the pressing ahead of the reform agenda, the partnership with our Public Officers and Labour and Business and the Churches.And never let us forget what it is that we are fighting for. Let us always be conscious of the essence of our Belize: its breathtaking physical beauty; its seas of blue and green and iridescent Aqua; its Caye sands of purest white; its majestic mountains with their lushly forested slopes; its rural retreats with their golden air and special light; its arboreal richness with the profusion of tropical fruit whose special bouquet and flavour is acknowledged to be the best in the Caribbean; its Mayan temples, visits to which can produce an out of body experience, a palpable sense of being cast back in time to the ceremony and rituals and work and achievement of that ancient civilization of which we are proud inheritors.
So, this is no time to cut and run, no time for discouragement. No time for what Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow called ‘the cant and rant of pipsqueaks’. Let us rather channel National Hero George Price. For we are still, and ever must be, nation builders all. We must fix whatever has gone wrong and continue the forward march. We must bring healing on the basis of compassion and understanding and the infinitely sheltering capacity of Divine love. We must unceasingly strive to shine and polish this Central American Jewel set, to magnificent advantage, in the Caribbean basin. We must build and expand this country of progress and reform and social justice where, as was said on that first Independence Day, every man, woman and child has a stake, a real stake, in the life and work of the new Belize. Happy Independence and may God bless our native land.