PM Barrow discusses fuel prices, illegal Guatemalan incursions, and recent Cabinet reshuffle

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Prime Minister Right Honorable Dean Barrow weighed in on issues affecting his people, namely the steady increase in fuel prices, the continuous Guatemalan illegal encroachment in southern Belize and the recent sudden Cabinet reshuffle at an event in Belize City on Tuesday, June 19th. The Head of Government spoke with optimism regarding the solutions for the mentioned matters and the recent changes in his Government.

Barrow addressed the constant increase in fuel prices, which hit its 10th increase this year on June 8th. Following that increase, Government promised prices would go down at the next shipment. However, upon the arrival of said shipment, the price of Premium gas went up upsetting thousands of Belizeans. Barrow told reporters that despite recent increases, the public should expect a decrease in the next shipment, but warned that all depends on world prices. “Countries like Russia are agreeing in principle to increase production of fuel and U.S. sales are going great. So it does look like for the next few months, perhaps the next half of the year, there ought to be a downward trend,” said Barrow. “Of course it is so volatile that anything can happen, and that can change, but as of now, the best assessment is for continuing declines for the next couple of months.”

The Prime Minister also touched on the consistent illegal activities taking place at the western and southern border with Guatemala, in particular in the southern region colliding with the Toledo District. The most recent reports are from the village of Otoxha, where villagers have been complaining that Guatemalan nationals cross into Belize to clear land for farms. The alarm was first sounded in May by the village Alcalde, Santiago Peck, who reported that some villagers had noticed areas along the border, in Belizean territory, that had been illegally cleared. The villagers requested the protection of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) to deter encounters with Guatemalans who are there illegally. The Ministry of National Security responded by sending BDF troops to assess the situation and prevent further incursions into Belize. Barrow supported the move by the Ministry and stated that a decision was made to have increased BDF patrols in that area. He also spoke about the future of illegal structures built within Belizean territory by Guatemalans. “In terms of structures that are already in the area that needs to be dismantled, it is just a matter of getting the Organization of American States to complete the verification process, which will be done,” said Barrow. “To prevent this from happening all over again an increase in BDF patrols will be a standing feature going forward.”

The Prime Minister also explained the abrupt reshuffling in his Cabinet on Tuesday, June 12th, when Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Honourable Senator Dr. Carla Barnett was reassigned to a smaller ministry. Barrow, who was the head of the said Ministry, named Honourable Hugo Patt, as the new minister to take the helm of one of the most powerful portfolios. When Barrow was questioned as to why she was removed from the Ministry, he stated that while Barnett made her mark, there were difficulties to steward the job and that she was beginning to feel the strain. “It is really an effort to try to get improved performance in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Lands Department, and Dr. Barnett went in and did an excellent job,” said Barrow. “It is a wearing job for any minister to steward that particular ministry, she was beginning to feel the pressure, and I think that in that context, she approached me and said she would like to be reassigned.”

Barrow defended his decision to name Patt as the new Minister of Natural Resources indicating that his successor is not completely new to that Ministry. According to him, Patt was the deputy of former Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega. Barrow added that he feels confident that Minister Patt will do a great job and provide a sort of positivity that will lead to continuous improvement in that Ministry which has been previously categorized as a ‘hotbed of corruption.’
Patt will officially take over command of the Ministry of Natural Resources on Monday, June 25th, while Prime Minister Barrow will take over his current portfolio- Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development, Energy, Public Utilities, Public Service and Elections and Boundaries.

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