Prime Minister’s Dean Barrow delivers New Year’s Address 2018
Thursday, January 4th, 2018
As is customary, Belize’s Prime Minister Right Honourable Dean Barrow delivered his New Year’s message on Friday, December 29, 2017. In his speech, he highlighted the accomplishments and obstacles that the country faced as a nation through the year as well as projects to be expected for the upcoming year. Finally, he wished all Belizeans a Happy New Year.
“2017 was certainly an improvement over 2016, not least in the fact that the year just past saw a return to all-important GDP and economic growth. Exports were up an impressive 13% in the first nine months, and a historically low year-over-year inflation rate, pegged at just 1.2%, continued. The importance of this in preserving the purchasing power of the Belize dollar, helping to fight poverty and growing the middle class, cannot be overstated. It is in that same context that we view 2017’s final tranche in the three-year salary adjustment package for Public Officers and Teachers. No other country in the region has so generously rewarded Government employees, and of this, we are immensely proud. Also, the Statistical Institute of Belize just released very encouragingly Labor Force information. According to the Institute, unemployment fell to 9.7% in September of 2017. This was down from the 11.1% in September 2016, and was extremely welcome year-end news,” said Barrow.
He continued by saying that he was thankful that the country wasn’t hit by any of the several storms that devastated various neighboring countries. He added that Belize was not selfish and was there to provide help in all the possible ways to the affected countries, mentioning that the Belize Defense Force soldiers traveled to Dominica to assist in the reconstruction of homes.
“Early in 2017 we also succeeded in restructuring the SuperBond. We thereby escaped the threatened draining of our recurrent revenues and foreign reserves and the imminent strangulation of our ability to service our people and economy. We had a bumper sugar crop, increased our access to export markets in the non-traditional areas of chicken, grains, processed meat and even ice cream. And tourism continued its magnificent star turn as the highest flyer of all. Indeed, as at the end of November 2017, overnight tourism had increased by 9.5% over the same period for 2016. And cruise calls went up by 3.7%, netting both an overall increase and, for the second year running, topping the 1 million visitor mark,” he said.
Barrow further spoke about the accomplishments that his administration has brought to reality such as the New Civic Center in Belize City, reconstruction of highways, resurfacing of the Placencia main artery from the airstrip to the point, and the Hopkins Main Streets that are being upgraded for 2.6 million dollars., and the construction of five hundred households and 13 banana farms in 27 communities in southern Belize that were connected to the national power grid and now have access to safe and reliable electricity among others. Barrow also mentioned the big project that is coming up for Caracol stating “ I just received a letter from the Director-General of OFID confirming an offer of a 40 million US financing package for construction of the entire Caracol Road. We had thought we would need several partners to fund a project of this magnitude, which will greatly add to the overall tourism vision and open up the natural and environmental wonder of that entire area including Mountain Pine Ridge. We are very thankful that OFID has come through on its own. And we think the private sector will be especially excited at the potential now for attracting tens of millions of dollars in new investments for the construction and development of lodges, villas, and properties in a section of the country currently still largely untapped. There are, of course, also positive security implications for this Caracol Road project”
The New Year’s message wouldn’t have been complete without Barrow speaking about the recent scandal where the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ordered the Government of Belize (GOB) to pay a sum of $88 million dollars to Belize Bank, from a loan that was granted to the GOB under the leadership of former People’s United Party Prime Minister, Said Musa. “Of course, 2018-just like 2017 or any other year is not all sweetness and light. In fact, the November CCJ judgment arising out of that murkiest, most opaque, and most malevolent of conspiracies that birthed the UHS millstone, will follow us into the New Year. Since the matter will be going to Parliament on January 5th, I will not say too much here. But we, Belize, this nation, must come out of this with honor, with dignity. And we can’t do that if we were simply to fold, to place our tails between our legs without an account or even explanation from those who perpetrated this most monstrous of backstabs,” he said.
Barrow ended his address by saying that they will overcome that obstacle just like they did in 2017. As well as to move into the new year with the enthusiasm of the many projects that will accompany them saying “the plenitude of projects unfurling even now: the under-construction Wyndham hotel in North Ambergris; the coming Belize City Hilton hotel on the Foreshore site of the old Bellevue; the second international airport [to be located on Ambergris Caye]; the national Broadband plan; the recovery of shrimping and its expansion from South to North with the new ponds in Libertad; the injection of additional foreign capital in citrus; the banana recovery that is in part keyed by new investment from Sumitomo/Fyffes, including the purchase of the old Sorenson Receivership farms and financing the Big Creek Port dredging/expansion so the fruit can be loaded directly from shore to ship; the surge in non-traditional exports to both CARICOM and Central America; the quantum social sector leap in construction of new classrooms and new water systems and new health posts.”
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