Belize Rural South Area Representative supports 2021-2022 budget: what’s happening in BRS

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021


On the last day of the debate on the proposed 2021-2022 $1.03 billion national budget by members of the House of Representatives on Friday, April 23rd, Belize Rural South (BRS) area representative the Honourable Andre Perez stood up to support it. In his presentation, he discussed how the budget will assist his Ministry of the Blue Economy and Civil Aviation and what is ahead for BRS, including Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker.

The minister took the opportunity to speak about the community task force formed recently in San Pedro involving several government departments and members of the private sector. This critical step took place at a community forum in San Pedro Town to discuss the challenges of COVID-19 and prepare for the full re-opening of the tourism industry. The force will be holding its first meeting on May 4th to discuss how to move forward. The creation of this group emphasizes the importance of working together, something San Pedro is known for doing.

Perez said that in Caye Caulker, they did a pilot solar energy project in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Utilities. In this manner, homeowners and businesses could benefit from affordable and environmentally friendly energy. In Caye Caulker, he also spoke of land acquisition for building schools and a health center. Next will be the allocation of space for the Caye Caulker multipurpose complex building and football field.

The budget and his Ministry

On behalf of his Ministry Perez, they recognized the need to make fiscal adjustments as there is a decrease in the financial resources available to carry out their operations and programs. “We know that it will be imperative on our part to be innovative in seeking resources through available external sources,” said Perez. He said that the Blue Economy goal is to increase the Gross Domestic Product by taking advantage of the aquatic resources and spaces to generate economic activities in an environmentally friendly manner. Perez added that his Ministry must be recognized as a vital drive to recover the Belizean Economy. “Our fishing industry continues to contribute significantly to the Belizean economy through export earnings and employment,” he pointed out.  According to him, the value of the fishing export in 2020 was estimated at BZ$43.5 million. The fishing sector reportedly provided direct employment to 3,188 licensed fishers, thus the importance of this sector within the Ministry of the Blue Economy. Perez said that the budget through the Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute would help in developing a five-year Blue Economy strategy and plan to boost productivity through a maritime sectoral plan. “This will be the blue bridge for the development of the management of our aquatic resources,” said Perez.

Civil Aviation

According to Perez, the budget will help implement ambitious plans to take aviation into the future. The funding will allocate resources to ensure that current air traffic officers and inspectors remain qualified and ready to carry out their duties. Air traffic officers will also be provided with the tools needed to execute their tasks properly. Extra funding required will be sought through external partners in the aviation industry. “These supplementary funds will be used in the implementation of projects to modernize the country’s aviation safety and security oversight system as recently approved by Cabinet. Additionally, these funds will be used to support the implementation of the initiative defined in the current aviation sector and strategic plan which is currently being formulated,” said Perez.

The 2021-2022 national budget presentation by Prime Minister Honourable John Briceño condemned the previous administration for the difficult financial situation the country is in. The country’s debt is over $4 billion, and the government cannot close the deficit in the proposed national budget. To turn things around, the Briceño administration says they are forced to reduce teachers’ and public officers’ salaries by 10% and apply an increment freeze for three years. Teachers and public officers have rejected this proposal.

The Belize National Teachers Union is currently on strike rejecting the pay cut. For an indefinite time, there will be no in-person or virtual classes.

Despite the industrial actions by those threatened with a salary reduction, the national budget will be debated on Wednesday, April 28th by the Senate in the National Assembly. If passed, it will then go to the Governor General’s desk for its approval.


 

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