GOB requests another $45M in House

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Dec. 6, 2021- On Friday, the Briceno administration tabled yet another Supplementary Appropriations Bill inside the House of Representatives, in an effort to secure 45 million dollars to cover a range of expenses across various government ministries. During his introduction of the bill, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceno told the members of the House that he would be outlining exactly why the additional funds were needed, and how they would be spent.

“In total, recurrent expenditures add up to a little over 23 million dollars; the cumulative sum of domestically financed cap two expenditures, amount to 15.9 million, while the external source cap 3 expenditures amount to a bit over 5.8 million for a grand total of additional supplementary appropriations of $45,124,674,” stated Hon. Briceno.

He went on to indicate that, of this amount, $12 million would be allocated for public utilities (reportedly to finance a BEL project to increase the number of streetlights across the country), $1.6 million is to be allotted to the Ministry of Education for scholarship funding, $1 million will be directed to the food assistance program, and $300K will be used to fund a small grant program in the Tourism Ministry. Additionally, $3 million is to be given to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and 2 million is to be used by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to cover COVID-19 expenses. Also, he said that $1.5 million will be set aside for distribution to certain teachers and public servants and $3.1 million will be directed to the Constituency Development Fund.

In his response to the introduction of the bill, Opposition Leader, Hon. Patrick Faber had a considerable amount to say about the proposed additional spending outlined by the Prime Minister, but he made particularly pointed remarks about the 3.1 million dollars to be allocated to the Constituency Development Fund for the month of December, and reminded the House that an allocation of 3.5 million dollars was just made to that fund in October of this year.

“The supplementary Constituency Development monies, and I would have hoped that the Prime Minister would have given an explanation as to how this is to be done, not to me because I already got a bit of what he has said he intends to do with these monies. It’s 3.1 million dollars roughly. This is in addition to the 3.5 million dollars that was asked for in the Supplementary I think in October when the fund was developed. And so this 3.1 million is for December alone for the Prime Minister’s version of Christmas Cheer. You call it what you will, it is Christmas Cheer, and I am not going to be hypocritical like when they were on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, and say that the people don’t deserve this kind of assistance around Christmas time especially; they deserve it all the time, but the truth of the matter is that these kinds of sweets to area representatives, and I say that because the power of these funds lies in the hands of area representatives, be they red or blue,” Hon. Faber stated.

Faber said that such funds enable area reps to “play politics” with funds which should be used for the general public — allowing them to line the pockets of their supporters and punish those who support another party.

“An area representative that receives this kind of sweet, if you will, will use it to reward his friends and punish his enemies,” Faber remarked.

Faber referred to a previous Supplementary bill in the House of Representatives that was used to secure additional funds for the administration outside the budgeted amount in October of this year ($70 million was requested), and pointed out that more funds are being requested for the same projects and that a detailed breakdown of how those monies were allocated in the October Supplementary Appropriation Bill should have been outlined by the Prime Minister in his documents. This was not provided, said Faber.

“The thing is about these things, if you don’t have the memory and you don’t have the documents in front of you to remember. What the Prime Minister’s document should look like, the document that you sent over, Prime Minister, to the honorable House, it should show what the approved estimates are coming out of the budget, but it should also show those figures that have been approved by Supplementary in this honorable House. So when we look at this document, we see that, oh, the approved estimates were 12 million, and now you’re asking for additional 2 million. But if you didn’t have the memory of the fact that you came here in October and ask for 10 million dollars too, then you’d think that this is okay. But it is not okay. It shows either incompetence on your part or the fact that something else is going on there that you don’t want to tell the Belizean people about,” said Faber.

Faber further commented that the same can be said about the allocation for infrastructure development in the country, with additional funds being requested for the Haulover Bridge project in October and additional funds now being requested to complete the Caracol Road project, 60% of which has been completed at this time.

“You are back here again asking for more money for the same projects. Is it that you did not understand what you were doing a few weeks ago when you came? Is it incompetence? Or something else going on; you want to sneak these things,” said Faber.

For his part, the Prime Minister said that he took no pleasure in having to request the additional funds but it was absolutely necessary to fulfill his administration’s promises to the country.

“I take no pleasure in coming to the House and saying we have to spend another $45 million dollars, but we have to get the work done. We promised this country that we’re going to fix the economy and that we’re going to make this country once again work for everyone and that we’re going to report to them how we’re going to spend the money, and that is what we’re doing today.” PM Briceno said.