My Belizean friends,
We ring in the New Year giving thanks and filled with hope. Indeed, there is much to hope for in 2020, after all 2019 was not a very good year for our young nation.
There was too much crime and violence, way too many road traffic accidents, too little prosperity because of a struggling economy, and far too much corruption.
One responsibility of the Government is to keep us safe from threats at home and abroad. 2019, like the rest of the decade has seen a serious failure by this UDP Administration to keep us safe at home from increasing crime and violence.
There were over twelve hundred murders in the last 12 years under the UDP. In 2019 alone, there were more than 125 murders; we still have too many missing persons, over a thousand serious crimes including home invasions, hold-ups and vicious acts of violence against women, children and worse, the elderly. There was also a complete failure to seriously address drug-related crimes with an unprecedented number of drug planes landing. We have credible information which confirms that these illegal landings were being facilitated by corruption in the highest level of the UDP Government.
We will never forget those corporate crimes like the scandal that was Sanctuary Bay resulting in the closing down of Atlantic International Bank and the declaration by the US Federal Trade Commission that this was the biggest real estate scandal in the Commission’s history. Sanctuary Bay is but one of the many legacy scandals of this UDP decade. It joins that decade long list of scandals like the criminal activities at Immigration led by Penner and so many UDP cabinet ministers. The Belizean people are still awaiting the report from Senator Aldo Salazar the chairman of the Senate Select Committee which investigated this scandal.
There was the scandal at the civil aviation department involving Minister Castro; the yet to be investigated 70 million dollars pay out for land acquisition during the tenure of Gaspar Vega; the Andre Vega $400,000 land buy back hustle and, of course, the connection between members of the UDP Cabinet and those found guilty of beheading Pastor Lucas. We cannot forget the mother of all scandals – the obscene $557 million which Mr. Barrow secretly agreed to pay for BTL.
Under the UDP, nearly half a billion dollars of Petrocaribe monies was squandered, with no audit. And, a few weeks ago we learnt of the so-called $100 million ‘slippage’, funds spent by the government in one year that they cannot account for.
These are but a few of the crimes and scandals that rocked our nation this past decade under the UDP. None of these things happened overnight; they are the direct result of a decade of arrogance, corruption, poor management, incompetence and the lack of any plan by this Barrow Administration.
After more than a decade of UDP governance our nation is poorer, our economy is more fragile, and our development is stagnant. Today our economy is once again in recession and our once strong agriculture sector is in trouble. After a decade of the UDP, the citrus industry is in crisis, the sugar industry is struggling, the aquaculture industry is all but lost and now tourism is coming off one of its worse years in recent history. Already the papaya industry is gone, the Corozal free zone is a shadow of itself and too many of our young people have had to travel many miles each day just to find work. Tourism has seen the new phenomenon of sargassum, a new challenge brought on in part by climate change. This along with increasing drought has caused massive loss with no planned solutions by the government.
And the financial services sector has been under constant attack by the bigger players in Europe and North America and is so fragile that it can collapse at any moment. Add to this the ongoing problem of de-risking of our banking system and the entire financial services in our nation remains precarious. This is the record of Dean Barrow and the UDP!
Belizeans were forced to pay billions in taxes; billions more were borrowed, but too much went into the pockets of political cronies in corrupt deals and where spent on bloated contracts for badly paved roads and overpriced infrastructure. To name a few: the 42 million dollars civic center, the eight million dollars Faber’s Road rehabilitation project, the waste of millions in the still crumbling Lake Independence Blvd. And still to come, is the completion of the unnecessary airport link road, the overpriced 183 million dollars Caracol Road to nowhere, and the highly questionable Coastal Road contract, yet another contract given to a Vega family member, Imer Hernandez.
This is their legacy, one of lost opportunity, obscene corruption, incompetence and a lack of vision. But 2020 represents a new and exciting opportunity for all of us. This year will present a special opportunity to enter this new decade charting a new course.
We in the PUP have been working hard on our plans to create the enabling climate for new and good jobs for our people, especially our young people. We sincerely believe that if more of us are working there will be more shared prosperity which means less crime. We are working on plans to make government more productive and less wasteful and we will make education more relevant while doing better to keep us healthy by rolling out NHI countrywide.
Because we believe that citizen security is more than just fighting crime, our plan for public safety will be comprehensive, involving not only the police, but entire communities working together to keep all our children in school and working together to help families better account for their children’s whereabouts. We also want smart policing that is less brutal and more focused on preventing crime and we will strengthen our prosecution branch to ensure that those who commit crimes are convicted.
Everyone will be called to join in this great national effort to make our communities safer and we will win the day and make Belize safe again. If we are to enter this second decade of this millennium with a serious commitment to make our country better; then, we must work together.
This is why we continue to consult regularly with civic, religious and social partners to share our ideas and to hear suggestions on how we can make government more efficient and effective, to help our poor people by ensuring that we start with a five dollars minimum wage.
To relieve the overburdened productive sector not only by getting out of their way but helping them to modernize and to create financing for agriculture which would especially help our small farmers produce for our nation. I am convinced that together we can do all these things. Yes, we can grow the Belizean economy to a point where it can reach 5 percent annual growth. We can provide adequate health care for all; we can give our children a proper education and we can make affordable housing available.
For us in the PUP our national priorities continue to be about the people not roundabouts. We see a nation where families can prosper, where everyone has a proper roof over their heads. Where all our children can go to good schools and receive relevant, quality education and where our people can live healthy lifestyles, which will see them content in their golden age. Where our young people can turn an idea into reality and where our social and economic programs ensure that each year, we lift thousands of Belizeans out of poverty and into prosperity.
I started out by saying we ring in the new year with thanks and hope. For me it means thank you Belize, for listening to our message and for voting for us in the Village Council Elections.
We will not let you down and we are hopeful that this election year, 2020 will be the year you chose the People’s United Party to lead this nation into a decade of peace and progress.
As we look to 2020, I paraphrase Eric Thomas “This cannot be the year of talking. Of wishing. Of wanting. This has to be the year, [we] get it done!” – From all of us in the People’s United Party: Happy New Year, Feliz y Prospero Año Nuevo.