Statement by Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño

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November 18, 2020

On Monday, we had our first Cabinet meeting under my administration. At this meeting, we received several briefings on matters of urgent priority. One of which was the state of the government finances and the overall economy.

While in Opposition we had railed against the mismanagement and corruption of the past UDP government that you rightly and soundly rejected at the polls. The magnitude of the mismanagement was verified by the technocrats from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Belize. These technocrats jointly expressed that the government has been functioning with unsustainable fiscal and debt positions. The presentations to Cabinet revealed that Central Government revenues have fallen by over 166.8 million dollars or by 24.9 percent. This is far worse than we had anticipated. Government has been borrowing to meet the monthly wage and pensions bill and other current expenses to the tune of around 30 million dollars per month. As a result, central government’s debt has jumped from 97.7 percent of GDP to 132.9 percent of GDP.

In simple terms, the UDP government maxed out the credit card.

We do not earn enough to pay our bills. We have more than doubled the internationally accepted debt to GDP threshold and the 2nd highest in the Caribbean. This is unsustainable.

Cabinet also received a presentation from the Director of Health Services on the Covid-19 pandemic. We were shocked to learn that there is no real plan to contain the spread of the virus. Cabinet instructed the Minister of Health to meet with his technical team and advisors to develop a comprehensive plan to address the spread of this virus. The plan will be presented to Cabinet at its next meeting on Tuesday. While we expected it to be bad, the depths of mismanagement are truly scandalous.

In addition to the presentation from the Minister of Health and Wellness, the Minister of Infrastructure, Development and Housing and the Minister for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Response Management will be preparing reports and assessment for our next Cabinet meeting.

This will put us more in an informed position as we move forward diligently and deliberately to restore confidence in our government and our economy. We are committed to turning things around and to using all our collective knowledge, skills, know-how and creativity to do so.

According to the constitution of Belize, all CEO appointments are made by his Excellency the Governor General acting upon the advice of the Prime Minister. To date, no CEO has been appointed.

At the next Cabinet meeting, I will discuss with Cabinet the team of CEOs that will be responsible for the implementation of planBelize.

As a nation, we are dealing with a number of issues including rising numbers of infections and deaths by the coronavirus, thousands of Belizeans that have been affected by two storms, and increasing unemployment.

I call on all Belizeans to please stay safe and work together as we start the process of restoring our lives and nation.

I thank you.