By Marion Ali
The business sector, namely the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Belize Business Bureau (BBB) have re-elected businessman, Mark Lizarraga, to serve the next five years in the Senate.
Lizarraga got endorsement from the BBB from the onset and his only competitor within the BCCI was Daniel Gutierrez from Belize Natural Energy Limited (BNE). By the final tally, Lizarraga out-contested Gutierrez 100 to 68 votes, of a total of 287 businesses that are part of the business sector.
In its manifesto entitled, “Change for Progress” the BCCI calls for basic pillars to be looked at. One of them is e-government, where it asks that grants, contracts, and an accounting of how the government spends its money, be placed on a government procurement website accessible to the public.
These are issues that Lizarraga told the Reporter the business sector will continue to champion and call for. The manifesto, he said, has been shared with all political parties, so they are familiar with the issues of concern.
Lizarraga said there is cause for concern over how the government spends money without accountability and that at least one published document puts Belize in a bad light in this regard. “We have been accused in this country – in the competitive index, we are 140 out of 142 – saying that all of our decisions are made because of favouritism and political favours. So that is a major concern for us.”
As a part of the whole governance issue, Lizarraga points to the other issues the business sector has been calling for before the elections, such as the institution of the 13th senator, the reactivation of the Integrity Commission, signing the United Nations Charter on Corruption and the CARICOM Charter on Procurement.
“They’re nothing new, but we have to continue to call for them”, Lizarraga emphasized. “Part of the UDP manifesto – they have promised to tackle issues of governance and they have promised more transparency…We are prepared to support any of these legislations that speaks to good financial management, transparency, accountability, and oversight.”
During this new term of office, Lizarraga said the business community might also propose pieces of legislation as well that could be used to bring about better governance.
“We look forward to working with the government and the new Senate”, Lizarraga said, “to see how we can best improve the investment climate and inspire the confidence that we need so that the private sector feels encouraged to go out and borrow money and grow this economy and take risks and hire people to provide the jobs that our people really need -.
“The type of growth that we will need to repay all these debts that we have, has to come from the private sector. Only the private sector can provide the sustainable jobs and sustainable growth that our economy needs to push this country forward. We can’t continue to push this country forward on only borrowed money. Not sustainable!”