By Benjamin Flowers
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is strongly condemning a Government of Belize’s decision to give a million unbudgeted dollars to teachers who did not go on strike, in the face of the 2017/18 austerity budget.
The BCCI pointed out that the national debt stands at $3.3 billion, or 90% of GDP, which means that every Belizean owes $8,819.37, regardless of age or income level.
The Chamber charged that GOB is being irresponsible with its public funds, in light of the current economic belt-tightening and the commitments of austerity made to bondholders of the 2034 dollar bond.
“The Government’s action also begs the question: To what extent do the newly implemented tax increases, and the resultant increases in consumer prices, could have been avoided!” the BCCI asked Thursday.
The Chamber went on to say that it had criticized the 2017 National Budget in March because it was lacking in key areas. Business Senator Mark Lizarraga, conveyed the Chamber’s position that the budget failed to promote growth, introduce measures to arrest revenue leakage, and did not adequately address cutting expenditure, prior to resorting to tax increases.
The Chamber also criticized the government for its pro-poor stance, without taking what it felt to be actual pro poor measures, and pointed out several instances where it felt GOB fell short in doing so, including:
*.ensuring more job opportuities,
*addressing inefficiencies and corruption in government and,
*working towards lowering the national debt.
The Chamber closed by “strongly” recommending that the $1 million set aside for teaches who didn’t strike, along with any other unbudgeted funds be used for authentic and visionary approaches to meaningful economic growth and public sector cost cutting.
Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Faber, told the nation on Monday that he had consulted with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and they decided to set aside $1 million to compensate teachers who had declined to strike and showed up to work during the October 2016 industrial action.