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PM extends Senate inquiry deadline beyond November – Chamber of Commerce agrees

By William Ysaguirre
Freelance Reporter

The social partners were not in agreement when Chairman of Senate Special Select Committee, Senator Aldo Salazar, first indicated that the Committee’s work would soon be done, and that the government of Belize had spent enough time and money over the past eight months on the exercise.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow drew stern censure from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in a letter the Chamber addressed to him on September 20, when he asserted that the Senate Committee had better be done by November as GOB could not continue to fund the hearings beyond another month or two

Prime Minister Barrow toned down his hard stance last Thursday, September 28, saying that he could not provide the Senate inquiry with a blank cheque, as this would “not be consistent with accountability and proper budgeting”. His view was nothing lasts forever, and that he had gotten the impression that some of the Committee’s members were belaboring the issue simply for argument’s sake. He backed off to the point that if the Committee would recognize that the funding could not be open-ended ad infinitum, then government might be able to allocate extra resources to see them through to a conclusion by December or early January, then government would also reconsider its position and not insist on a November deadline.

The Chamber reacted favourably to this, issuing a press release on Thursday, October 5, in which it acknowledged the Barrow’s decision and his formal acknowledgment that the Committee’s work is “legitimate and necessary” and that its “expected findings and recommendations will be key in avoiding future mistakes and abuse.”

The Chamber also agreed with the Prime Minister that the Committee should also be responsible in its “accountability and proper budgeting,” and that it would not be unreasonable for the Committee to offer a practical timeline and with appropriate budget estimates, sufficient to fulfil their task.
The Chamber’s release stated this would be in keeping with the spirit of the Committee’s Terms of Reference which states: “the Committee shall hold its hearings with due urgency and expedition, in accordance with Standing Order 75 of the Senate Standing Orders.”

The Chamber also called on the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to use the Committee’s findings to complete their own investigations with the objective of bringing criminal charges against all persons who have violated the law. They said the ComPol and the DPP should not wait until the Committee’s inquiries are concluded before initiating their own investigations; as this would be a great disservice to Belize and a dereliction of the duties entrusted to them.

The many civil societies of Belize have assembled to push for a corruption-free country; as the business community, the unions, the churches, and NGO’s press for accountability and transparency in government. The Chamber said in the light of these events, the government should openly support these groups and provide the necessary resources for their investigation, to be done with professional objectivity.

The Chamber’s statement ends by saying “the BCCI remains committed to its role as a social partner with the government and all relevant stakeholders in achieving this goal.”

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