By Alexis R. Milan
National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) President, Marvin Mora, said after his meeting with the Prime Minister that he was surprised to learn that the government isn’t thinking about repaying the Petro Caribe loan and has not formulated any plan to do so.
According to Mora, union executives at the meeting were stunned and have since ventilated the issue among themselves.
They are concerned that Prime Minister Dean Barrow expressed to them that the government at this time isn’t worrying about how the PetroCaribe loan will be repaid because they have many years to figure it out.
The second big concern the union had coming out of the meeting, Mora said, was that the government doesn’t have a proper plan of investment for the money as it relates to the long-term development of the country.
Mora added that during the meeting, Barrow even conceded that he had been advised by his own legal purists that the proposed amendments to the PetroCaribe Loan Act were cosmetic and have already been addressed in other parts of the Constitution.
According to Mora, Barrow indicated that the amendments were being introduced simply to placate the critics of the Act.
In another part of the meeting, Mora recalled, Barrow told them that if for instance, anyone who opposes the Petro Caribe fund were to organize a demonstration of 5,000 people, the government would simply bring out 15,000 people in response.
Mora said the union feels that was a sort of intimidation tactic, but isn’t discouraged. According to Mora, union executive members have discussed their concerns and union leaders are now in the process of meeting with the membership of their respective unions, ventilating the issues and concerns and awaiting feedback and instructions from the membership.
Once the union receives a clear indication of what their position is, executives will meet with their senator to instruct him how to vote in the Senate, based on their response to these most recent concerns.
Mora said the job is to carry out the will of their people and that’s exactly what it intend to do.
Mora said the union will meet this weekend and is expected to finalize its position on the issue before the amendments are tabled.
The Prime Minister will take the amendments to the PetroCaribe Loan Act to the House of Representatives next week Friday.
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the amendments, saying they do nothing to address the core problems of the original Act.
Unlike the unions, the Chamber was not invited to discuss the proposed amendments with the PM.