By Alexis R. Milan
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, at a press conference on Thursday morning at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel, declared that in light of opposition against the PetroCaribe Loan Act from certain quarters, he would be open to modifying the Bill but certainly not repealing it.
Barrow made the announcement after having defended the Act and detailing the many benefits of the PetroCaribe program for Belize. He also announced upcoming projects to be financed with those funds. As he spoke, the opposition People’s United Party led a protest just outside the hotel.
Barrow said he is prepared to engage in discussions with those genuinely concerned about the Bill. He said he had reached out to the heads of several branches of the union and indicated his willingness to sit and discuss any issue of spending as it relates to PetroCaribe. According to Barrow, he even extended an offer for them to contact the Financial Secretary at anytime to review records dealing with spending in order to allay their fears.
The Prime Minister also announced his intention to use some of the PetroCaribe funds to buy back portions of the SuperBond, but said that was something that still needed to be discussed and worked out along with those concerned about the spending of PetroCaribe money. He reiterated that everything the government has done in regard to the PetroCaribe program has been transparent and will continue to be so.
Following along the lines of transparency, Barrow said the Auditor General is welcomed to look at each contract under the PetroCaribe program and audit government’s spending of those funds if she wishes to do so.
He said, however, that he will not extend any specific request for her to do so. He added that he was sure if she were to do so she would find what she generally finds – the occasional error, but certainly would find no instance of corruption or misuse of funds.
Barrow declared unequivocally that the government will not allow anyone to stop the PetroCaribe program from continuing in Belize. “I repeat and declare that for the good of the people, PetroCaribe and the PetroCaribe Loan Act is here to stay,” he said.