By Alexis R. Milan
Prime Minister Dean Barrow hosted the fourth annual public-private sector business forum on Thursday at the Best Western Belize Biltmore hotel under the theme, “Partnership for Growth and Prosperity”.
He met members of the private sector and discussed ways to strengthen Belize’s business climate.
Barrow said the establishment of the business forum is one of his proudest accomplishments as Prime Minister because it allows both sectors to come together and assess strengths and weaknesses and formulate ideas and policies aimed at improving the business climate in a spirit of partnership.
Kay Menzies, co-chair of the Economic Development Council (EDC) said the discussions that have started since the inception of the EDC in regard to tax reforms, the transportation master plan,and access to finance allows the business community to be optimistic about the country’s business climate.
She added that the Council cannot work miracles, and though everyone would like to see many of these issues resolved immediately, the important thing is that a line of communication between the private and public sector is open to facilitate partnership and discussion.
Mike Singh, EDC chairman, said he believes that some progress has been made since the first business forum, where several areas of concern have been addressed by the government. He added that when the World Bank releases its next “Doing Business in the World” report in January, Belize’s rank should reflect the efforts being made by the government.
Barrow also dispelled notions that his government is more focused on public sector growth and giving little attention to the private sector. He said his government has always been pro-business and will continue to implement policies to facilitate the growth of the private sector.
Menzies, speaking on the issue of how corruption affects economic growth, said “we have to find a way to address it”, adding that it is still an issue.
Barrow, chiming in on the issue, acknowledged the need to address the problem and when asked whether re-constituting the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and installing an Integrity Commission for greater accountability and oversight, he reiterated his position on both issues.
In regard to the Pblic Accounts Committee , Barrow said he does not support the opposition’s and the civil society’s view that the government should not constitute the majority on that Committee.
He added that GOB believes that an expansion may be in order to include the social partners, but not where the government would become the minority.
With regard to the Integrity Commission, Barrow recalled his administration’s difficulty in finding candidates willing to take on the financial disclosures that come with the “Politically Exposed Person” designation. He added that both are priorities for his administration.