By Marion Ali
Standing on its promise to do right by the people, the People’s United Party (PUP) this week introduced a wide ranging plan to stomp out corruption and improve the quality of life for Belizeans with its “Social Contract” – a social reform agenda bearing the signatures of standard bearers bidding for elective office on November 4.
The 12-point document covers a cross-section of issues: exemption of income tax for everyone earning less than $50,000 a year and an increase in the minimum wage and social security benefits for workers and pensioners; the creation of a public Upliftment Fund with the proceeds of the PetroCaribe Fund that will be administered by a Board, including the social partners.
Other things the party proposes to do include: free education from pre-school to sixth form and tertiary-level scholarships to students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher; disbanding the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU); building forward operating bases at Sarstoon and Hunting Cayes and placing additional outposts in the Chiquibul Reserve; appointing the thirteenth Senator, who will be nominated by Civil Society, and requiring Senate confirmation of key appointments of senior public officers, such as Judges, the Auditor General, the Contractor General, and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The PUP also pledges to reconfigure and empower the Public Accounts Committee to include social partners to provide oversight of public finances; strengthen the Integrity Commission to provide oversight and prevent corruption; roll out the National Health Insurance countrywide and invest in health facilities and ensure affordable quality healthcare; revisit the Hotel and Tourism Accommodation Act with a view to making all accommodation services subject to only General Sales Tax (GST) to enable the sector to claim GST input tax credits.
In his introductory remarks at PUP headquarters on Queen Street, PUP Leader Francis Fonseca said, “…The social contract we present today responds to the cry and demand from the Belizean people (to change the system , for the corruption to stop and for ordinary Belizeans to get fair opportunities and a fair share of the nation’s wealth). …”
Our social contract is about giving back power to the people.”
The existing gun law, which commits to prison everyone within a household where an illegal weapon is found, will also be repealed, said PUP Deputy Leader Julius Espat.
On the issue of fair-play between employer and employee, the PUP’s Belize Rural Central’s Area Representative, Dolores Balderamos Garcia said: “We will review and revise labour laws to ensure fair practices by employers and employees and update legislation to protect worker safety.”
The document would go hand in hand with the party’s health reform, education reform, social justice, and women’s agendas, as well as its national manifesto scheduled to be introduced in the days ahead.