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Postponement of Referendum Costing Big Money

Postponement of Referendum Costing Big Money
April 12
07:43 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

With the interim injunction granted by the Chief Justice last week on the ICJ referendum and its now indefinite postponement, GOB will need to secure additional funding, not only for its education campaign on taking the matter to the ICJ but also for its execution by the Election and Boundaries Department.

The Elections and Boundaries Department had budgeted some $2 Million to spend on the Referendum and all the preparatory work leading up to the event (excluding public awareness campaign), and more than half of that amount had already gone into the work that accompanies such a humongous task. What is still being tallied is how much of that money was spent on capital (supplies that can still be used) and how much was spent on recurrent expenditure (overtime and extra hours paid out to public officers and other expenses that are irretrievable). Whatever leftovers are what is now being used on the continuous campaign and new expenses being incurred until a new date is set for the Referendum.

Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight told the Reporter that a good sum of what is available will have to be spent on day-to-day operations that will have to continue for however long it takes until a date is set. A large portion of the monies were spent on dispatching the hundreds of public officers who would have served as returning officers and election clerks were dispatched since the weekend to the 344 polls across the country where Belizeans would have turned out to vote on Referendum Day. Their accommodations, transportation, logistical expenses had already been invested by the time the announcement was affirmed by the Court of Appeal on Monday that there would be no Referendum on April 10th.

Waight explained that the government will indeed need to allocate more funds, but estimating such a figure will be difficult until at least a tentative date is set for the new referendum. According to Waight, GOB will need to prepare a new budget for it spending leading up to a new date for the referendum.

The problem, he said, is that since no date has yet been decided, government cannot start preparing a budget with no timeline of how long such spending would last and what costs it would incur. “Until we get a likely date, then we can put together a new budget, albeit at a much lower rate than before; they’ve already incurred quite a bit of expenditure,” Waight said.

According to Waight, under the current budget, an additional $200,000 was allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet expenses related to the campaign leading up to the referendum in the final weeks before April 10. He added that those funds should keep the campaign going until a new budget can be prepared.

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