Also in the House of Representatives yesterday, Minister of Education Patrick Faber raved about the education achievements to date from the Government, before delving further to criticize the stance from the Belize Chamber of Commerce, who supports the teacher’s salary adjustment movement. Apparently, Faber was offended by the support teachers garnered from the private sector entity and said in the house that it’s none of the chambers business to intervene and challenged that private sector workers get a raise as well. Here is that clip.
Patrick Faber- Minister Of Education
“You know, the Chamber, Mister Speaker, but out a release that I don’t understand. I think it baffles me. They are saying that the teachers deserve a raise and they support the teachers getting a raise. Well for the record, this administration, nobody in here—I don’t think the Prime Minister or any of his ministers—have ever said that we don’t think that the teachers deserve a raise; so let’s put that to rest. In fact, in his New Year’s message and in those negotiations, we have agreed that a raise will be given. We just don’t agree on the thirty percent and the reason why we noh agree on that thirty percent is because we can’t afford it. But Mister Speaker, for the Chamber to then say put out a release to say the teachers deserve the raise but we also need to do it responsibly, then I want to ask them weh dehn mi deh? Because, Mister Speaker, out of the negotiations that the prime minister led, out of that came the agreement that yes we will get the fifty cents on every additional dollar collected, but in addition, there were two committees set up. And this is ongoing, Mister Speaker. The two committees—one to make sure that there is increase revenues and one is to make sure that we are more efficient in handling whatever monies that are administered. Mister Speaker, so that is perfectly in line with what the Chamber is saying; Chamber noh di tell we nothing new. And then they are saying that it should be done over a period of time. Well that is exactly what we are saying. I find it strange that they would say to the government that you can give this raise if you better manage yourselves and give the raise because there is this cost of living adjustment that is needed. Well Mister Speaker, if they are going to ask for a raise for the public servants, I am going to ask for a raise for the private sector—all the workers who work out there Mister Speaker. If they think that the government can afford a raise for the public servants, then why is it that they can’t afford to raise the minimum wage and raise the salaries for all the other Belizeans who are not working in the public sector? Let’s have that discussion.”
Well, today, the Belize Chamber of Commerce fired back in a press release stating that they find Faber’s criticism as “alarming in a constitutional democracy which should encourage freedom of speech”. It went on to state and we quote, “Hon. Faber has also publicly accused the private sector as a group of underpaying its employees while overcharging the public. Aside from noting the evils of generalizing, whether it be about politicians, public servants, or the private sector, our response is that businesses that are good corporate citizens pay a disproportionate amount of taxes, leaving a diminished amount of resources with which to create jobs and pay employees.” End quote. The release ended saying that attempts made by the minister to insult and threaten the largest tax paying group in the country because he had not carefully read our press release is certainly not the wisest course of action for healthy partnership and development.
And while he said a mouthful yesterday, today the Minister of Education did not keep silent and responded to the Chamber via a press release. In the release Faber states and we quote “It is factual that whenever the discussion of raising the minimum wage in Belize is brought up that there are strong reservations made by the private sector primarily the Chamber of Commerce. Is the Chamber by its latest release saying that non public-sector workers in this country don't need an upward adjustment in their wage/salaries? Are they willing to defend that the private sector pays and compensates its workers so adequately that there is no need for adjusting the minimum wage as well as wages and salaries in general? Is the chamber by its latest release also saying that my statement about some unscrupulous business people price gouging Belizeans is an unfair criticism?
Faber also makes mention that he finds it hypocritical that the Chamber became alarmed at his invocation of his right to criticize their release when that was the very same freedom they invoked when they offered their release. “Indeed it is a constitutional democracy which encourages freedom of speech for all. Finally I am still at a loss to find exactly where in my remarks any threat was issued.” stated Faber at the end of his release.
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