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As is customary, Independence Day in Belmopan was all about speeches by the two political leaders, Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca.  Before an audience of elected ministers, dignitaries, other invited guests and the wider public Prime Minister Dean Barrow lauded the work of his political party as the present administration. The Prime Minister gave a glowing report of the state of the nation pointing to several initiatives, some new and about how much money is being pumped in the nation for infrastructural works across all municipalities. Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca was first on the podium and spoke on the general state of things in the country; taunting the incumbent and this is where the verbal sparring started between both leaders.

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

"A growing political divide grounded in a troubling brand of governance which offers no regard or respect to duly elected representatives of the people who do not belong to the party in government. Political parties are important and necessary but once elected to government that political party and its leader have a solemn duty and obligation to serve the people of Belize wherever they may live and regardless of who they voted for."

Screen_Shot_2014-09-23_at_8.32.52_PMPrime Minister Dean Barrow

"But once more I'm resolved not to respond in kind. After all, nothing should provoke-or excuse-any descent from dignity and statesmanship on Independence Day."

Other topics of interest in Fonseca’s speech included the plunder of the Chiquibul Forest Reserve to which he demanded that Government re-strategize their efforts to combat the problem. But the PM, with the advantage to speak last, was quick to put those worries to ease by stating that Government will be receiving additional funding which will be used to elevate their efforts.

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

"We recognize that we are nonetheless at war, a war we are currently losing. Even as we celebrate in our towns and cities across Belize, deep inside the magnificent Chiquibul and other protected rainforest areas of our country, hundreds of acres of our pristine national patrimony are being lost to illegal farmers, miners and extractors of Xate and rare artifacts. The situation demands that we prioritize so that we can invest in adequate security infrastructure including helicopters."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“These measures that we are putting in place now and over the longer term will be greatly aided by a US 30 million dollars national security loan we are obtaining from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration that will undoubtedly help us get that helicopter Mr. Leader of the Opposition. This will fund unprecedented spending on vehicles, weapons, facilities, equipment’s and training and hopefully give us the sustain success we need. Given the size of the loan questions have been raised whether we have the fiscal space to accommodate it but we cast these aside in our absolute determination to finally cage the law and order beast.”

The PM also announced that BTL internet users will be receiving twice their bandwidth for the same price and in the BEL aspect of things, they have profited despite decreasing their rates to consumers.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

"Now, under nationalization, there is vibrant competition in the sector; liberalization resulting in the complete opening up of VOIP and related services; and internet and general rates that are at their cheapest ever. And as this forward march continues it gives me great pleasure to announce that I have just signed a Statutory Instrument making internet services zero-rated, rather than exempt, for GST purposes. This will allow all internet service providers to charge even less; and in the case of BTL as of October 1 customers will begin to get double the bandwidth for the same price. Of course GOB takes a revenue loss in consequence. But it is well worth it as together with BTL we deepen all- important internet penetration in this nation. "BEL made profits of $18 million in 2013 while actually decreasing rates to consumers by 7.9%, there is every likelihood of further rate reductions in 2015."

So, most of the news coming out of the speech is from the Prime Minister who emphasized on infrastructural development as the primary vehicle by which the country is moving forward. But perhaps one of the biggest and most controversial announcements was that government will pay the December 2014 interest payment on ALL mortgages at Commercial Banks that will benefit about 28,000 Belizeans.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

"This year, in keeping with the emphasis on the middle class, I announce that Government will meet the interest payment for the month of December 2014 on all home mortgages in the country with an original value of up to 100 thousand dollars. Thus every borrower in Belize with a housing loan at the National Bank, all the commercial banks, the DFC, Social Security and all Credit Unions, will be helped. Preliminary estimates show 1,602 such borrowers at the commercial banks; 4,833 at the credit unions; around 700 at the DFC; about 70 at SSB; and 200 at the National Bank. Altogether, then, at least 7405 mortgagors will be assisted in this way."

With so many promises the question now is “can Belizeans be looking at receiving pre-election gifts? After all town council elections are right around the corner.


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