The Belize Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to launch its Social Economic Alliance Manifesto 2015, the first of its kind by the chamber. The chamber began the process in 2005 calling for governance reform which according to former Senator Mark Lizarraga is desperately needed to bring about social and economic growth in Belize. Lizarraga told us today that they will be inviting politicians to sign onto the manifesto.
“We will be inviting politicians to sign on to and what we will be asking them basically for is for them to commit on these reforms that we believe are needed to have the social and economic impact that our country needs to further develop so that we can have more job creation, more industries and a higher standard of living for the Belizean people, this new manifesto that we are going to be promoting will be calling for several things but the most important ones I believe is that we want to see the full inclusion of social partners on all government owned bodies or boards including the Central Bank, we believe that if government owns an entity that social partners should be on those boards we need to have more eyes and more ears of the social partners on all government control bodies, we would like to see a governance, we want to see a contracts and the monies that the government spends be put on an electronic platform where people can access it and know of people who are getting contracts, how much government is spending and why it is spending that money, we want people to be able to participate in those contracts and we don’t want to see only a few people getting these contracts over and over and over again, everybody should be able to access them we want to see campaign finance reform, we want to see education reform, we want to see governance reform, legal reform, we want things to be more open and more transparent, we want government to deliver on their promise of the Imagine the Possibilities manifesto where there was a strong promise of accountability, god governance and transparency so all of the things we call for will fall under that umbrella basically.”
According to Lizaragga, they are planning to also keep demanding the institution of the thirteenth senator. We asked him how they plan to ensure that this manifesto receives the attention they want to get. He responded that while they can’t force politicians, they can hope these politicians keep their word, especially if they sign the manifesto.
“We’re extremely disappointed that this government has made all these promises, pass certain laws yet they have not put them into effect more specifically the law that oversight the 13th Senator for example, we are very disappointed and one of the things that we are going to be calling in our manifesto is for the 13th Senator to be endorsed, we want to see a government that fulfills its basic obligations for transparency and accountability this money is not theirs this money is ours, the borrowing and spending of this money is out money is not their money and we were very disappointed for example when we see that a government has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars and spent it for the most part illegally and then passes a law that circumvents the law that go retrospectively absorbs them of wrong doing this are the things we want to see it comes to an end so we want to ensure that we know at least those politicians that will endorse this new reform that we are calling for and there is no way for us to force them to it but at least we are hoping that they sign on to it, that we will have something to say as a matter of fact that you have actually physically signed, I don’t know what are the legal binding of that will be but if you make a promise and the you don’t comply with it then something is wrong so what does that speak about you so we are hoping.”
Through the manifesto, the chamber is sending out a message that the business community is extremely concerned about the continuation of reforms in Belize, adds Lizarraga.
“Belize is becoming indebted as a country we are on our way to owing three super bonds and we need people in government to understand that they have to account for this you know we remain extremely concern when we see that the auditor General has not been able to have an opinion on the governments accounts for the last two reports because the accounts of government are such disarray and we remain concern that her recommendations are not followed year after year after year, we remain concern that monies can go missing from the treasury, from the Ministry of Health, from the Post Office we remain concern about things like this that there is no serious controls in place for the spending and safe guarding of the people’s money these things are extremely concerns to us and we contribute a huge portion through our tax base so we have an interest in protecting and making sure that the people we put in government protect our monies. The Public Accounts Committee is legally the watch dog for parliament they have every right to be able to look at reports from the Auditor General and go into any government department or any ministry to find out what is going on but this PAC needs to be reinstituted because the present membership which is government controlled does not allow them to meet because the government does not want to oversee themselves so we have been calling for the social partners we have been calling for a re-composition of PAC and we are saying it should have two opposition members, three members from the NGO committee and four members from government and they will continue to maintain the majority of members and we are saying they should allowed for minority report in other words the majority should have their way and they can make a report but also the minority should be able to have their say and attach a final report to any report that comes from the Public Accounts Committee but we need to have Public oversight remember what the Caribbean Court of Justice said are the cancers that eat away our democracy Prime ministerial governance and scarcity of check and balances those are the things that eat away our democracy.”
The manifesto is yet to be launched. A date has not been set but according to Lizarraga, that should be soon.
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