Independence Day Celebrations were held across the country yesterday as Belizeans celebrated thirty-five years of freedom. As for customary the official Independence ceremonies was housed in the nation’s capital, Belmopan, where the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow; Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño; the Governor General, Sir Colville Young; the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin; the Mayor of Belmopan, Khalid Belisle; members of the clergy, and many other government officials, dignitaries and ambassadors came together in celebration of Belize’s Independence.


Belizeans have come to expect huge financial handouts including cancelling of mortgages, lower light rates to increases in internet speeds as a part of Prime Minister Barrow’s annual Independence Day address to the nation. But that was not the case this year because instead of bearing gifts, Prime Minister Dean Barrow used his Independence Day speech to tell the nation of Belize that our country is experiencing a recession something which the Leader of the Opposition had already disclosed in Parliament. Prime Minister went on to explain that this current recession is caused by vagaries of the commodities cycle: agricultural sector disease, the drying up of our petroleum resources, and the crash in global prices.


Screen_Shot_2016-09-22_at_8.31.53_PMRt. Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize


Things, then, have gone way beyond the natural ferment, the expected clang and clamor of a young, developing Democracy. And the economic backdrop to it all is, at this time, a complicating factor since we are experiencing a recession caused by the vagaries of the commodities cycle: agricultural sector disease, the drying up of our petroleum resources, and the crash in global prices. It is, of course, a recession made worse by Hurricane Earl. But it is also a recession from which, I must say at once, we will absolutely recover.”


During his address, Prime Minister Barrow also touched base on the many issues that have recently haunted our people prompting several demonstrations in recent weeks.


Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize


“This year's September Celebrations came at a time of great division in our country. Notwithstanding that it was not even12 months since the people spoke in the last general elections, at which the results were decisive, the tug of war between the Ruling and Opposition parties has become more contentious. The Labour movement has also been beset by a degree of factionalism. And even within our Church community fundamental philosophical and doctrinal differences have beaten back the spirit of Ecumenism and highlighted some seemingly irreconcilable points of view. The principal source of the conflict here is what has been described elsewhere as the culture wars: starkly contrasting positions on how to treat with the recasting of the categories of sexual and gender identity, and the claims that human rights include LGBT rights. Not surprisingly, the Chief Justice's Section 53 ruling detonated a societal pitched battle in which traditional values and religious mores are in a fierce offensive against liberalism, secularism and the arguments for evolved Constitutional protections.”


Prime Minister Barrow then spoke on both the bright spots and the kinks within the economy, maintaining that the biggest of the problems in the economy continues to be the SuperBond and promises to find a definite solution before the end if his tenure.


Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize


“Tourism remains, of course, the brightest star in our constellation with success following success and overnight arrival records constantly being shattered. NCL is on track for its Harvest Caye November start, and the exploratory probe into the feasibility of the new Belize City Port Loyola Cruise Terminal has yielded initial results that are encouraging.
Our dollar continues strong and securely underpinned, though our correspondent banking woes are still a problem. Three out of the four local commercial banks now enjoy full correspondent relationships with US or UK banks. But the fourth is still searching and until it succeeds its inability to route external flows for its customers does create a foreign exchange choke point. But our Central Bank is working to solve that problem.  My confidence today, then, is for a full return, by the start of the next fiscal year, to GDP growth and financial system normalcy. But that confidence is marred by one thing: fear of that other hurricane called the SuperBond. So I will say just this. If it is the last thing I do before I leave office, I will solve once and for all that problem. And it will not take anything like the four plus years I have left on my Constitutional mandate. Take the question of the economy. Even though there has been a slackening of the GDP numbers, there is still an abundance of good things happening. In particular public works, that driver of jobs and growth, continues to remake our country. The Belize Infrastructure Limited is still proceeding with the construction of sports and community facilities in the District Towns. And in the Old Capital the Belize City Center is beginning to commune with the heavens, the frame of its roof already dominating the skyline. The Chetumal Street Bridge and the new Lake I Boulevard function as a critical transportation by-pass, much appreciated by commuters. And the adjoining Resource Center Building starting to take shape, signals the implementation commencement of the Master Plan for the 45 acres owned by Government, designated now as a Special Development Area. It is a mixed use project that will house the National Bus Terminal and a GOB office complex, but as well private sector recreational, entertainment and retail spaces.”


Amidst the long list of adversities currently haunting his administration, PM encouraged Belizeans to focus on the many positive things happening in our country, mainly infrastructural projects being funded by various financial institutions including the upgrade of the Philip Goldson Highway here in the north.


Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow – Prime Minister of Belize


“The larger, countrywide infrastructure canvas also displays a medley of good things. Those of you coming to Belmopan this morning from Belize City or from the San Ignacio, would have been impressed by the new Guanacaste Roundabout at the junction of the Hummingbird and the George Price Highway; and you should see it at night when it is splendidly lit up, gorgeously displaying its first world quality and serving as emblem and beacon for our non-stop transformation. Then, approval has already been secured for the paving and aligning of the Coastal Road together with new bridges. This comes out of a 40 million dollar UK grant, the balance of which will go for improvements in the North to the Philip Goldson Highway between Orange Walk and Corozal.”


Other issues covered in the PM’s Independence speech was the Section 53 ruling, the Guatemalan claim and the after math of hurricane Earl.

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