Today is day one of the two day debate on the Proposed budget for 2015/2016. And while the budget would normally be the highlighted arguments in the house, the BILL passed in the House today seems to have garnered most of the attention. That bill is the PetroCaribe Loan Ac 2015. The bill states:
“(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act, 2005, or any other law to the contrary, it shall be lawful for the Government of Belize to borrow money from ALBA Petrocaribe (Belize Energy) Limited in ANY amounts without the prior AUTHORIZATION of the National Assembly and to enter into a loan agreement with APBEL for the said purpose.
(2) The money borrowed from APBEL may be kept in a special account at the Central Bank of Belize and may be withdrawn from time to time as the need arises. And
(3)No limitations shall apply to the use of the money borrowed from APBEL and it may be used to finance capital projects as well as to provide social and community assistance to the poor and the socially marginalised, and any other legitimate purpose as the Government may consider fit.”
The PUP says this is a blow to transparency and removes the Petrocaribe monies from Parliamentary oversight. But according to PM Barrow the only thing the bill does is validate the borrowing and spending of alba petrocaribe monies. He went on to assure that oversight will continue at all levels seeing that the monies will continue to be a part of the consolidated revenue fund and will be kept at the Central bank.
Every time there is any withdrawal to continue to fund the transformation of this country. It goes through the Ministry of Finance under the complete supervision oversight of the Financial Secretary and all the officials in the Ministry of Finance. Who have time and again come before the nation and say, ‘this is sall above and here are the details.’ It cannot change as well, the oversight that Venezuela continues to maintain over the phones. This is a bilateral program and we account to Venezuela and unlike them, who divereted the $20 million for housing, taking the Venezuelans completely by surprise. We periodically send them or meet with them and provide them with the figures, with all the details of the spending. Periodically again, as we spend, we will come to the House with the supplementary bills to in fact indicate where the spending has reached, at a particular point in time – allow a debate on the spending that has taken place and then try to pass the supplementary appropriation. In fact, I am undertaking that we will do that half yearly. I’ve already signaled that we will come back with a mid-year budget, or if they want we can do it every 3 months. There is nothing to hide. We want the Belizean people to know the details. We want them to continue to be impressed by how very much we are spending on the transformation of their lives – on the transformation of this country.”