Prime Minister Dean Barrow released his New year’s Day message today. In his message, the Prime Minister said that there were many things to be grateful for in 2015, including an economically good year.
Hon. Dean Barrow, PM of Belize: Economically it was also a good year. Disease and the long drought played havoc with shrimp and grains. And an earlier than expected decrease in the export price was unwelcome news for our sugar cane farmers. But tourism saw continuing record advances, cost of living fell markedly, and there was an overall spurt in the rate of employment. Our public works program reached its high point, so that there was tremendous infrastructural development and huge knock-on effects in jobs, income and spending. Government and quasi Government salary increases, commercial bank liquidity, greater access to credit and lower interest rates, also helped to boost consumer confidence and well-being
The Prime Minsiter also addressed the coming new year saying that while ther are obstacles to overcome, ther are still reasons for optimism.
Hon. Dean Barrow, PM of Belize: Looking ahead to 2016, I say at once that the landscape is changed and the dynamics will be different. But I also say immediately that there are still multiple reasons for optimism, and that we see our way clear to another successful year. Among the challenges that we will confront, the reduction in PetroCaribe flows is perhaps the most pronounced. With the dizzying fall in oil prices, we expect to get much less from these Venezuela loan funds than we did in 2015. And already 2015’s intake was only half of 2014. This, combined with the drying up of earnings from our own petroleum exports, will put a severe crimp in Government revenues. It is what, in the face of the coming step-up in SuperBond payments and the Compensation Award expected to be handed down towards the middle of the year, has caused us to raise the duty on fuel imports. The CIF price of these is so low that we were able to judge the increase a bearable burden. And with this, which is the only tax measure we will take, Government will be able to meet debt obligations and pay for expansion in services, particularly regarding national security and the acquisition of assets such as the three BDF helicopters and the two latest model Coast Guard boats.”
The Prime Minister says that Government’s infrastructure drive will also continue, though now it won’t only be from the dwindling Petro caribe fund but from a mix of funding sources. In terms of the larger economy and the private and productive sector, The Prime Minister says the outlook is just as promising.
Hon. Dean Barrow, PM of Belize: In agriculture, the grain farmers have taken full advantage of Government’s tax and duty moratorium on all irrigation equipment to reinvest in the sector with a view to expanded, post-drought production. The poultry industry has recovered from the avian flu, and shrimp harvesting is expected by mid year to rebound completely from disease to take full advantage of continuing high export prices. In citrus, factory consolidation should increase efficiencies, and external demand and payment for our by-products remain firm. Sugar is not currently fetching the optimum returns in the European market that we would like. Nevertheless, the huge Santander investment in a factory and cane fields in the Cayo District has now come to fruition. Grinding operations are set to start by February. And the initial amount of 350 thousand tonnes of cane to be milled, should go up in year 2 to as much as 800 thousand tonnes. Apart from the foreign exchange earnings and permanent employment that the coming of sugar to the West brings, Santander is also negotiating a power purchase agreement with BEL to supply cheap co-generation energy to the local grid.
The PM says that it is in tourism that Belize’s prospects continue to shine brightest.