The Prime Minister of Belize’s New Year’s message to the nation speaks of continued progress for Belize going into 2018. The PM began by speaking about gains made in 2017.
PM Hon. Dean Barrow: 2017 was certainly an improvement over 2016, not least in the fact that the year just past saw a return to all-important GDP and economic growth. Exports were up an impressive 13% in the first 9 months, and a historically low year-over-year inflation rate, pegged at just 1.2%, continued. The importance of this in preserving the purchasing power of the Belize dollar, helping to fight poverty and growing the middle class, cannot be overstated. It is in that same context that we view 2017’s final tranche in the three-year salary adjustment package for Public Officers and Teachers. No other country in the region has so generously rewarded Government employees, and of this we are immensely proud. Also, the Statistical Institute of Belize just released very encouraging Labour Force information. According to the Institute, unemployment fell to 9.7% in September of 2017. This was down from the 11.1% in September 2016, and was extremely welcome year end news.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the restructuring of the superbond as another example of progress.
PM Hon. Dean Barrow:Early in 2017 we also succeeded in restructuring the SuperBond. We thereby escaped the threatened draining of our recurrent revenues and foreign reserves, and the imminent strangulation of our ability to service our people and economy. We had a bumper sugar crop, increased our access to export markets in the non-traditional areas of chicken, grains, processed meat and even ice cream. And tourism continued its magnificent star turn as the highest flyer of all. Indeed, as at the end of November 2017, overnight tourism had increased by 9.5% over the same period for 2016. And cruise calls went up by 3.7%, netting both an overall increase and, for the second year running, topping the 1 million visitor mark.
While the PM spoke on the positive accomplishments of 2017, he also spoke about the challenges facing the nation.
PM Hon. Dean Barrow:Of course, 2018-just like 2017 or any other year-will not be only sweetness and light. In fact, the November CCJ judgment arising out of that murkiest, most opaque, and most malevolent of conspiracies that birthed the UHS millstone, will follow us into the New Year. Since the matter will be going to Parliament on January 5, I will not say too much here. But we, Belize, this nation, must come out of this with honour, with dignity. And we can’t do that if we were simply to fold, to place our tails between our legs without account or even explanation from those who perpetrated this most monstrous of back stabs. But the spirit which will not allow this to happen is the same spirit that will see off any other challenge to our country.