One of the Arguments on the Government’s side when addressing the Unions’ opposition to the Petro Caribe Bill is that one of its largest member unions- the Belize National Teachers Union- is directly and indirectly benefitting from the Petro Caribe program through a salary adjustment and a special program for teachers at the National Bank of Belize. In an interview today the president of the Belize National Teachers Union Luke Palacio retorted that argument.
“The agreement or arrangement that we have – the formula for the salary adjustment is one based on revenue generated one year over the other. PetroCaribe, as far as we understand it, is a loan. It is not generated revenue in per say in terms of the consolidated revenue or the formula that we would apply. The Belizean public would also understand and realize or remember that at the time the Prime Minister had gone to Cayo North East, speaking about millions and millions of dollars in the coffers, we raised the consern. We as the union said to him, well if there is that money – those millions and millions are rolling, then give us the salary adjustment that we are requesting. His response to us was, ‘PetroCaribe money is a loan, it is not for salary adjustment.’ In terms of the National Bank, again it was in negotiations we had with the Prime Minister that we had, when he first raised the issue of the National Bank of which he said,’ they would start off the National Bank with twenty million dollars and that ten million would be there for teachers and public officers if we agreed to accept that offer. We accepted that and again, that was in 2011. So in no way, with this PetroCaribe matter that is being addressed that that would have been an issue. We also need to point out that it was the same persons involved at the National Bank who had raised the concerned with us that the teachers are not accessing the National Bank. How can you say now that the teachers are benefiting from National Bank and when we raise the query, ‘why o ur teachers weren’t accessing the National Bank,’ we were told it was a cumbersome process. So I cannot say for you definitely that this is the number of teachers who have benefited or have gotten loans through the National Bank. That was a concern. How can you say now come and say that we are benefiting handsomely from those PetroCaribe investments.