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A tractor hauls loads of sugar cane in Belize. (File photo)

Belize borrows millions to aid unemployed

A tractor hauls loads of sugar cane in Belize. (File photo)

Prime Minister Dean Barrow says the government has borrowed BDZ$75 million (One Belize dollar=US$0.49 cents) from the Central Bank to help persons who have been placed on the unemployment line and unable to take care of themselves and the families.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow (Photo: Caribbean National Weekly)

But Barrow has described the loan as “a drop in the bucket” and has made a “solemn promise” to help get more funds.

“I am in no doubt that we will end up at least doubling that 75 million dollars.  So there will be add-ons to the disbursement of monies to our unemployed which disbursements start this week and will also initially utilize the contributions made by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), Belize Water Services (BWSL) and Social Security Board (SSB),” he told the nation.

“The continuity of essential services and the more than ample availability of supplies are both guaranteed and there is no need to panic.”

– Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The additional funding that we will procure will augment the national ongoing BOOST initiative that also already puts cash in the hands of our people and we will expand countrywide, including to the rural areas the Ministry of Human Development’s all important food assistance programs.  Belizeans, I say again that you are not alone.  Together we will overcome and I swear by that Almighty God whom I ask now to bless us all that government, our national partnership and I personally will do everything to bring Belize as whole as possible out of this national and international nightmare,” Barrow said.

He said that as far as financial aid, in the form of loans from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), help is slow to come since the IDB and other international financial institutions are also rendering assistance to other countries battling COVID-19.

Barrow said aid from the IDB and other global financial institutions is hard to come by as they are also providing assistance to other countries affected by COVID-19.

“The second point I must make is this, our local health team and the Ministry of Health are so plentifully resourced that we could theoretically reach the point of equipment oversupply.  I hasten to add though that there can never really be too much.  I’m just trying to underline the fact that we are completely prepared for the battle on the health front.

“So, the Ministry of Health forecasted their requirements for a six-month battle against COVID-19 at around BDZ$12 to BDZ$15 million.  We already have in hand close to BDZ$20 million and BDZ$13 million more is arriving from the IDB in a matter of weeks.”

But Barrow said all the international financial institutions focused on the health front on this fight against COVID-19.

“As critical as that is though, what I keep telling our international partners is that it is equally important for us to feed and clothe our people,” Barrow added.

Meanwhile, as of Wednesday night, the restriction of free movement of citizens across the country will come into full effect as part of the state of emergency.

The government has said only persons who are deemed essential service workers, including law enforcement officers and health professionals, will be allowed to go about their respective duties outside of the imposed curfew.

He told the nation that the country is self-sufficient in basic staples and “we can feed ourselves for the long haul.

“The continuity of essential services and the more than ample availability of supplies are both guaranteed and there is no need to panic. Supermarkets, grocery stores, banks and credit unions will all remain open and every arrangement is being made for local producers to proceed uninterrupted with the provision of meat, chicken, eggs, rice, beans, grains, vegetables and so on. Cargo will also continue to come into our country and essential imports are also secure.”