7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesWednesday, March 25, 2015

UDP Officially Endorses Tracey Taegar P. For Albert Div.
For the past two nights, we’ve been reporting on the big political news that the CEO in the Ministry of Tourism Tracy Panton is going to be the new UDP candidate...
UDP Changes Standard Bearers In OW South
And further to that promise that he’s getting ready for elections – Party Leader Dean Barrow is also making changes in other divisions. IT was rumoured that the UDP ...
Tracey Panton Unchallenged; So What About Hon. Castro, Hon. Castillo?
And while Barrow as party leader is making interventions in selected divisions, it seems he won’t do so in Caribbean Shores and Belize Rural North. That’s where Mini...
Regular Fuel Price Spikes Amidst Fuel Shortage
The fuel tanker ship from Venezuelan fuel supplier PDVSA (Pe-De-Ve-Sa) was scheduled to arrive today – and at midnight the price of regular fuel shot up. ...
PM Will Not Entertain Cheap Imported Rice
Since Friday we’ve been reporting on the situation with the rice industry. Importer Jack Charles says he can bring in rice from Guyana, which will retail f...
How Did The Economy Do In Last Quarter?
The budget will be debated tomorrow in Belmopan where the Opposition will get ample opportunity to criticize the UDP government’s economic performance. And...
PUP’s Youth Arm Not Impressed With Budget
And while those figures will be grist for the elected politicians tomorrow in the House of Representatives, today the PUP’s Belize Youth Movement of the PUP sc...
Hon. Longsworth’s Soft Opening Of Marion Jones
At the top of the news, we told you how Area Representative Herman Longsworth is stepping aside to make way for Tracey Taegar Panton. That makes him – in p...
PM Discusses Marijuana Decriminalization
Last week we told you that Cabinet had agreed in principle with the de-criminalisation of less than ten grams of marijuana. And the principle they agreed with is t...
Special Envoy’s “My Body Is Precious” Book
Good touch, bad touch! That’s the playful phrase parents and teachers use when talking to kids about sexual abuse. Well, that is the theme of the “My Body is preciou...
Petrocaribe Bill Goes Back To House; Opposition Will Challenge It
The budget debate is the main business of tomorrow’s house meeting – but the opposition is getting ready to challenge the government on the passage of the Petro Cari...
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7 News Belize - News:
Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers, we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English

UDP Officially Endorses Tracey Taegar P. For Albert Div.

For the past two nights, we’ve been reporting on the big political news that the CEO in the Ministry of Tourism Tracy Panton is going to be the new UDP candidate in the Albert Division. And today the UDP held a press conference at its party headquarters to make official what you already knew: that Area Representative Herman Longsworth and Challenger Phillip Willoughby would step aside to make way to Taegar Panton.

But saying it is one thing – seeing it is quite another – as only very rarely does a sitting representative step aside to publicly welcome another. Here’s how that went today:…

Tracy Taegar-Panton - Will be endorsed as UDP Standard bearer, Albert

"My name is Tracy Taeger-Panton and having spent almost 30 years committed to the service of others, today I offer myself as a candidate for the UDP in the Albert constituency."

And Taegar-Panton got glowing endorsements from the current standard bearers and the man who was challenging:

Hon. Herman Longsworth - Stepping down as Standard Bearer, Albert

"To cut the story short I am here to say that I fully support the candidacy of Ms. Panton and I ask everybody, who supported me, who worked with me to really and truly consider putting their weight behind her going forward."

Phillip Willoughby - 4 Term City Councilor

Ms. Tracey Teager-Panton, welcome ma'am Albert is now yours. I plan and intend to as Ms. Panton has extended her hand in friendship to me to be a part of her team. I will accept and embrace you Ms. Panton and work with you. Not by just standing here this morning and saying it but I'm certain that all our fans and supporters, friends and family will do likewise and follow suite and we start immediately ma'am. From the bottom of my heart, no hard feelings, it's love and all the way with Ms. Tracy Teagar for Alberts UDP."

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister, UDP Party Leader

"We feel absolutely certain that Tracy's candidacy with the full support of minister Herman Longsworth and with the full support of councillor Willourghby is going to be will be absolutely unstoppable."

Longsworth’s graceful stepping aside is the real stunner – the sudden end of the road for a first term Area representative and Minister of State:

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"It has been absolute pleasure for me to have been working beside you and serving your over the past 4 years that I've been here. Let me say for the record that my coming to politics was never meant to be permanent. Was never meant to be permanent, I'm a businessman but I'm also a UDP. And there came the time that I recognise that the UDP in Albert were probably at its lowest ebb and needed an injection of credibility. And I thought I could provide that credibility and I was only prepared to hold unto the mantle for so long until it took the party to find somebody that I considered to be credible enough, to have the ware it all, to be able to carry what we've been working for in the past 4 years. The party has done that now, so i'm quiet happy to step aside and go back to my business."

And he says he’s going back to his business, the way these things work – there’ll probably be business coming his way - government business:

Jules Vasquez

"What appeasement or appointments or arrangements have been offered to Mr. Willoughby and Mr. Longsworth in exchange for their, really, giving up what each of them thinks was a sure thing?"

Hon. Dean Barrow

"Moving right along here in the same vein. You know the famous movie, cheap novel line. I could you tell you but i'll have to kill you."

Jules Vasquez

"I understand that you treat it humorously but at the same time if they are public chips being traded for party favours, then it becomes a matter for public scrutiny. So then the question has to be asked, will you trade public chips for them to do internal party favours?"

Hon. Dean Barrow

"All I will say is this, Herman Longsworth has been an extremely good minister, assuming a UDP general election victory. Any position we would ask Herman to take up he would be more than capable. In terms of councillor Willoughby, well he's a continuing city councillor. You have spoken glowingly of his winning track record. Which suggests that the voice of the people, next to the voice of god has made clear that there is an appreciation of his talents. How would we ever have any difficulty in appointing councillor Willoughby to a position he would be incapable of handling. The judgment of the people is that he is somebody of talent."

But Willoughby’s political track record far exceeds Taegar-Panton’s:

Jules Vasquez

"But others in the party as saying that, but she is PUP. How will we make 2 good UDP stand down to bringing a PUP. It is a critisism being made widely in the party. How do you respond to that?

Tracy Taegar-Panton

"I assume you made that judgement based on my fathers' bid for city council in 1979. No one ask me where my affiliation was. No one has asked."

Jules Vasquez

"It’s not a criticism that I have Tracy, it is one I am hearing from people within the party who feel that the move is dictatorial, dictocratic and wrong headed because - I'm not making this stuff up. Because 2 good UDP have to make way for somebody who has no bonafides as a UDP, let me put it like that. Who has not worked in the trenches for the UDP."

Tracy Taegar-Panton

"There is a history that I do have with the Mark Espat campaign and there's no secret about that. I have never shied away from that situation. But not because of that, the assumption can be made that I am committed to the UDP and the work that we will be doing moving forward. "

Jules Vasquez

"Is there any clear path of how you intend to get up to speed? Because if I'm not mistaken, while you are involved in the Mark Espat machine. I recall you being somebody who was in the office, you were maybe a street captain but you weren't on the ground at a very large leave – you were issuing cheques."

Tracy Taegar-Panton

"I have been in the ground in Albert since 1974 and the friendships and the relationships that I cultivated there are friendships and relationships that I still have today."

Jules Vasquez

"Ms. Tracy has no political track record whatsoever."

Hon. Dean Barrow

"We are every single one of us convinced that Tracy Taegear-Panton will inevitably, indubitably - you want more? Win handsomely."

And that’s from a party leader who is clearly preparing for elections soon:

Hon. Dean Barrow

"I had said after our magnificent victory on March 4th that there is no plan to call the general elections this year – and while that is still the thinking, any number can play. Every single seat will count in what I still expect will be a hard fought election campaign and in that context we are always ready to make adjustments that may appear to become necessary. And I am absolutely convinced that what is happening here this morning, helps to make certain the chance of a United Democratic Party third term in government.”

There will be an endorsement convention for Taegar Panton in the Albert Division.

Panton remains the CEO in the Ministry of Tourism – which, while it may be frowned on, is, strictly speaking, not disallowed since she is a contract officer not a public officer. She told us today that there will be a transition from CEO to full time candidate, quote, “sooner rather than later.”

And in one final Albert division twist that’s just too cute – the current PUP Albert divisional office is presently housed at Taegar’s family building at 56 Regent Street. Tracy Taegar Panton says her office will also be there. The PUP Candidate Paul Thompson says he is moving out. Both are veterans of the Mark Espat when between 1996 and 2005.


UDP Changes Standard Bearers In OW South

And further to that promise that he’s getting ready for elections – Party Leader Dean Barrow is also making changes in other divisions. IT was rumoured that the UDP candidate sin Orange walk Central and Orange Walk South would be changed – but it seems that the wily OW Central Standard bearer Denny Grijalva managed to hold on. But not so for Juan De Dios Moguel in Orange Walk South. Party Leader Barrow explained:…

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister, UDP Party Leader

"There is certainly a discussion and in fact it is very very likely that there will be a new UDP candidate in Orange Walk South. Juan De Dios Moguel who is the incumbent standard bearer, is actively assisting the party in doing the consultations required to try to come up with the best possible replacement. So, that there will be a replacement? Absolutely, who that replacement will be? We're not nearly there yet.”


Tracey Panton Unchallenged; So What About Hon. Castro, Hon. Castillo?

And while Barrow as party leader is making interventions in selected divisions, it seems he won’t do so in Caribbean Shores and Belize Rural North. That’s where Ministers of State Santiago Castillo Jr and Edmond Castro will face challengers who want their seats. We asked the PM if he paved the way for Tracy Taegar Panton why wouldn’t he do so for his cabinet colleagues.

Jules Vasquez

"Sir have you ever seen a bloodless, i'm told micromanage a bloodless transition in the other division? And always in politics, the shedding of blood is a waste of precious resource. Will you try to do the same in the other 2 division that have pending conventions, Belize Rural North and Caribbean Shores?"

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister, UDP Party Leader

"I don't expect that there will be any change in the current position, which is that those conventions will be held."

Jules Vasquez

"Will you be making any endorsements? Santino Castillo Jr. has said that you support him."

Hon. Dean Barrow

"Well of course, he is my cabinet colleague. He's family has a long history of supporting the party. There's absolutely no way on the basis of loyalty that I can go against Minister Castillo."

Jules Vasquez

"Is that the same standard that applies to Herman Longsworth?"

Hon. Dean Barrow

"Herman Longsworth i'm saying to you, was part of discussions that led to what happened today."

Jules Vasquez

"Since the Prime Minister has paved the way for a new comer like Tracy Taegar-Panton, shouldn't you try to do the same?"

Hon. Edmund Castro

"That's the reason why we win every time. Because each time we have competition, we get to sharpen up our machinery and our machinery is in tip top shape.”


Regular Fuel Price Spikes Amidst Fuel Shortage

The fuel tanker ship from Venezuelan fuel supplier PDVSA (Pe-De-Ve-Sa) was scheduled to arrive today – and at midnight the price of regular fuel shot up.

Regular which had been lagging behind diesel went up by a dollar and fifteen cents from 7 dollars and 74 cents a gallon to eight dollars and eighty nine cents. That’s a 15% increase – and creates another unusual situation where premium fuel at $8.80 per gallon is now nine cents cheaper than regular per gallon.

The change in price is a reflection of the cost of acquisition.

Diesel and premium prices did not increase with this shipment.


PM Will Not Entertain Cheap Imported Rice

Since Friday we’ve been reporting on the situation with the rice industry. Importer Jack Charles says he can bring in rice from Guyana, which will retail for as little as 69 cents per pound – which is 50 cents cheaper than the one dollar and twenty cents per pound or more that you’re currently paying at the store.

But, government doesn’t want to give him a permit to import that rice because it will likely destroy the local rice industry. Charles says that those local rice producers need stiff shot of competition, basically because they are price gouging – and you’re paying for it.

Charles has got six containers with half a million pounds on standby and he’s just waiting for government’s go ahead to bring it in. But, for government it’s not quite that simple; the matter was discussed at Cabinet yesterday and the Prime Minister agreed that local producers have to do better:…

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister

"We believe that the situation can be managed in such a way as to bring the price of rice, locally produced rice down for the consumer in such a manner as would make it unnecessary for them to want to consume instead the imported rice. But it's a work in progress, the situation is still flowing.”

Jules Vasquez

"Would you then agree that the producers have been charging an unfair markup for local rice because they have a monopoly on the market and also because there's no price control enforced?"

Hon. Dean Barrow

"Admittedly the price control or the prices set by the price control regime have not been honoured, have been violated. The question of who really is responsible is a fairly complicated one, suffice it to say that this have galvanised both the producers who fear the possibility of begin wiped out by cheap or cheaper imported rice from Guyana. And the ministry to come with a solution that optimally should preserve the local rice industry.”

"We have to work with those producers to ensure that the consumer is not being as short changed as it is now clear, the consumer has been - so that in seeking to prevent the importation of rice, we don’t have to make a choice between the interest of the consumer and the interest of the producer."

Jules Vasquez

"However, should you see to the enrichment or the sustaining of unsustainable rice producers at the detriment to the consumers who can't pay 70 cents a pound, so said Mr. Jack"

Hon. Dean Barrow

"That's precisely the point. I'm not sure of Mr. Charles' figures but undoubtedly you can import the rice at it appears now more cheaply."

"Put it like this I don’t think most consumer would say - listen, I don't care if the rice industry and all that depends on that in this country is whipped out as long as I can get cheaper rice prices. I believe that if we can ensure cheaper rice prices for the consumer in Belize – but not as cheap as those prices would be if you simply imported. And you explained that in terms of the larger picture you’re going to be better off, perhaps not as better off as you. Could be we just open the flood gates. We're going to be better off and as well we're going to help to save an industry. Your people would understand it so it really is a matter of working this thing out so that consumers get a well deserved break, see a well deserved reduction in the retail price they pay. But certainly not by way of simply allowing unrestricted importation of cheaper rice.”

Government issued a release today saying that all relevant ministries are conducting an in-depth review of the rice industry, quote, “with an aim to ensuring the best action for Belize as it relates to the production and supply of rice to the Belizean public.”

Government says it will first consider a number of factors including

The various factors affecting the price and market channels of domestically produced rice, a review of the price control mechanisms, the importance of food security and Belize’s obligations as a member of CARICOM – where barriers to free trade within CSME cannot be imposed.

And so where do you fit into all this, as the consumer? In its last paragraph, the release says quote, “any action taken in respect to the rice industry in Belize will consider the need to reduce the cost of living as a high priority.”

We note that until importer Jack Charles started pressing the issue, what is now called a “high priority” was of no priority at all – and everyone in officialdom seemed content leaving the uncontrolled high prices just as they were.

In fact, last year when the marketing board imported 3.1 million pounds of processed white rice from Guyana – for 52 cents per pound and then re-sold by the same producers for 94 cents wholesale under their own brand labels, no one said anything. That rice was still retailed for one dollars twenty cents a pound with the wholesalers and retailers making all the profit – while the consumers got no benefit.


How Did The Economy Do In Last Quarter?

The budget will be debated tomorrow in Belmopan where the Opposition will get ample opportunity to criticize the UDP government’s economic performance. And while all kinds of figures will be flying – what do the real numbers people, the statisticians say?

Well, the Statistical Institute of Belize released their final figures for October to December 2014, and invited the press to their presentation today.

Here’s what those numbers looked like:

Jefte Ochaeta – Statistician I

“As of October to December of 2014 we’re observing that our primary industries increased by 0.2% and that was mainly due because fishing activities are showing a decline of 29.3% where we had less revenue in most our fish products. Shrimp exports for October to December account to be 12.1 million less than what was exported in 2013 for the same period. And you can see the following number that also was hiking was conch, which was basically 5 million less in the same period exported when compared to 2013. However we had an expansion in the agricultural activities. It was a 23.2% increase where we had bananas increasing by 7,700 tons which is basically 30.2% more of the production that happened in 2013. That is accounted because in the year 2014, we had a favourable climate for banana production. We didn’t have too much rain and we didn’t really have a lot of dry season - so it was favourable for the banana.”

As seen here, livestock production in the last quarter has had the best performance in the past 7 years. There were 8.2 thousand head of cattle produced, 2,700 more than in 2013, and more than double what was produced in 2008. The trend is similar for the pig farmers, where 4,500 head of swine were produced, almost double what it was in 2013. In the poultry industry, SIB numbers say that 9.6 million pounds of poultry were produced, 0.9 million more than in 2013.

But, while those industries grew, the secondary industries such as manufacturing and mining, specifically, the petroleum industry were down.

Citrus was down by a massive 58%, which as we showed you yesterday, can be attributed to the citrus greening disease.

So, how did the last quarter performance affect the overall economic year of 2014? Well, not that much. SIB estimates that the economy has grown by 3.6%:

Jefte Ochaeta

“At that period it was measured that the growth domestic product of Belize accounted 1.6 increase to what was produced in 2013 for the same period. The cumulative growth for 2014 shows an estimate that the economy has expanded by 3.6% Remember this figure here will be modified because we’re just using our quarterly figures as an estimate of what happened in the year. But as we get more information, the number will be modified for the actual growth for 2014. The annual estimated as you can see our GDP was about 2.7 billion dollars at constant prices and that’s basically an increase of 10 million dollars from last year at constant prices. We said that there was a change within the sectors that increased the GPD. The primary sector had the largest increase which was mainly due because of agriculture production and solid fishery production in the first half of the year. Then the secondary services, they grew by 2.2% and we’re accounting that to some increased in the citrus and electricity, trade and tourism services in the country.”

While there was an expansion of the economy, the secondary services declined by 0.3 percent, and the SIB is attributing that to petroleum, which is expected, since the natural depletion of petroleum reservoirs continue to take place.


PUP’s Youth Arm Not Impressed With Budget

And while those figures will be grist for the elected politicians tomorrow in the House of Representatives, today the PUP’s Belize Youth Movement of the PUP scheduled sort of a pre- debate session at Independence Hall - highlighting the shortfalls of the budget from the youth perspective. The areas of concern are education, training and employment. This morning the members of BYM told us that the financing proposed for these areas is not enough.

Josue Carballo - BYM member

"We see now that there are less registered businesses, less number of active businesses. Which means we saw a shortage in our economy. Even though there has been an increase of over 5,672 jobs within those 5 years. However if you do the maths you will realise that every year there is an increase of over 4,000 new high school and tertiary level institutions graduates. That means within those 5 years we're had over 20,000 new job seekers. So where are they getting placed? Where are the jobs to be created for our newly educated? I have condensed 3 action points when it comes to job creation, job simulation. First has to be the direct action concerning skills development training. Secondly, the direct actions concerning job creation and thirdly, policy making and advocacy."

Micah Goodin - BYM member

"I am a youth, I am 21 years old and my life is in jeopardy. My country is considered the third most dangerous place in the world to live. Here out youths are filling up our cemeteries faster than they've ever filled our classrooms. From 2008 to this day, almost 1,000 has been killed. Of which, more than half have been young people. There has been 26 body counts for this year alone. Including Oscar Daniel Vasquez and Michael Usher, who were both murdered cold bloodily in Orange Walk. And more of us will continue to die because a budget like this, a bandaid budget, does not protect us but merely attempts to stop the bleeding after we have been wounded."

Alberto Vellos - National President, BYM

"We believe that the areas of education, skills training and job creation. Creating jobs for young people is very important. We do understand that we have a role to play. In fact we have always embraced that role. We have always offered suggestions, we have always spoken on how to improve the situation. We don't know if the message reaches because we don't end up seeing a difference. We have also been open to sit around the table, in fact we have demanded that - that we sit around the table and discuss how to go about making life better for our young people and improving the situation for Belize.”

Other areas addressed at the forum include crime reduction and their proposal for disbandment of the GSU.


Hon. Longsworth’s Soft Opening Of Marion Jones

At the top of the news, we told you how Area Representative Herman Longsworth is stepping aside to make way for Tracey Taegar Panton. That makes him – in political terms – a lame duck representative – but he tried to show the media today that he’s no lame duck minister of state.

He took us to a soft launch for the Marion Jones Sporting Complex – whose opening has been delayed more times than we can count.

It is envisioned as high caliber multi purpose sporting complex, but it is only being completed in parts. The contract for the bleachers and accompanying facilities is complete, and the sporting complex is in a usable state.

The 2015 Bandfest will be the first time that the general public will be invited in use the complex, since the Upgrading works began years ago. Here’s what Longsworth told us about the progress since the last time he showed us around:

Hon. Herman Longsworth - Minister of Stater, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports

"The contract for this complex complete. When it was tendered had come in much higher than the budget the government had and so it was divided into 2 phases. And the government entered into a contract with the contractor to complete what they could have afforded with the monies they had. So far as that contract is concerned, I would say that we are 98% complete. The balance of the building will depend on additional funding coming from government to complete, so I don't know what will happen to that. So if you want me to speak to the entire complex, I would say it is 80% complete. The contract was specifically for this building for the parking. The overall project for this building and the parking area. We have not done anything with the parking - the building substantially complete expect for what are to become the sport council offices on the 3rd level and what is to be the press boxes and the VIP boxes right up here on the 5th level. We're also still working but I expect that to be completed on level 0, which is the athlete's locker rooms and showers etc - i'll take you down there and show you were those are but they're not complete as yet but we're pretty close now to having them complete."

Daniel Ortiz

"When can persons decide to come in here an make use of this place?"

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Well we certainly will have the band fest had here this weekend coming. So obviously it is ready for public use. The bathrooms are all ready and in place - everything is ready as you can as you walk downstairs. The seating is ready, so we're pretty much there. Certainly in terms of - and I want to say band fest is not the official opening of this facility. We are allowing them to use it because we consider the facility to be substantially complete and we want to test it. We want to put people in here to see how it will react to having the public in. So we need to do that but it is not the official opening. We're going to have an official opening when we're finished properly. At this phase we will only be able to accommodate track and field, football, cycling and beach volleyball currently. But when we get the indoor facility, we will be able to also have basketball, volleyball, boxing, table tennis - that sort of things we'll be able to done right here."

This facility has a cost of 16 million dollars so far. The maintenance for it will be very expensive, so Longsworth is considering turning it over to a private company to maintain it. But, as you heard, there is a lot left to be done on the Marion Jones. Longsworth told us about it:

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Not nearly where I would want to see it. This is a substantial part of it yes but we intend to get an indoor facility just to the north where those mangroves are from the Mexicans. It won't be government financing. I will be a 10 million dollar grant through the Mexican government and that should start by the middle of this year. I believe by the end of this month everything will be signed and we will be able to proceed with the design, etc. I want to see in that area a swimming pool going there. We're not any where near what I would want to see in terms of the master plan - i would say we are maybe 50-60% there."

Daniel Ortiz

"There are some who would suggest that this Marion Jones complex and all the upgrades that's been happening so far is kind of a bed sore for the government because persons wanted it to be completed from a long time ago. How do you assure the public that this won't become a white elephant? Where parts of it is being used, you abandon what has already been here and you decide you're going to build somewhere else and you lose all the investment that has already been put here."

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Just the mere investment is so prohibitive to build something like this again. That's not going to happen in the the near future. This is going to be used and it's going to be over used I can bet you that. So there is no worrying that the facility won't be used. I don't see that happening at all. I fully expect that we will be swamped with people wanting to use this facility. I'm confident of that."

Daniel Ortiz

"Sir, have we gotten value for money for what has been built so far?"

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"I believe we have. I will have concur with you on the fact that it has taken longer than all expected but I am forced to say that I remember a few years ago there was a prime minister who came out here and kicked a football with a certain ambassador - not a thing came of it. I can tell you, there is another prime minister who didn't come out here and kick a football but he put money here and you can see what we have here. So this is a tangible difference from what existed here a few years ago.”

There will be an official opening of the Marion Jones at a later date to be announced, and while the other works are being completed, the facility will be open to athletes who need it to train for their different sporting disciplines. The general public will be allowed to use certain parts of the facility, but for a fee, which will be put to use for the maintenance cost.

The cross country will not finish at the Marion Jones as promised. That’s because the cycling federation opted instead to finish it at BTL Park for sponsorship purposes.


PM Discusses Marijuana Decriminalization

Last week we told you that Cabinet had agreed in principle with the de-criminalisation of less than ten grams of marijuana. And the principle they agreed with is that persons should not go to jail or get a criminal record for this. But the details are another matter completely. Today the Prime Minister discussed some of those with us today:…

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister

"Cabinet, and I really have to sweep that room for bugs or find a way to have people respect the confidentiality of Cabinet. Because you had a news report that for the most part was absolutely spot on. There is that agreement in principle. The minister of national security had his reservations. He's the one that has been asked to - and the point about nomenclature. If what we agree in principle in fact is implemented, is it really decriminalisation? We're talking about administrative penalties, we're talking about nobody having to go to jail, but they're penalties. So there's that sort of nomenclature. But we are at the point that, the minister at particularly with his concerns is being asked to move the process forward by meeting with those that produce the report. Asking them to clarify certain things that we thought were left hanging and also to say to us what the current state of play is with respect to interested elements in the society. In particular, the churches. If ultimately the churches are not onboard, we may still decide to proceed but we need to proceed with eyes wide open.”

There is presently no timeline for those consultations.


Special Envoy’s “My Body Is Precious” Book

Good touch, bad touch! That’s the playful phrase parents and teachers use when talking to kids about sexual abuse. Well, that is the theme of the “My Body is precious” animation film that was launched today at the Bliss. The “My Body is precious” book was launched in April 2013 and this is the animated film version of that book. Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Simplis Barrow told us how the short will make teaching and learning about sexual abuse a more open discussion.

My Body Is Precious from BIDtv on Vimeo.


Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy for Women and Children

"Well in 2013, we launched my body is precious book. And really the book, the essence of the book is to teach young children about good touch, bad touch. We know that talking about sexual abuse is not the easiest of things, not for parents and not for teachers. Therefore we made this book into a very child friendly book but also book that would make it comfortable for parents and teachers to share with their students and their children. We contacted the different schools and we had the principal select students from the different schools to voice, Lisa, Dee Dee and the other child for the animation. These students of course played a major major role because they spoke in Garifuna for the Garifuna animation and they spoke in Maya for the Maya animation. So we're really really happy with the schools and their participation. Today we had over 500 students from over the country here, especially the Garifuna speaking children and the Maya speaking children. We are working with the ministry of education to get it into the schools. Keep in mind that these books were given to school children throughout the country. Again, this book was something we did a consultation with the ministry of education to make sure it was child appropriate, to make sure it well within the curriculum of the ministry of education. So yes indeed we will be working in ensuring these animations will be shown at the schools, especially our southern schools.”

3 students were chosen from different schools to voice the animation. The schools include Garden City primary school in Belmopan, Gulisi Community Primary School in Dangriga and Cux-lin Ha School in PG. The animated short film is available on the Special Envoy Belize facebook page and it is in three languages.


Petrocaribe Bill Goes Back To House; Opposition Will Challenge It

The budget debate is the main business of tomorrow’s house meeting – but the opposition is getting ready to challenge the government on the passage of the Petro Caribe Loans Bill.

The bill seeks to regularize the inflows from the Petrocaribe initiative. While all loans of a certain size have to go to the house, Government argues that since the petrocaribe flows change every month – it cannot ask for pre-approval of a figure it does not know. This bill seeks to correct that.

But the PUP are saying that it runs roughshod over the laws to do so. They point to this clause. It reads: 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 authorisation of the National Assembly and to enter into a loan agreement with APBEL for the said purpose.

PUP Chairman of the Public accounts committee Julius espat says this gives the Prime Minister authority to put Petrocaribe moneys into a special account and it takes everything out of parliamentary oversight. He says there will definitely be no transparency –and it is one of the scariest things he has seen.




7 News for March 25th, 2015 from 7News Belize on Vimeo.


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