Deputy Prime Minster Meets with the People Print E-mail
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Friday, 05 October 2018 00:00

Deputy Prime Minister,  Hon. Patrick Faber, has recently been touring around the Country in an effort to gather information on the people’s needs. Eventually, the data collected will be compiled and shared with his Cabinet colleagues.

In his most recent meeting last Thursday at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan, the Hon. Patrick Faber said that Government has been in office for over ten years “…and so we might have lost touch with what the people want.” He said that sometimes Government has to make big decisions, hence his visit to the Toledo, Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. This effort was to gather meaningful information.

In his honest assessment of education, the Hon. Patrick Faber told the audience of teachers, parents, public servants and other, that the number one problem that we now have in education is the absence of parents. He invited parents to visit their son’s and daughter’s school on the following day to find out how they can help them.

Hon. Patrick Faber also shared that Government was already spending 28% of its national budget on education, and in good conscience he did not want to ask for more. “We are not getting the best bang for our buck,” he said.

The Minister of Education also said that he would want to raise the mandatory education from 14 to 16,  but that will require money.

During the Deputy Prime Minister’s over two-hour session with the people, many in the audience had the opportunity to ask questions as well as share their concerns. A parent had asked about the school books supplied by the Ministry of Education. In that regard, present at the George Price Center was the Deputy Chief Education Officer Miss. Cecilia Smith, who informed that all books now being granted to schools were aligned with the curriculum. However, the curriculum has to be constantly re-visited and books cannot be changed as frequently as the Ministry of Education would want. Smith also said that any schools not using these books are doing an injustice to the investments being made for the children. We also learned from Thursday night’s session that the Government does not give text books automatically every year, but schools should report at the end of every year on their book needs. Government does make allowances for damaged books.

A member of the audience, Gwen Nunez Gonzalez, also expressed concern with the Deputy Prime Minister that she has a friend, who for three years has been unable to get a piece of land. The Hon. Patrick Faber admitted that the land issue is a frustration within the administration. In discussing the land issue, the Hon. Faber also pointed out that people in the South and Stann Creek District have to travel great distances to get their birth paper. He said that these concerns were re-occurring themes that has been gathered from his travels across the Country.

Hon. Faber was also asked about the upcoming Referendum on April 10th 2019. He said that while the Government wants the people to vote yes, “… we want you to exercise your right in voting in that referendum based on your own determination.” Hon. Faber continued, “…it has been decided by our Cabinet that we will respect the view of the voters in that referendum.”

In reference to the diaspora, which many believe outnumbers the amount of Belizeans presently living at home, the Hon. Patrick Faber said that nothing stops them from registering. He said that those living abroad are very important to the development of Belize since they send remittances.

A parent had also asked the Hon. Patrick Faber about special needs children and the ability of the Educational system to respond to their long term needs. The Hon. Faber answered that the Ministry of Education was now training 30 special needs educators, who will be applying their knowledge in centers across the Country.

In response to a member of the audience sharing that some public officers had to endure a 25% tax burden, the Deputy Prime Minister said “…if your position is that the Government is very loose in terms of determining the areas where we ought to be collecting the taxes from and there are a number of areas, you’ve pointed out petroleum, there is also the vast number of land owners, who have neglected to pay their taxes on an annual basis and in fact owe the government millions of dollars and every time when we go through the budget cycle we try to see how we can get them to pay. I agree with you,  that is where the reform needs to take place.” “…a lot of things slip through the crack,” said the Hon. Faber.

The Deputy Prime Minister also said that if everyone would pay their share, we would be able to alleviate some of the burden from those people who pay income tax.

(The public service now has about 8,000 employees. Belize has about 6000 teachers. The Government of Belize has about 14,000 employees in the Government service alone, and the bulk of those workers are not at that position where they pay the 25% income tax.)

A re-occurring concern from Thursday’s meeting at the George Price Center was Land, Immigration, Vital Statistics and the need for an educational forum in Belmopan on the upcoming ICJ Referendum. The Deputy Prime Minister promised that he will be contacting members of the Referendum Education campaign to bring in the experts at the George Price Center to have a similarly useful session with the Belizean people.