Obscenity in the midst of austerity

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Manuel Vasquez

It is amazing that at a time when Belizeans are experiencing the toughest economic circumstances, and government workers and teachers are being bled 10 percent of their salary, plus their increments frozen, the Government of Belize can pay top dollar to a washed-up, retired International Monetary Fund (IMF) worker?
Effective April 1, 2021, the new Central Bank Governor is one Manuel Vasquez. His claim to fame is that he deserted Belize in the 1990’s and went abroad to work with the IMF in Trinidad and Cayman, then returned to Belize to retire with his millions earned from bloated salaries abroad.
With the People’s United Party victory of November 11, 2020, Vasquez hit the jackpot once again, as his close friend and classmate,John Briceño, who became Prime Minister, dusted off Vasquez and brought him out of retirement to head the Central Bank of Belize as its Governor.
It is already bad that Vasquez abandoned Belize back in the 1990’s, but worse that, after his wealth gathering escapades, the Prime Minister would contract him to head the Central Bank, allowing him to effectively displace much more talented and qualified individuals for the post, who had remained at home to weather the storms and build Belize.
What’s even worse is that Manuel Vasquez is being paid over $300,000.00 per annum, plus all allowances and perks, and given a 5 year contract. So, by the time he demits the Central Bank office, he would have obscenely grossed more than BZ$1,500,000.00. Reliably, this is the highest payment ever for a Governor of the Central Bank, and the highest payment on record for any Belizean. To date, BTL’s former CEO, Rockus Schrieber, a non-Belizean, was the highest paid executive ever on record in this country.
The question is, how can the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance justify paying the Governor of the Central Bank such obscenely exorbitant remunerations at a time when public officers and teachers, many of whom are already on the margins, are taking significant, mandatory pay cuts.
What is so special about Manuel Vasquez? Is it simply that he is a close friend of the Prime Minister? What we do know is that he is no magician to miraculously turn an economy around, otherwise his skills would be in heavy demand internationally in the current global financial climate. He would certainly not be here, but would still be jet setting around the world performing his economic wizardry. But because he is friendly with the current head of Belize’s government, he will now live lavishly off the sweat, blood and tears of the Belizean people.
What we know for certain is that at a price tag of BZ$300,000.00 per year, Manuel Vasquez is an overpriced Governor of the Central Bank, particularly during these times of austerity. No one should be able to win that kind of money running an institution that really doesn’t do any real business, nor earn any real money.
For context, the salary being paid to Manuel Vasquez could have purchased approximately 6,000 Grocery Bags at 50 dollars each. In other words, 6,000 families are being deprived of basic food by an already wealthy prodigal son who returns to double dip. So, now we see, the masses cannot say, todos ganamos, but a few can certainly say, ganamos todo. It’s sad.
This monstrous salary pay out to Vasquez is a huge back-hand slap to faces of the joint unions, and it’s a glaring example that once you are close to the Prime Minister, especially from his hometown, he will open the purse for you, at the expense of the public officers, the teachers and the thousands of unemployed Belizeans.
This is truly a case of obscenity in the midst of austerity.