By Charles Leslie Jr: Belmopan has now experienced two beheadings and body dismemberment in just over a year.
Last year leading up to November 4th, 2015 general elections I warned that Belmopan will be the next murder capital of Belize if something is not done.
Here’s Why Belmopan Will Become The Next Murder Capital
Belmopan has a population growth rate of around 18% per year, when the national average is only 3%. There is not enough private sector investment to absorb job seekers, and with corruption as it is, it is very easy for criminal elements to penetrate our borders and set up shop, and push potential investors even further away – security issues almost crippled Mexico’s tourism sector investment.
Development and investment in Belmopan is simply not at its potential, and has basically plateaued in the past 10 years. This is due to a lack of investment incentives. Thus the private sector investment is simply not there to absorb the fastest growing population in Belize.
Proper social safety nets are not being established, and only programs to the deal with the symptoms of the problems are being superficially contemplated and partially implemented. Young people are finding it more and more difficult in finding quality jobs, and the lack of jobs is one of the main catalyst of putting youths at risk of getting involved in criminal activities. This social disorder is already taking root in Belmopan, and if we do not do something about it now, it will become more difficult to address.
What Needs To Be Done, Now!
Belmopan needs to attract investors. Only the private sector should be tasked with providing jobs. The public sector’s job is to create the fertile environment where businesses will want to invest, for they will be confident that their investments will grow.
Belmopan needs to be designated a Special Economic Zone. Carefully crafted investment incentives needs to be formulated and then a special investment team (Recondev has been hijacked for political purposes) should be put together to actively seek investors, locally and internationally.
FONATUR Mexico Un Gran Destino (National Fund For Tourism Development) for example, has a vision statement that says: “To be an influential force in sustainable, competitive, and adequately financed national development and projects that are in accordance with the dynamic demands of the market – that generate income and promote Mexico’s image abroad and overseas; but, fundamentally, with a social awareness that not only favors regional development and creates permanent jobs, but allows them to be appropriately-remunerated as well.” No need to re-invent the wheel when we can bring such a system to Belmopan and adapt it for our purposes.
There are many Belizean-owned land in and around Belmopan, and many of these lands are sitting there waiting for speculation, because the owners either can’t, or don’t want to invest for various reasons, mainly the risks are too high, access to cheap capital is difficult and they are having difficulty finding foreign investor partners who have access to cheaper capital, but are reluctant because of security reasons and especially corruption (I am talking about legitimate investors – not Mason-type investors).
Belmopan can easily become the shopping and entertainment center of Belize. It is centrally located in the country, and has easy access from the north, south, east and west of the country. It has the best infrastructure in the country, and has lots of land for shopping centers and other commercial and industrial activities.
Tying It Together
Ultimately, all business growth in any community is underpinned by tourism. Local and international travellers come to Belize for various reasons, and that is tourism. Thus, it is wise to embrace tourism as one of the main investor profile. Belmopan has the potential to become one of the largest tourism destination in Belize. Creating focused tourism investor incentives can put Belmopan on the map as a serious tourism destination in Belize and can rival other tourism destinations.
Most of the villages west and east of Belmopan, along the George Price Highway, are depressed and have seen very little development over the past 34 years post independent Belize.
Developing Belmopan will absorb many of these people in these villages into jobs. This will create a higher disposable income and thus boost their local economy with local investments, and thus helping to stave off gentrification, crime and poverty.
Building and fixing roads are necessary, however, investor incentives should be implemented concurrently, and investors should be actively sought.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
The article was written by Charles Leslie Jr., former independent Chairman of Placencia Village (2010 – 2013). He holds an Associates degree in business, accounting and economics and has over 20 years business experience.
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