Friday, September 25th, 2015. By Al Smith: Belize is ripened with the political circus that normally accompanies the Socafest and the parades this time of the year. All these things serve as perfect distractions for our political leaders to mask their accomplishments to a drunken citizenry. So while you try to decipher what was really said by the country’s leaders on Independence Day, let’s look at what was not said and its significance.
For decades Belizeans have become accustomed to the Christmas in September speeches by the Prime Ministers. These normal chest pumping, party celebrating speeches have constantly garnered the attention of poor Belizeans, desperate to find out what debts will be forgiven by the Government.
Most have either tuned in on a broken radio where the signal is barely strong enough to make out the words being said, and some have the luxury of watching the speeches on television, while the most elite have been invited to witness the celebrations in person. On a heat crunching, humid midday in Belmopan, dignitaries and their significant others gathered under pitched tents to laud the Government’s accomplishments. These speeches can take on a life of their own at times with near fatal reaction from the many who can no longer deal with the heat.
On September 21st after all the personalities have graced the stage, its time for the big boys to step up. First, it’s the leader of the opposition Mr. Francis Fonseca whose main point was to highlight the lack of proper governance, “On this Independence Day let us embrace governance reform by committing to the appointment of the thirteenth Senator, to reactivating the Integrity Commission and to restructuring the Public Accounts Committee.” His docile speech was never laced with the normal insults directed to the current Government.
This could have been out of fear or simply that today’s opposition is lacking the fortitude and energy needed to play the role of opposition. There are so many critical issues and challenges that currently plague Belize, it was a surprise to see Mr. Fonseca allow those to slip by, given the national platform.
The final speech of the day by tradition is that of the Prime Minister. Mr. Dean Barrow seemingly plagued by health issues slowly approached the stage, his eyes searching for friends, family and foes.
Mr. Barrow during his tenure as PM has managed to silence even the harshest of critics and on that day, as anticipated, should have been the day he put the nail in the coffin. But instead, what we got is yet another out of character politician who has been reduced to an entertainer. Most of the promises that were made create more debt for the poor and middle class.
The Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) saga looming are too significant to have been put to bed this early. This hot bed of a situation no doubt played into the PM’s restraint from calling for elections.
It is of no benefit to his party to call for any elections at this juncture. With the gross mismanagement of funds by both parties and the gifting of BTL to Lord Michael Ashcroft, the subsequent nationalization of BEL and BTL has only served to create a debt of gigantic proportions, which is neither mentioned nor debated by the parties. They are both hoping that people will forget and not pay attention to these important national issues.
The Prime Minister did highlight the projects that the Petrocaribe funding has been able to accomplish over the last few years and months. What he failed to bring to light is that this loan agreement is on the verge of collapse.
Faced by the price reduction of crude oil and the looming conflict between Venezuela and Guyana, these two events will most likely put Belize in a very interesting predicament where we will need to choose between a financial partner in Venezuela or a CARICOM friend in Guyana, who has always backed Belize during our own fiasco with Guatemala.
The PM did pledge his unwavering support for Guyana several months ago, but this was before the Vice President of Venezuela went on his support bribing trip across the region. To date we have not been made privy to the details of that conversation between the Venezuelan VP and our own Prime Minister.
We can only imagine or assume what promises were made in exchange for our support, which of course has always been the main reason for the Petrocaribe loan. The Petrocaribe loans were always designed as a bribe to garner allies for Venezuela with its personal war against Western Philosophy.
The forgiveness of medical bills does not do anything to help Belize or Belizeans as a whole, it only creates another nine million dollars of debt that eventually everyone has to pay. Instead of retracting or creating an environment for less spending and waste the Government continues to manage the people’s money like a game of Monopoly.
This government, like others, has shown a complete lack of fiscal and financial responsibility. The PM lauds about recovering from a drought yet gives no concrete plans on how he plans to achieve this. The era of offering false hope to our countrymen is slowly coming to an end.
The era of playing this political game has even left the creators of these damages silent, a silence that has resonated deeply within our souls. The absence of a call for elections was really a silence that said “We are not ready”.
Al Smith is a Belizean writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has written many journalistic pieces including his latest contribution to Rolling Out magazine. Smith is also a world traveler who enjoys sharing his passion for good food and cultures.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Belize Media Group.
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