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Belize needs better voters

Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2016. 2:37 pm CST.

Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2016. 2:30 p.m. CST



Nomination day in Belize1

By BBN Staff: Mud-slinging in the National Assembly, during political debates has become a normal part of our political reality. Some look forward to it as a form of crude entertainment; others find great distaste in the entire mockery made of what is supposed to be an honorable House for honorable men.

But Belizeans, for the most part, know better than to fool themselves into believing that there are any honorable men sitting in that House. But the politicians do not deserve the blame for this fault. We do. We are the ones who repeatedly put these men, and women (lest we be accused of sexism), back in the halls of power.

We do not demand ethical leaders with moral values, hell, we hardly even require people with proper educational backgrounds to fill the roles they fill. We don’t even require that our politicians know how to properly read, in some instances! Seriously. What a disgrace. But that disgrace rests with the voters, rather than with the politicians who get an easy pass.

And this is not to say that there are no qualified people in the government or the opposition. In fact, quite the contrary, there are some very educated, qualified and well-spoken people in parliament. This isn’t to single out any one specific person either; this is simply an assessment on the quality of politics in Belize measured by the quality of politicians in the land.

But educational qualifications aside, the filth that comes out of some of the politicians mouths, and inside the National Assembly building, during sittings of the House, makes it hard to believe that some of these people actually possess any real ethical integrity. At this past budget debate, like many others before it, there were many cleverly worded (and some not so much) insults and cheap shots hurled back and forth.

One politician was called a castrated pig. Another was embarrassed when a senior politician alluded to rumors that his opponent’s spouse may have had an affair with a member of his own party. Good lord! And on the next episode of Days of Our Lives…

Nomination day in Belize

These are the kinds of conversations that often end in fist fights. Honestly, it’s probably only a matter of time before an all out royal-rumble style brawl breaks out in the honorable House, which would certainly be entertaining to witness, even for those who disgust the charade of the National Assembly.

But this is the point. The politicians employ many red herrings in the House and focus on personal, petty, trivial and often touchy, issues rather than debating real issues and discussing meaningful policy reforms. This is because many of them can’t formulate a proper argument based on policy and those that can, often jump into the trenches with the rest of them.

It begs the question: Who is even actually qualified to be there? Well, that would probably depend on who you ask. Kin of these people will obviously swear up and down for them, but wouldn’t you sing for your supper too? Anyway, moving on.

The National Assembly website, which hasn’t been updated since the last general election, provides some background information on each member of the House of Representatives, including educational background, in most cases anyway.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who by all accounts is certainly one of the most qualified members of the House, is also the Minister of Finance, Public Service, Energy & Public Utilities and is also well-known as an exceptional attorney and phenomenal public speaker. Give the man credit where it is due. Under his leadership he has taken the United Democratic Party (UDP) to new heights. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of Miami, a legal certification from Norman Manley Law School and an LL.B from the University of the West Indies.

So yes, while he is indeed qualified, let’s just note here, for the record, that he is an attorney holding the Ministry of Finance portfolio, which in itself isn’t unusual, since no-one with a background in economics has held this portfolio since Belize’s independence. And THAT, is unusual. But this irregularity is live-able compared to some of the others.

The Minister of Tourism, according to the National Assembly website information has a high-school education at best. So does the Minister of Housing. The Minister of Health is an electrician/plumber by trade. The Minister of Human Development… well there is no information on the site about his educational background. We’ll just leave it at that.

It’s not hard to see why so many Belizeans are disillusioned and distanced from the democratic process when the draft-stock is so mediocre, in many cases. Now, more than ever, Belizeans need to become educated about the issues. We are in very serious times and we cannot leave the faith of this country to chance.

This is why political debates would be a good thing, for citizens to get to know the political stances of the candidates and listen to them formulate responses to educated questions on the fly. Belizean voters, it is up to us. Let’s make Belize a better place by being more selective about who we choose to run this country.


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  1. keeping it real says:

    Excellence piece. Sadly the masses won’t bother take the time to read it. Their busy taking selfies and liking videos that add little or no value to their lives. Shame on us to be led by the type of individuals we elect to the house. I guess our comfort lies in the quote “the masses are the asses”.

  2. Dr. Marcelino Avila says:

    Surely, we need better voters and better leaders for building our nation towards a more inclusive, progressive and sustainable manner. In the long term, education of the masses is the solution, however that will take long. Countries, e.g. Costa Rica, invested heavily since the 1970’s on education of their people, with a heavy dose of civic/constitutional rights and duties. Today they are reaping the fruits of their effort. In the short term, political parties need to take a pro-active approach in identifying, training and mentoring their members, especially those interested in leadership roles. In screening candidates for political office, the parties should begin to apply minimum academic and professional criteria that can enhance the quality of leadership in the Cabinet. Also once in office, ministers should be subjected to higher standards of conduct and performance, but this would require a more enlightened and effective governance and accountability system. Additionally, there are many competent Belizeans who are willing to serve but not if they must go through the current “”nasty” election process. As the UDP has appointed ministers via the Senate, expanding this practice could enable Cabinet to recruit a first class team right now, if so desired. However, this is very difficult to achieve, as those who have won their seats would be the first to oppose this much needed strategy.

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