Posted: June 25, 2016. 9:44 a.m. CST.
By Charles Leslie: What is stopping Belize from growing? The inhibition is embedded in the decision blunders of the past two decades of post-independent Belize. Here are, what I consider, the top three blunders that crippled Belize’s growth potential. Remember, nothing sits in a bubble, everything is linked. I will do my best to put everything in laymen’s terms.
#1. Nationalisation Blunder
Our governement of the past 34 years were focused on making sure that Belize was exporting our raw resources, instead of transforming them into value-added products.
Nationalization of BEL and BTL was not a bad move, per se. However, we should have also nationalized a key industry – oil. In Bolivia, for example, the nationalization of their oil industry has proven beneficial. In 2005, oil revenues brought them 300 million dollars, and in 2015 it brought them 7 billion dollars. They were very strategic in how they invested this money. President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is praised for seriously reducing poverty and illiteracy.
What Should Have Been Done
The nationalization of BEL and BTL should have been strategic to coincide with the nationalization of our oil industry, or at the very least sign a favorable agreement, so that we could have had the financial resources necessary to pay for them without incurring debt. Money from our oil should have then been pumped into BEL focusing on building our energy independence via alternative energy investment initiatives, and BTL should have been updated and used, not as a cash cow right away, but to subsidize communication costs so that we could make sure that our nation has a state of the art communications infrastructure, with competing cost and speed, allowing us to be properly connected to the world. No developing nation can properly compete without cheap, reliable and fast communications.
#2. Oil Policy Blunder
In 2007, the PUP Government structured the Production Shares for Providence Energy Limited at 15% if the oil company produced up to 5,000 barrels. For every additional 5,000 barrels that were produced, Government’s shares increased by 5%; which means that if 30,000 barrels or over were produced, the shares would increase to 35% and 40%.
The UDP amended those terms, replacing it with a lowered rate of 7.5% if the company produced 30,000 barrels. This translated to the reality that if the company does not produce 30,000 barrels, Belize does not get anything.
Belize Natural Energy has been producing commercial oil since 2005 and has produced 5,000 barrels at its peak. Therefore that decision was terribly illogical.
Even the PUP should have realized that not much more than 5,000 barrels would be produced. Not too bright.
What Should Have Been Done
What should have been done is a straightforward agreement: The oil company makes 50% Belize makes 50% (off the gross profit). Some will argue that would chase away the oil companies. I don’t think so; oil, for developed nations, is like crack. And we know what crackheads will do for crack.
#3. Petrocaribe Blunder
Money is not meant to be squandered, rather, it has to multiply. If we want to improve economic growth, we don’t just nationalize, but diversify our production.
Here is a prime example: Belize, a country of 360,000 people, imports almost 100 million dollars a year worth of goods and products from Guatemala. Guatemala, a nation of 16 million people, imports only 5 million a year worth of goods and products from Belize.
Read the last paragraph again, I will wait. Ok, it doesn’t seem logical, right? You know why, because WE DON’T PRODUCE ANYTHING! We have nothing to sell to Guatemala to help close the trade deficit.
“The country has no direction. We don’t know where the hell we are going…Show me what it is we are producing? What we are using our brain to do? What we are using our technologies to do?” Hubert Elrington.
What Should Have Been Done
We should have used that lump sum of cheap capital from the Petorcaribe and invested into creating knowledge and selling knowledge. We should have invested in industrialization. We should have stimulated the advancement of scientific methods, so that we could develop our natural resources into value-added products and sell them on the international market. This is the only way we will get on track with ALL Belizeans being able to have a better quality of life. This country has so many natural resources. Renewable and non-renewable.
Focus on Results
Put your emotions on pause for a moment and ask yourself, “what have been the results of the decisions our government officials have made over the past 34 years? Do you like what you see? Even if you are benefiting from those decisions, do you believe, overall, that the decisions are beneficial to the majority of Belizeans or detrimental?”
The Belizean people need to focus on results of government decisions, or lack thereof, of the past 34 years post-independent Belize. We must now realize that the only way to get the right decisions made is to trust and vote for leaders who have made the necessary sacrifices to show that they are not only about winning elections, but proving that they have a deep love for our nation and our people. There is only one political party in this country that have made those painful sacrifices.
That political party was birthed on November 4th, 2015 when selfless love of country and people was made by 24 Belizeans who synergized and put their names on the ballot in 24 constituencies.
You may ask, “what have they sacrificed?” I believe they sacrificed being politically victimized, they sacrificed being socially ostracized, they sacrificed being economically shunned, they sacrificed their lives and livelihoods. They did this to show you, the Belizean people, that they stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, they feel your pain, hear your cries, however for them to make the necessary policies that will trigger the necessary changes Belize desperately needs, they need your trust.
Have their sacrifices earned your trust? If so, all you need to do is reach out: a call, a text, an email, a Facebook post and say, “We ready fi wah new political consciousness.”
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. He is also a member of the Belize Progressive party.
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