Politics, leadership and passports: The Belizean dilemma
Posted: Sunday, September 4, 2016. 1:00 p.m. CST.
[The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.]
By Joe E Awe: In 2007 I applied for a visa to go to Canada to visit two of my cousins who had invited me for years before that. Certainly, as a ‘hot blooded’ Belizean this visit would have had to be in the heart of their summer or else – death by shivering for me! Belizeans will know what I mean.
My visa application was denied! What? Why? I had a United States of America visa! How come I couldn’t go to Canada? Wait! We are in the Commonwealth, aren’t we? What’s going on?
The most expensive ‘thing’ in Belize is not the price of milk, no. The most expensive ‘thing’ in Belize is capital! Belize seems to be anti-entrepreneurial. If you don’t believe me, check the interest rates at the banks. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen percent for loans. I write this to make this point: because of the cost of money for entrepreneurial opportunities, less people take risks and of those who do, many either need to be bailed out or default altogether. So, what’s left? Government.
So how does government make its monies? Loans from international banks, Petrocaribe are a couple examples, and taxes. Lets briefly look a little closer at these. The loans from international banks and the Petrocaribe initiative are organized and earmarked for specific and particular projects (certainly, these are a little bit more complicated but for the purpose of this essay we keep it simple). With these loans, if you ask Belizeans if they believe all the monies go directly towards the projects they are earmarked for one wouldn’t be surprised by their answer: no. So, we get infrastructural development with borrowed monies from international lenders and we pay for education, health and pay back the international loans via taxes. Then, every year, we are at a deficit. We owe more than we can pay. We also import more than we export, which also hinders our balance of payments.
So what does this have to do with my Canadian visa?
Well, it is obvious from the above paragraphs that we are short of money. It’s obvious that government needs to find a way to raise capital. They decided to sell “economic citizenship”. What a wonderful idea! Initially! If these numbers are correct, it was something like this to get a Belizean passport: USD$25,000.00 plus an investment of USD$100,000.00 in our banking system so that we could be more liquid and in so doing inject new cash into our economy. What a great plan, right? Well, yes, but the end came early – government subcontracted the sales department (don’t laugh! Do you know of any entrepreneur who subcontracts his sales department?). Go ahead, find out who these agents were and see how they are doing today. Where did they go sell off pieces of our patrimony? China!
To make this story short, it could be up to thousands of people with Asian and other ethnicities who have Belizean passports and have never, ever come to the jewel – ever; and have never, ever put any kind of economic investments in any of our banks – ever! And many are no longer in the country where they originated. You know where a lot of them are? You are right! Canada!
Here I am now, an entrepreneur in the tourism industry who would love to go sell his wares to Canadians at a trade show or two and I proudly use my Belizean passport to get a visa from the Canadian government and I am rejected! Yet there are people in Canada (perhaps with wealth) with a piece of my country’s patrimony – our passport – who have never set foot in the jewel! Isn’t this ridiculous?
Here we are in 2016 with a new hotbed of corruption in the immigration department. Something like 55,000 passports is the number thrown around. Just this weekend a Belizean was denied entry into Canada because the Canadian Immigration Department no longer respect Belizean passports it seems. We can try to curse the Canadians and it is like spitting into the wind. The culprits are our so-called leaders who attempt to make business deals for government and cut the tree down before it bears fruits because its leaves are sweet. Now it is time to do the accounting – lets follow the money.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
The article was written by Joe Awe, a lover of The Jewel and people.
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