Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016. 11:01 a.m. CST.
By Richard Harrison: As the teachers enter their second day of industrial action, insisting that their just demands be met, the rest of Belize is called to reason.
Belize has enough resources for ALL the people to live a relatively high standard of living in safety and security…..and this is the ambition of ALL the people of Belize.
However, a corruption riddled, unbalanced and unjust political, economic and justice system stands in its way. A small status quo establishment political elite have highjacked the economy….such that all growth in the economy increasingly flows directly into their pockets. The middle-class has all but disappeared with poverty now closer to 50% of the population.
The blues and the reds have usurped their power of government since political Independence in 1981….each time increasing the benefits to their politically connected narrow special interests….while opening more avenues for corruption at all levels of the public service (and their so-called statutory bodies), to make them collusion partners and keep their eyes and mouth closed.
So….in general….corruption is the child of special interests…..because when ambitious economic actors saw that only the politically-connected special interests could legally get past the goal posts of get-rich-quick (development concessions, land grants, EPZ, IBC, PIC, exclusive licenses, insider-untendered-bloated contracts, market protection, guaranteed return-on-investments and other special favor subsidies made legal), they sought and found the other avenue to do the same thing….corruption.
The beneficiaries of this double edge sword of special interest subsidy and corruption have become increasingly wealthy….at the expense of the wider population, who pays the most of the taxes and are increasingly challenged to make ends meet.
BUT….the rich taking from the poor does nothing to grow the economy…..the economy can only grow when it produces more and better products and services…..however, the blue and the reds have kept investments and incentive for investments in the productive sectors low….preferring instead to engage in public-sector, infrastructure, debt-driven projects that are conducive to corruption. They have pretty much kept the colonial-era signature laws that promote import-consumption orientation instead of production-consumption orientation.
Indeed….the only bright spot in the economy….tourism….has and will continue to grow despite the blue or the red governments….the reason is first and foremost the general friendly nature of the Belizean people, and secondly the God-given natural beauty of Belize. Belizeans need to own and benefit more from this sector.
I. WHY THE TEACHERS?
Willingness and ability are two of the most important ingredients of achievement. The teachers are both willing and able to lead us in our just cause for a more fair and just society. They are the only organized group in Belize that have numbers to sway political decisions….the business organization has their hands tied, as most of them are in the status quo or linked to their food chain…the political opposition remains with a lot of baggage from their past, and the people see that they are loaded with generals and lieutenants that work directly or indirectly for the status quo…the alternative movement is still young and does not have the numbers, the resources nor the messages that the broad population finds magnetic…..the youth is not organized for any kind of mass political action, even if they only require a small push to join in…they are smart, but cynical because of the many games they see being played in the political arena….but many thousands of them are watching and waiting to be invited and organized.
The other associations and unions with numbers are also watching and waiting on the sidelines….the cane farmers and others have expressed support….and other associations and unions are in consultation with their membership….as they should be. It is only a matter of time before they join in.
The teachers are around 6,000 strong….and for certain, they come from traditional reds and blues….but yesterday the support of their membership was near to unanimous….thus their membership are obviously convinced that what they are engaged in is not political in terms of favoring blue nor red….but that they are fighting for the betterment of Belize. Their overwhelming support from parents and students shows that the majority of the population is standing with them.
Their only detractors are known die-hard supporters of the governing party, who are the current guardians of the status quo. They too will come on board once they get past their bias….and see that this revolution is peaceful, constructive and Belizean….because they too share the ambition of a more fair and just economically independent Belize, free of special interest favors and its corruption babies….where ALL can advance according to merit, ability and integrity.
II. WHY NOW?
Because “the time to save our country is before we lose it!”.
Belize is on the brink of economic disaster….the debt-to-GDP ratio is too close to 100%….nobody in the legitimate world of enterprise wants to do business with Belize….they don’t even want to help us in times of natural disasters, much less with sovereignty security arrangements….PetroCaribe and the blessings of oil have waned to a trickle….Taiwan and other grants givers to Belize are at or near giving up on us…..the world of re-financing of loans has been stretched thin having already financed and refinanced the so-called SuperBond…..and the average Belizean family is finding it too hard to stay together and to make ends meet…even as they watch a few from here and their foreign transplants get filthy rich overnight, using Belize like a lady of the night.
Nothing flies faster than money out of the hands of fools…
In the past the teachers stuck to their demands for pay raise….and did not push any further for improved governance and fiscal and justice reforms once their pay raise was met. We scolded them for that. Now….they have seen that such pay raise gets taken back by the status quo rapidly through inflation…having to continue to pay for the increasing special interest favors and expanding corruption….and they are back to square one before long.
The teachers are now on the side of ALL the people of Belize….demanding changes in key political, economic and justice dimensions (even if not all) of transformation that will benefit ALL the people of Belize….and if they hold out long enough in a non-politically-aligned formation….they are going to be joined with a mass of other support that have the power to sway governments decisions in favor of a more fair and just Belize. They also have the power to force any and all opposition waiting in line for power….to make public announcements of commitment to desirable reforms in political, economic and justice systems…and to fight arduously in ALL forums for them while in opposition….long before they even get a chance at the polls….so that we no longer change monkey for black-dog.
The teachers did not allow themselves to be the “cause” of any tax increases or new debts…..they simply demand that any moneys withheld/deferred from them for a period of one year (as requested by government using Hurricane Earl as their justification) be paid an interest….just as the government readily pays interest to the Ashcroft Alliance for any monies withheld from them.
I was the first to argue that assets taken by this government from the Ashcroft Alliance by force should be returned to them or paid for….when most of the country was in the patriotic dream cloud of the Prime Minister’s game of monopoly with that Alliance. The Ashcroft Alliance MUST agree to a programming of their just payments….already acknowledged by the government and people of Belize…lest THEY be held accountable for any further unjust and unfair new taxation and/or debts loaded on top of an already tired and frustrated Don Quijote, the middle and lower class people of Belize. They will otherwise face a wrath from which none will remain unscathed.
So be it…
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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