By Richard Harrison:The Senate is now a 13-member part of the Parliament of Belize thanks to the agitation of the Belize National Teachers Union, who forced the government; through industrial action; to enact legislation to increase its number from 12 late last year, adding one seat in the hope of achieving greater balance of power between the ruling party and the people of Belize.
This body is appointed by the Governor General; 6 on the advice of the Prime Minister, 3 on the advice of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and one each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches; the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau; the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the Civil Society Steering Committee; and Non-governmental Organizations in good standing.
In theory, the 13th Senator should have created the possible scenario where 7 senators not appointed by ruling party, in cases where necessary, would be able to overrule the 6 senators so appointed.
However, the current situation is that a Senator Ashley Rocke is the representative of the “churches”.
The majority of Belizeans believe that Senator Ashley Rocke, based on his past actions in the Senate, is squarely on the side of the ruling party.
In the current situation, where a budget is being presented by the ruling party to increase taxes on the people of Belize by over $100 million…with many sectors of the economy, especially the overnight tourism sector, disgruntled at the uneven way in which the government plans to raise these revenues…most Belizeans would want to see some form of going back to the table to negotiate and make some adjustments…after all, only a few were involved in the decisions that lead to this budget….many sectors claim they were not consulted.
However, Senator Rocke is expected by most to continue to wave the flag of the ruling party.
His constituency needs to investigate why this senator prefers not to represent them, but rather side with the government. Is he obtaining some special benefit? For himself? For his particular church? For his family? The other Senators not representing the ruling party needs to call this situation out without mincing words, and assist in an investigation.
If Senator Rocke is not representing the best interest of his constituency….then his constituency has a moral obligation to the people of Belize to do everything within their power to remove him.
There are many more difficult and important decisions that the Parliament of Belize will have to make in the coming year….and the people of Belize cannot be held hostage by one single misfit…this situation needs urgent resolution…if the ruling party is to be restrained in its extravagance, corruption, nepotism and negligence….if they are to start making policies that favor the majority instead of only the status quo.
This senator stands between pushing through a large increase in tax on overnight tourism customers, with no balanced increase in tax on cruise tourism customers….favoring one sector over another.
This senator stands between pushing through higher taxes on fuel and cement…a decision which will act like a ball and chain on the economy, especially the productive sector, holding it back from achieving the 3% real GDP growth that is necessary to avoid the kiss of death of the IMF.
This senator stands between pushing through higher taxes on the middle class, by adding 12.5% GST to their electricity bill….instead of taxing the rich holders of Export Processing Zones, IBC’s, development concessions, and exclusive market protection subsidies….and those that own large acreages of lands in speculation.
This senator stands between pushing through the government taking back of salary increases of teachers and public servants through high inflation…inflating the nominal GDP growth….but depressing the real GDP growth and real incomes. The Government of Belize has decided to achieve the GDP growth rate demanded by the Belize Bond holders through inflation of nominal GDP….avoiding the tough decisions that are required to achieve this through growth of the real GDP….because the bond holders did not specify real or nominal GDP growth…they are merely interested in getting paid.
This senator stands between a proper, independent investigation in the beheading murder of his pastor colleague, Pastor Llewelyn Lucas….a most gruesome kind of murder allegedly perpetrated by people close to senior Ministers of Government, and who are also accused of mafia-style extortion. This repression of justice through tacit protection of criminals close to powerful people is causing crime to escalate out of control.
Belize is between a Rocke and a hard place…
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 Masters in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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