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Their turn to eat?

Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2017. 3:18 pm CST.


By Lisa Shoman: Last night, we may have dodged Franklin, but there were hundreds of worried teachers, nurses, cañeros, agricultural workers, admin assistants, office workers, domestic helpers, city/town council employees worried about the unfortunate timing of the TStorm.

No storm or hurricane comes at a “good time” but those that come, when pay day has come and gone, and the next one is in a week’s time is especially bad. And more so when the scramble to buy books, shoes, clothes, pay for uniforms and orientation/registration fees for the new school year is in full swing. In the Jewel, some statistics say about 40% of Belizeans live below the poverty line, with about a quarter of those being “extremely poor” or “indigent”.

And yet many Belizeans (especially those in the more populous urban areas) who depend daily on neighborhood grocers for necessities and buying cooked food, worried about the impending storm and their family’s food security. And the threat of loss of power from the Mexican grid in Franklin’s pathway was a distinct possibility. Many overextended themselves buying extras they could not really afford. Why are so many Belizeans under economic threat, one or two paychecks away from disaster? In a nutshell?

Corruption and the consumption of ‘scarce’ national resources by a kleptocratic nomenclature. There are weekly, monthly, yearly grabs for resources in our Jewel. Just google “land grab Belize” or “rosewood Belize”or “sweetheart deal Belize” or “passport Belize” and see what pops up. The Ramsey Caye/Spanish Creek Vegan debacle are just symptoms of the disease of “ourturntoeatisis”. And it is a disease that is endemic. Michaela Wrong in her powerful book about Kenya, “Our Turn To Eat” explores the epidemic with vivid, compelling factual prose. As an article by the Guardian Newspaper reviewing Ms. Wrong’s book puts it, “It is more than a story about a whistleblower, and more than about Kenya.

It could have been written anywhere where corruption is endemic, and Wrong disposes of some general myths. One is the refrain that the president is an honest, upstanding, god-fearing man; he’s not corrupt, it’s his undisciplined children. “In countries where presidents have done their best to centralise power,” Wrong writes, “altering constitutions, winning over the army and emasculating the judiciary, the notion that key decisions can be taken without their approval is laughable.” Sounds disturbingly familiar?

It should. It could have been written about Belize and its Cabinetocracy. And maybe except for the names and the faces, it was.

In 2004, in excoriating the Musa administration in government for the past 6 years, Dean Barrow said : “The problem with this government is the fact of their undiluted corruption. Promises have been made by them that they have no intention of keeping; that they’re incapable of keeping. But I tell you any UDP government that I lead will never be engaged in corruption. As soon as it rears its ugly head, I personally will cut it off. And I will tell you I will sharpen a special machete with blades on two sides so that every time it springs up ‘right so’ I will chop it off. And if it means the government has to fall then so be it.

Let the consequences be damned, the people of this country deserve better and I am determined to give them better.” By 2012, after 4 years in power, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was lamenting, “”But if there is one thing that can and would bring down this government it is hustling in Immigration.

I have heard that ministers are procuring visas for people. I’ve said pretty much in every second Cabinet if you are doing so (I have no proof) for God sakes stop it! Stop it! That is what would cause the government to fall.” “I have also said that I understand that politicians have friends and I know that processes can be slow. If a minister says ‘I did ask the Immigration Department to bring some speed to the processing of an application for a visa for a friend.’ It is entirely legitimate as minister.’ I satisfied myself that the application for the visa was in order.’ I can’t say that that is not to happen, but if I hear you intervene 10 times and I hear you intervene 20 times – what I am to think? Except that you’re involve in a hustle. If you hang out with Alibaba you must be one of the 40 thieves.” In Belize, has it been, is it still the turn of Alibaba and the 40 Thieves To eat?

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.


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