Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2017. 9: 16 AM. CST.
By BBN Staff: The festive September season, beyond all its shallow liquor-infused profit motivated promotions, should be a time of reflection and evaluation; reflection on our history and the important lessons we ought to have learned and evaluating our current conditions and charting a proper way forward.
September, as we know it, however, is nothing of the sort. Even today as we celebrate the 36th anniversary of our Independence, the mindless masses are probably still too tired, recovering from a waste of a show last night, and likely care very little about the current issues facing themselves and their children in the future. But the effects and results of corruption have started affecting people across the length and breadth of this country. Meanwhile, yesterday in neighboring Guatemala, people flocked to that country’s capital by the thousands to demand the resignation of the clown President, Jimmy Morales, over allegations of corruption.
Back in Belize, however, PetroCaribe has run dry and regular fuel, which now costs more than premium, stands at over $11 per gallon. By the time the next shipment of premium comes into the country, drivers can expect another price hike sending gas prices even further into the stratosphere. This is only one symptom of an avalanche of issues plaguing Belize, yet, for some unexplainable reason, Belizeans seem to not be bothered in the slightest. Several months ago, when there was a price hike on fuel in neighboring Quintana Roo, there were protests and riots. Here in Belize when the price of fuel goes up, people only flock to Hour Bar field by the thousands to watch Machel Montano sing karaoke.
And as the Prime Minister will take the podium in Belmopan today, and no doubt sing his own praises, while heaving blame on the ghost of government-past for the failures and short-comings of his own administration, he too must look in the mirror, and know that he is just as guilty as the Said Musa and Ralph Fonseca he so loved to vilify. He must know that he too is as guilty as the Vegas and the Saldivars, which the United Democratic Party (UDP) has designated as political lepers, if only by the optics, for not cutting off the head of corruption with that machete he once proclaimed he would swing if it ever showed itself. Maybe, because it’s easier to say those things than actually having to cut your own head off.
And as the leader of the opposition takes the podium in Belmopan today as well, he too must know that he is also just as guilty. The ills plaguing this nation did not start in 2008 as he would have Belizeans believe. Briceno’s People’s United Party (PUP) are the fathers of corruption in this so-called jewel, and even now, as they condemn the current government, where is their plan to rescue Belize from the abyss it is sinking into? They have not shown they are any more capable or prepared to do anything other than what they have always done, which is talk pretty words, and not even with the vigor as the PM once did when he was leader of the opposition.
But more than the greedy, corrupt, politicians who will stop at nothing to maintain power, Belizeans must also look themselves in the mirror and know they deserve the majority of the blame for the current conditions. We are the ones who have allowed it all to happen. Over 40 percent of all people in Belize live in poverty. It isn’t because Belize, small as it may be, doesn’t have a wealth of natural and human resources. It is because the corrupt few, who have been allowed to trade power back and forth, have lined their pockets with public money and have illegally gained thousands of acres of prime land for their relatives and cronies. Belizeans have never wanted accountability and transparency, and so we get the leaders we deserve. Then it is right and just that Belizeans punish and suffer in silence if they will not stand up for their rights and be heard.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its recent Article IV Consultation, confirmed what is already obvious and evident to everyone that Belize’s economy is still in trouble despite the government presenting the re-structuring of the Superbond as some kind of economic and political victory, which it most certainly was not. Under the terms of that most recent restructuring, GOB agreed to grow its GDP by 2 percent for each of the next three fiscal years. According to the IMF, though, “growth is projected at just under 2 percent over the medium term”. After GOB’s attempt at fiscal consolidation in the last fiscal cycle, public debt still remains at almost 100 percent of GDP. The IMF has recommended “that additional measures should focus on both the revenue and the expenditure side, including a broadening of the base of the General Sales Tax, and reform of the civil service to help stabilize employee headcount and to contain the wage bill.” Basically, if you think it is hard now, you haven’t seen anything yet.
But even as it is bound to get harder for the average citizen, the political elite will not suffer. They sleep comfortable at night, free from the burdens of accountability and transparency. Belize’s adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) up to this point seems to have been futile. The appointment of the long-awaited 13th Senator has not had the desired effect in affecting policy because the government has been able to secure their own Judas in the Senate with 30 pieces of silver.
The crime situation, which also seems to be a never ending cycle, even has top cops arguing among themselves on the best way to deal with criminal elements. It has become so ridiculous, that one is threatening to sue the other over statements made in the media over a perception, which may very well be more than just a perception. But in Belize, like the politicians, the police are so sensitive about criticism, that what should be the true objective is quickly lost. Don’t be surprised when one of these officers announces they are running for political office too.
There are politicians who have had their diplomatic visas revoked, a very serious thing in the international community. The U.S. State Department has accused Belizean politicians of facilitating human trafficking. And as much as the Prime Minister would love to have Belizeans believe that the Americans in the U.S. State Department are crazy and have no idea what they are talking about, who would seriously doubt that such a thing is actually happening given the track record of Mr. Barrow’s current administration? Is it really that far-fetched to believe? A more recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor notes that Belize is among the worst countries in addressing issues of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation.
But today is a day of celebration, so celebrate Belizeans. Celebrate the reward you have rightfully earned. Only you have the power to make a difference. The power is in the people and the politics they address. Time for the people to decide. Happy Independence! Whatever that means to you.
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