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December 14, 2017

Belize~ The need for a Political Coalition Victory

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Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017. 8:40 am CST.

By Richard Harrison: Coalition – An alliance of political groups formed to oppose a common foe or pursue a common goal. Note: In countries with many political parties, none of which can get a majority of the citizens’ votes, the only way an effective government can be formed is by a coalition of parties.

The political history of Belize has been dominated by the two party system…with voters having to chose between the two major political parties, the Peoples United Party or the United Democratic Party.

It can be argued that Belizeans have always voted out the incumbent party after becoming so disappointed with them….never for the alternative. Since Independence, Belizeans voted out the PUP in 1984, shortly after they lead Belize to political independence and the subsequent economic slowdown and uncertainty regarding Belize’s security arrangements…only to vote out the UDP in 1989…the PUP in 1993….the UDP in 1998….the PUP in 2008 (the first to serve two terms in government after independence)….and since then it has been the UDP in power for the past three consecutive terms, or 10 years…with three years left in their current five-year term.

The UDP has been lead by Hon. Prime Minister Dean Barrow since shortly after the Esquivel loss of 1998, and for these ten years in government…he has won his seat in the Queens Square electoral division in Belize City for 33 years. His division remains one of the poorest, most crime ridden areas in the country.

The UDP almost lost in 2012, since they got into power in 2008 without any plan and the economy was very slow after the world economic crisis started in 2008, their closing down of PetroCaribe in 2009, the political environment was very contentious due to radical nationalization by force of the telecommunications and electricity utilities, and there were little to no foreign direct investments with GDP growth near zero and unemployment rising fast. They won because of a deal struck between the UDP and two “sure seats” held by Mark Espat and his brother-in-law Cordel Hyde, both of whom decided at the eleventh hour not to contest their seats on behalf of the PUP.

By that time, the Mayor of Belize City, Darryl Bradley, had championed the cementing of 100 streets in Belize City against the grain of his party and even Prime Minister Barrow openly opposed his initiative early on. I was one of the few who openly supported the initiative of Mayor Bradley.

Shortly after the narrow victory for the UDP in 2012, PM Barrow re-opened the PetroCaribe concessionary loan facilities…and expanded Mayor Bradley’s infrastructure idea (streets and playgrounds) across the country using the PetroCaribe windfall, which was restarted shortly after the re-election. This large scale transformation of urban areas have given voters a sense that finally Belize is looking and feeling like a modern country…that something concrete can be seen and felt for the large sums of money the government spends. This, along with the corruption gains by many feeding from the “flush with cash” public finances obtained through PetroCaribe and other debts….has won victories for the UDP in 2012 and 2015, both elections called long before the 5-year term allowed in our parliamentary democracy…in both instances the PM used the 30-day minimum notice for elections, allowed by the same system of governance.

With the plummeting of the price of crude on the world market and the politic-economic turmoil in Venezuela…the PetroCaribe cash credits have slowed to a trickle…and the UDP has resorted to borrowing from other concessionary sources such as Taiwan and Arab countries…along with European Union support arranged to replace traditional subsidies for sugar and banana exports…in order to try to keep some semblance of continuity for their infrastructure projects.

But…streets and playgrounds are not all that Belize needs.

Over these past ten years of UDP rule…GDP growth has slowed to near zero (some of their economic and financial gurus boasts that the unofficial economy is bustling)…the national debts is now past 100% of GDP and climbing fast…foreigners have been gobbling up Belize lands like never before….more Belizeans have lost their homes and businesses to predatory banks with mortgage laws heavily biased in their favor over the past ten years than the past 27 years prior, since Independence….no new subdivision of lands for residential lots have been done….no new hospitals have been built…there are less schools open, since some have been amalgamated…many urban and rural roads have deteriorated and in a sad state of disrepair…the public transport system is in shambles, with buses breaking down on the highways and leaving passengers stranded…production for exports have fallen significantly, especially after the slow down of oil exports since 2013…the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Belize has come under much strain from what the people perceive is poor management of Belize’s foreign affairs…corruption, unemployment and crime are at all-time highs….the cost of living has risen significantly, eroding all the temporary benefits of salary increases for teachers and public service employees….and the rest of the work force has not seen a rise in minimum wage since the PUP election-year gimmick of 2003…contraband, prostitution, money laundering, people trafficking and drug trafficking are the new “industries” in Belize….the people are all dressed up in used clothing, sales of which are now on every street corner….and their diet is primarily chinese fry chicken, ramen noodles, street-side tacos and meat pies….and most of their economy is increasingly dominated by “just come” elements who are beneficiaries of the massive immigration corruption that has been unraveling in Belize under the PUDP.

PM Barrow has been suffering from severe back pains and other ailments for some time….and signaled early this year that his retirement from his post as Prime Minister was imminent by early 2018.

The two Deputy Prime Ministers, Hon. Patrick Faber and Hon. John Saldivar do not have the confidence of their own UDP party-base, much less that of the wider Belizean public…to take up the high office of Prime Minister.

Belize has seen the best of the UDP…and it is time for them to go.

So…tradition would have it that the alternative voters would have to replace the UDP is naturally the PUP….and the PUP, it seems, have been quite comfortable waiting on the sidelines to slide into government by default as disappointment with the incumbent UDP grows…they have been operating on low key, not doing much to organize the people to mass protests or anything of the sort….even though the government corruption stinks to high heavens and scandals have broken out, a new one almost every month. Most notable is the excessive amounts of almost a billion dollars the PM has been paying out to the Ashcroft companies for the assets taken from them by force early in the UDP administration….in apparent collusion…and with several more litigation in the pipeline…rendering the Belize economy broke…with its back to the wall, and gasping for breath…but his lawyer-family members have gotten many millions as preferred lawyers for the Government of Belize in all these cases in local, regional and international courts….all of which they have lost.

Many believe that the Ashcroft group in collusion with the PM are raiding Belize over every penny they can…and those millions are being stashed in offshore accounts, as they certainly do not show up in any of the Belize national accounts….and they seem hell bent on continuing the shake down…using more and more litigation to “settle differences”. They are known to be close friends in private circles….proven, loyal servants of Ashcroft interests.

So….what can the people expect if they go to the only traditional alternative? the PUP?

To answer this question, one must take a good look at who are the people leading the PUP currently….and their inner circle….the people who would be controlling the purse strings and policies of a PUP government.

The current leader is Hon. John Briceno…who is a minor shareholder in SMART telephone company, which is accordingly majority owned by the Ashcroft group.

His inner circle are said to include Senator Eamon Courtney who represents the Ashcroft group in many cases…Andrew Marshalleck, a lawyer who also represents Ashcroft…Christopher Coye, another lawyer in the Ashcroft camp, and the man they seem to prefer to head up their economic and finance team…Godfrey Smith, who has represented Ashcroft, and is husband of Senator Valerie Woods….Stuart Leslie, a long time ally of Briceno who currently works for the UDP governments “Guatemala ICJ referendum” initiative…Josue Carballo, a Briceno ally and candidate for the PUP in an Orange Walk electoral division who works for SMART…Narda Garcia, who works for SMART…Amalia Mai, who manages Channel 5 owned by the Ashcroft group…among others known to be working directly or indirectly for Ashcroft interests.

Thus…if Belize shifted from the UDP to the PUP….they would be shifting from Ashcroft loyal servants….to Ashcroft rabid fanatics.

The shake down will continue…and get worse.

This is why Belize needs a coalition to form any new Government of Belize at the earliest opportunity…of those from the UDP and PUP camps who can still call themselves free men…Belizean patriots and nationalists….joined in coalition for political action with the workers of Belize, especially through their unions, associations and institutions…who have the best interests of the people of Belize at heart…who will implement the political, economic and judicial reforms that the country needs to transform it from a corruption riddled backwater banana republic….to a more just, democratic and prosperous society….by focusing on developing the material and human resources of the country running on the four stroke engine of industrial productions (agri-business, mining, forestry and fisheries), trading, financial services and tourism.

It is time for Belizeans to set traditional political colors and loyalties aside…and unite in common cause…to take back Belize…and to transform it into the promising Jewel we know it to be….Oh Land of the Free by the Carib Sea….our manhood we pledge to thy Liberty….no tyrants here linger…despots must flee…

To be…or not to be….that is the question…

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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