Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2020. 2:09 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Belize does not have to accept an inevitable economic collapse, the Belize Business Bureau says in its released paper on an economic recovery plan.
Even before COVID-19 Belize was facing a number of challenges, including high public debt, yo-yo unemployment and underemployment, a sluggish banking system, a stagnant health, education and social service sector; endemic corruption and others.
But with proper leadership, Belize can make the best choices with our limited resources and in favor of all citizens. To compete, the BBB recommends a smaller, less costly public sector and shifting the focus to the private sector.
Report writer and BBB president Arturo Lizarraga says, “This plan may seem daunting but it can be done, by us, now. We have people with knowledge and experience in the country with great connections to universities and governments. Mobile access and internet technologies are advanced today to be useful in the areas mentioned in this plan. … Tap into our talent and let us begin the recovery of the economy by investing in the productive sector.
A summary of recommendations:
Job creation: codify in law that certain businesses must be majority-Belizean (as in born here with birth certificate) owned, including tour operating companies, ports, hotels, franchises, supermarkets, wholesale distributors, factories and manufacturers; processors and large scale agriculture; create a Value-Added Industrial Development Agency to develop industries, focusing on food and water-based products for export to Caribbean countries.
Finance: open more banks and financial institutions; accept the Mexican peso and Guatemalan quetzal for business purposes; restructure our bankruptcy laws to preserve asset value and reorganization opportunities; fix credit cost to consumers borrowing from stores and pawnshops;
Health: roll out National Health Insurance countrywide, paid for in conjunction by employers and workers; invest and train Belizean nurses, doctors, and other positions within the health care system; break up the ‘local pharma oligopoly’ with its public sector counterpart to provide proper medicine; pass a family bill to obligate adult children to take care of their elderly parents and promote assisted care for people needing more care, including internationally.
Agriculture and Manufacturing: ‘The Green Revolution’ – more foods, herbs, fruits, vegetables and meats so we can then add value as food and beverage products to export to increase our foreign currency reserves; establish a program with farmers of communities near schools to produce food for children attending those schools for breakfast and lunch; break up large landholdings so that small and mid-size farmers can go into business and create more jobs.
Education: expand online learning for all by equipping teachers and students with the necessary tools and infrastructure and make the process more transparent; restructure health and family life education (HFLE) away from gender issues and toward making things – home economics, textile and clothing, engineering, etc.; invest in science and mathematics teaching with application to other sectors; turn the National Technical and Vocational Education and Training Board (NTVET) into a public-private sector board to focus on new areas of job creation; expand university and training access; created a general education diploma (GED) program, offered online in English and Spanish, to give people more qualifications for jobs and a base to move to the tertiary level and increase the productive capacity of the labour force.
The Belize Business Bureau says it stands ready to work with all social partners in coordinating and implementing this Plan for Recovery and Growth in the Productive Sector.
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