Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2020. 12:40 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Bill Lindo: PUP Research Committee, May 2020
Article Six of the Constitution of the People’s United Party details its Aims and Objectives. It is in this Article that the support for the principle of the common good is based. It provides the foundation for the crafting of a Political-Economy Policy for the PUP and any PUP-Government.
Article Six notes that Principal Aims and Objects of the PUP are:
The Economic Policy of the PUP is very clear – its principal aim is the Economic Independence of Belize.
The economic independence of Belize can be achieved through efforts that promote:
In the March 2018 Municipal Elections, the PUP won the Belize City Council by a huge margin by promising the citizens of Belize City that the Party views the interests of the common man as paramount. In fact, the slogan for the campaign was all about the people.
Two years later, a novel coronavirus called Covid 19 arrived in Belize. On March 23rd the Ministry of Health confirmed the first case in Belize. On April 3rd the fourth case was confirmed – Mr. Hubert Pipersburgh of San Ignacio, Cayo and the economic advisor to the Belize City Council. Hubert became Belize’s first causality when he died on April 5th, 2020. Since then some 18 cases have been confirmed by the government of Belize and sadly, two persons have died.
Belize, like the rest of the world have followed the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) to contain the virus. This has included measures that have effectively shut down the entire economy of Belize. The efforts at containment globally have had the same effect – a global shutdown. Some economists note that this global recession will eclipse the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the case of Belize, the economic foundation rested on raw agriculture and tourism. Within days of the airlines and cruise ships desisting service to Belize and government announcing domestic measures, the tourism sector completely collapsed. A historic first. Suddenly, the country lost access to some $400 million, and 18% of the total employed (tourism sector) workforce was out of jobs and income.
As of the May 1st, 2020 some 37% of the workforce of Belize is unemployed. The Government of Belize initiated an unemployment program for the suddenly unemployed and ran for one month, closing in late April 2020. Some 84,000 persons had applied for the $150 payable every two weeks until the end of June/July 2020.
An analysis of the applications showed that close to 8,350 applicants were from Belize City and were previously gainfully employed in the tourism sector. It is therefore incumbent on the PUP as guardians of Belize City to both create good-paying, permanent jobs for those 8,000 + Belizean workers. Estimates indicate that tourism will not rebound for at least the next 19 months. Some say perhaps after 3 years. The PUP Research Committee is proposing that the Belize City Council form a special purpose vehicle (a company) to establish new jobs that supply an income for the City Council and also supply necessary jobs for the residences of the City.
It is helpful to first contextualize this situation. We can view this group as representative of the broader society, where only 20% of the group are what can be termed as “active participants”. With limited assistance, including access to credit, this group will be able to rebound almost immediately. Of the 8,350 Belizeans without jobs and income in Belize City about 1,500 to 2,000 of them fall into this group. That leaves almost 6,160 persons that require more dedicated support. The Cruise Tourism sector had employed some 4,160 persons. The other 2,000 are what we call the-catch-an-kill (structural unemployed). It is incumbent on the Belize City Council to support this group either by feeding them for 24 months or creating jobs for them, either on its own or by generating the environment to fuel this job-creation. This is more imperative in a climate that is short on investor confidence. Global uncertainty is too great for others to invest.
Belize’s economy before the March 2020 crisis was operating on the raw agriculture and service sectors. Our needs for industrial goods were supplied by imports and paid for with foreign funding obtained through loans from multilateral banks, remittances, foreign investments, and the sale of tourism services to foreigners. These have all dried up, and immediately.
Belize survived the Great Depression and we can survive again. In the years 1930 to 1946, Belizeans first lost about 35% of jobs in the Great Depression, then the 1931 hurricane destroyed Belize City and killed over 3,000 persons, and lastly, World War II created the perfect storm. How did we survive then? The colonial government created work for the local population by building the Burton Canal and by encouraging local manufacturing. We had no other choice. By the end of 1945 Belize was self-sufficient in food, clothing and shelter. However, at the end of 1949 everything changed when the colonial government devalued the Belize dollar and started to promote imports again. One year later saw the birth of the nationalist movement and the birth of the People’s United Party.
Belize City is in a swamp and agriculture is not possible. Fishing on a grand scale is also not possible. Therefore, the only way to create new jobs immediately is to make goods that we need and consume – manufacturing. This method can only work if it is supported by the people and led by the local government. Our system is such that we are heavily reliant on imported goods and there will be certain sectors of the economy that will demand that we expend all our financial resources to sustain those imports. That situation should not be supported, not now. We should not allow any competition with the workers of Belize. Their survival is vital.
After thorough analysis of the set of goods that can produced locally, with little investment and that offers the greatest levels of employment, the research committee proposes the following:
|ITEM||Fixed Capital||Working Capital||Number of workers||Sales||Profits||Imports per year
|Uniform sewing||$ 325 k||$ 216 K||150||$ 2 million||0.53 million||$ 4 million|
|Shoes||$ 450 K||$ 280 K||100||$1.5 million||0.45 million||$ 6 million|
|Furniture||$ 650 K||$ 275 K||100||$ 3 million||0.75 million||$ 9 million|
|Coconut Oil/Fats||$280 K||$ 150 K||50||$ 1.1 million||0.16 million||$ 18 million|
|Soap Making||$ 300 K||$ 200 K||50||$ 1.0 million||0.65 million||$ 10 million|
|Bolts/Nails||$ 150 K||$ 140 K||50||1.2 million||0.30 million||$ 12 million|
|Machine/Welding Shop||$ 600 K||$ 650 K||100||$3.5 million||1.0 million||$ 30 million|
|Hand Tools||$ 350 K||$ 125 K||60||$ 1.3 million||0.26 million||$ 8 million|
|School/Other Bags||$ 250 K||$ 156 K||100||$ 1.0 million||0.67 million||$ 10 million|
|Plastic Forming||$ 650 K||$ 800 K||240||$ 5.0 million||2.1 million||$ 80 million|
|Agri Machines||$ 400 K||$ 300 K||100||$ 3.0 million||0.75 million||$ 45 million|
|Tanning, cow, etc.||$ 100 K||$ 50 K||50||$ 0.5 million||0.13 million||$ 17 million|
|Leather Goods||$ 175 K||$ 250 K||150||$ 2.5 million||0.78 million||$ 31 million|
|Food Processing||$ 400 K||$ 195 K||100||$ 1.8 million||0.56 million||$ 90 million|
|Const. Above Factories||$ 1 million||200|
|TOTAL||$ 5 million||$ 3.8 million||1,600||$ 28.4 million Sales||$ 9 Million net|
The fourteen factories proposed would employ about 1,400 workers at an average wage of $375.00 per week ($9.37/hr.). These are permanent jobs at a living wage. This is in keeping with the Creed and Aims & Objectives of the People’s United Party.
The Belize City Council would gain an additional income of some $9 million in income after the loans had been paid. This revenue allows the Council to fulfill its responsibilities and invest in other productive sectors in the City. The investment of $8.8 million dollars for the 14 factories would be returned to the City’s Fund within three years. The upfront costs can be obtained from two sources. The Council would use $3.8 million from the proceeds of the Municipal Paper and the balance of $5 million could be borrowed from the Government of ROC (Taiwan) for 5 years at 2.5% interest on the reducing balance. Currently, the Belize City Council has the space by law to borrow an additional $5 million dollars from ROC (Taiwan). The funds from the Municipal Paper would be used to pay for working capital portion of the investments. Most of the $5 million dollars will be used to purchase machinery and equipment. ROC (Taiwan) makes some of the best machinery in the world. And it only makes sense that if we will borrow money from them that we should spend that money amongst their citizens. This also saves the need to source the foreign exchange that would otherwise be needed.
The Council should also promote the creation of “victory gardens” throughout the City. These gardens would increase the nutrient-dense foods that is severely needed by the City’s citizens. The City can use about 100 empty lots of about 50 ft. x 75 ft. or about 8 acres of land space. These gardens are easily constructed and can grow vegetables and ground food at about 20,000 lbs. per acre or some 80 tons of high-quality food at some $160,000.00 in value every 90 days. These 100 lots will need about 100 citizens to grow the foods and they will be paid about $800 each from the gross sale of $ 160,000.00 per three months.
Even with these interventions, there will still be a short fall of 2,660 jobs in Belize City. Nation-building is not easy. As our father, George Cadle Price wrote it is not a task for little people, it is a task for giants.
 The Creed and Aims and Objectives of the Peoples United Party was first published in 1952 and amended at the 2010 National Convention under the leadership of Hon. John Briceno to state that full Economic Independence can only be achieved through self-reliance and full employment that Eradicates Poverty.
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