Posted: Monday, August 30, 2021. 4:59 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News
By Dorian A. Barrow, Ph.D., Florida State University: The Peoples United Party (The PUP) has historically been known as the BLUE Party in Belize. It was founded in 1950 by George Cadle Price on a Social Justice platform, that is, on a vision that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. The PUP first contested national elections in 1954 and won every national election until 1984 when they were defeated by a coalition of opposition parties called The United Democratic Party (The UDP).
The PUP lost elections in 1993 and 2008 again to the UDP. In 2020 the PUP again was returned to power after being in political exile for 12 years (2008 – 2020) with a landslide victory winning 26 of the 31 seats, but this time it was a new PUP, the BLU Party. The BLU version of the PUP came to power on a mixed platform of Social Justice lead by Deputy Party Leader Cordel Hyde and a “let the Market Forces do its work” platform lead by now Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Development Hon. Chris Coye, an extremely wealthy lawyer-economist who worked for years for the billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, is the law partner in prominent Law Firm in Belize City, and the son-in-law of Banana magnate Tony Zabaneh.
After 10 months in government and a series of unpopular decisions including consolidating the buy-out of Scotia Bank Belize by the Belize Bank, a 10% salary cut of teachers and public sector workers, the untimely firing of the Governor of the Central Bank just six months after he was appointed over his objection to the issuing of a banking license to a banking entity in which two Ministers of Government are alleged to have had substantive interest, and over the move to shift the export of sugar from the Belize City-based Port of Belize to the new port in Big Creek in Southern Belize taking bread out of the mouths of Black Southside Belize City Stevedores, the question is: which of these two diametrically opposed policies, Social Justice or Market Forces, has taken root in the new John Briceno’s Administration? Or as my mother would say if she was still alive, which PUP is in power, the BLUE of her beloved George Price and his Social Justice Movement, or the BLU of Chris Coye and his Market Forces get rich, supply and demand rhetoric? Another question is: Has the PUP become the Party of the rich and the economically powerful – the “Ashcrafts” in our midst – now that it is firmly in government with a constitutional majority? And finally, who in the government is BLUE with a Social Justice agenda and who is BLU, that is, who are driven by the market economy assumptions that supply and demand, not egality or fairness, are the best determinants for an economy’s growth and health?
But as they say actions speaks louder than words and the actions of the government over the past 10 months strongly supports the thesis that the BLU sector of the PUP lead by Chris Coye is firmly in control of all significant matters of State. The forces of a government driven by international transactions, speculations, expectations, supply and demand as the basis of setting public sector policies seems firmly in place as the Social Justice policies and actions of the BLUE part of the government seem to be trailing far behind. At the same time, the enigma is that the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Briceno, who happens to be both BLUE and BLU by political heredity and by choice as a lifelong businessman respectively, is at the top of his game. Briceno might arguably be the only politician alive in Belize today who can understand and manage the natural tensions that exist between these two disparate visions of a single State, that is, the Social Justice focus and, at the same time, a State aspiring to have a successful Market Economy.
How long Briceno will be able to stymie the inevitable clash between social justice’s Cordel Hyde and Chris Coye’s Market Economy, is a time-line worth monitoring closely as time is running out on Cordel Hyde’s delivery on the Social Justice Policies of the BLUE arm of the PUP Party, Coye having gotten out the starting fast since last November and has been hit the ground running ever since. But what are these social justice policies in the Plan Belize Manifesto that Hyde has to do a much more aggressive job to convince the Briceno’s Cabinet to deliver on?
While a Market Economy has many advantages such as fostering innovation, variety and individual choice, it also has disadvantages, such as a tendency for an inequitable distribution of wealth (the rich gets richer), poorer working conditions (for example, our frontline health workers continue to work longer hours and are not being paid their overtime wages in a timely manner), and environmental degradation – for example, recently we have receive reports of a gold panning company in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve contaminating the fountain head of the largest potable water source in the country. Social Justice on the other hand are policies focused on addressing most of the negatives of a Market Economy. Social Justice promotes fairness and equity across many aspects of the society. For example, it promotes equal economic, educational and workplace opportunities. It is also important to the safety and security of individuals and community.
The Plan Belize Manifesto said that it would address as matter of priority, access to free education, poverty reduction, and to helping more Belizeans meet their basic needs. It also promised to address the issue of teen violence, teen abuse, reduce crime and homelessness in the country. School started last Monday and nothing has changed. Parents still have to pay at much as $1200 in school fees alone for their children to return to some public sector schools. And the Pantry Program has gone through several iterations and is all but virtually dead today. Crime, especially violent crimes, are at an all-time high.
Social Justice is fairness as it manifests in society. That includes fairness in healthcare, education, employment, housing, individual and community security and more. Though we are seeing some movement in fairness in healthcare in the context of fight to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus via the Ministry of Health and Wellness’s vaccination drive, much more must be done in the areas of equity, access, participation and rights.
More members of the Briceno Cabinet have to declare themselves in cabinet as they did on the campaign trail, as true PUP BLUE and join Cordel Hyde in getting the government to roll out its social justice agenda, if not in four years’ time we as a society might be worse off than we were prior to the COVID-19: less of us educated, great levels of poverty, more of us unemployed, higher levels of crimes, and more people homeless.
Feel free to challenge any or all of the issues raised in this piece and let us get this discussion on the sustainable development of Belize going.
Dr. Dоrіаn Ваrrоw іѕ сurrеntlу wоrkіng аt Gаlеn Unіvеrѕіtу аѕ thе Dеаn оf thе Dераrtmеnt оf Еduсаtіоn. Не hаѕ а lоng hіѕtоrу оf іnvоlvеmеnt іn еduсаtіоn іn Веlіzе, hаvіng ѕеrvеd аѕ а Lесturеr аt thе Unіvеrѕіtу оf Веlіzе, аnd аѕ Сhіеf Ехесutіvе Оffісеr іn thе Міnіѕtrу оf Еduсаtіоn. Dr. Ваrrоw іѕ аn еmіnеnt рrоfеѕѕіоnаl whо іѕ wеll rеѕресtеd bоth lосаllу аnd аbrоаd. Не іѕ ѕеrvіng аѕ аn еdіtоrіаl mеmbеr аnd rеvіеwеr оf ѕеvеrаl іntеrnаtіоnаl rерutеd јоurnаlѕ аnd hаѕ аuthоrеd mаnу rеѕеаrсh аrtісlеѕ/bооkѕ rеlаtеd tо еduсаtіоn. Араrt frоm еduсаtіоn, hе іѕ аlѕо а ѕроrtѕ еnthuѕіаѕt.
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