Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2022. 12:12 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Bill Lindo: Belize City, July 8th 2022 – Last week Friday, July 1st, 2022, Channel 7 TV news aired the following:
“The five dollar minimum wage — it was a key promise in the PUP’s Plan Belize Manifesto, but, 19 months into the term – much to the dismay of law paid workers – it still hasn’t materialized.
Well, a release today from the Ministry of Labour says that it’s coming – even if it hasn’t reached yet. First, there’s a Minimum Wage Task Force which is working, quote, “to oversee the gradual implementation of the five-dollar minimum wage” end quote.
The first thing the task force has done is hire a consultant. After interviews in mid-June, PPF Capital Belize Limited was selected as the successful applicant.
And so, in the coming weeks, the Task Force and PPF Capital Belize Limited will hold countrywide consultations with key stakeholders and the public. The release says, quote, “PPF Capital Belize Limited will submit a Plan for the Gradual Implementation of the Five-Dollar Minimum Wage upon completion of the consultancy.”
So, the change in the minimum wage will go into effect after the study and consultations are completed.”
When I heard the above news piece I was shocked. I reached out to someone who is close to the government and would know more about the issue. They told me, “The rat is minding the cheese.” Something is wrong. Let’s look at this situation in some detail.
In 2018, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the People’s United Party (PUP) tasked the Research Committee of the NEC to prepare a paper for discussion on the Party’s position on the minimum wage with a goal to achieving a living wage. After much discussion and input from the persons on the national executive who represent the various interests of the elites, the middle-class and the workers, the party decided that $ 5.00 per hour would be the minimum wage if the party won the 2020 General Elections. It was also decided the sum of $ 1,850.00 per month would be set as the goal for a living wage. Because of the unconscionably high poverty numbers (over 52% of our population lives in poverty) of the country it was decided that laws be legislated within 3 months after winning elections, and the living wage would be accomplished within 4 years, along with 50,000 new high paying jobs, 60,000 house lots & farm parcels, and at least 10,000 new houses.
Belize is a small country located in both the Caribbean and Central America with a population of some 427,000 persons in 2021. According to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) the estimate of poverty in 2018 was 52% or 218,400 persons and because of Covid-19, it is now close to 243,500 persons living below the poverty level in 2021, while only 176,500 were above the poverty line. But it is important to note that of the 176,500 only about 70,800 were in the middle and upper class. The other 105,700 persons were on the margins. One sudden illness or shock and the majority of the 105,700 would fall below the poverty line.
Using the methodology developed by Halcrow Consultants, the SIB based the poverty line, GPI at $ 7,961.00 in 2018. This is $ 7,961/12 = $ 663.42/month; or $ 663.42/4 = $ 165.85/week; or $ 165.85/5.5 days = $ 30.00/day; or $ 30/8 = 3.75 per hour. But the minimum wage rate by law is $ 3.30/hour, or some $ 26.40 per day. This means that Belize is using the law of the land to perpetuate poverty in this country. In other words, Belize’s elites and their politicians use the law to unconstitutionally take away a citizen’s right to life. Shame on you Belize!
During last year (2021) only 30,600 or 19% of all employed workers (middle-class) earned more than $ 1,850.00/month or a living wage. Of the other 130,816 employed workers only about 63,000 earned an average of $ 1,060.00 per month or some $ 50.00 per day. The balance of 67,795 workers were in the so-called informal sector, or “catch-and-kill” in Belize slang. From the flood of data obtained during Covid-19 we know that the average income for the informal sector was $ 679.00 per month. And if we adjust the GPI for inflation, then the GPI for 2021 is $ 4.20/hour or $ 33.60 /day. Anyone earning this or less is living in poverty in Belize in 2021.
Population above Poverty Level
Workers 63,000 $ 1,060/mth. $ 50/day $ 6.25/hr.
Middle-class 30,600 $ 1,850/mth. $ 92.50/day $ 11.56/hr.
Total 176,500 persons
Population below Poverty Level
Unemployed 20,318 No Income
Underemployed 34,000 $ 572/mth. $ 26/day $ 3.30/hr.
Informal 67,795 $ 679/mth. $ 30.86/day $ 3.86/hr.
Total 243,500 persons
By February 2022, because of inflation, the GPI was at $ 4.45/hr. or $ 35.60 per day. If you earn this amount or less you are below the poverty line – you are living in poverty. Currently, inflation is running at more than 12% for food and about 8% for fuel. The average overall is some 4% because other necessary items like phone rates, water rates and electricity have not had any price increases. But the middle-class has over the last six months seen their food and especially their fuel bill sky-rocked by some 26%. Their income has been reduced by some $ 110/mth. Their income now stands at $ 1,850 – $110 = $1,740/mth. And we are just at the beginning at a general-break-down crisis in the Western nations.
In Belize, the closing of our economy resulted in 25,100 additional persons being brought into poverty. Some 18 months later, we started to see shortages crop up as supply-chains were disrupted or destroyed. All over the world the crazy printing of money by central bankers saw demand for dwindling supplies creating inflation. “Operational challenges arising from soaring energy bills have put the entire US industrial complex at risk of partial shutdown”, is the words of Bloomberg reported on Thursday, July 7th; JP Morgan the largest USA Bank wrote July 5th that if the USA/G7 recent proposal to “cap” Russian Oil exports goes ahead the world will likely see crude oil hit some USD $ 380.00 per barrel from the current $ 110.00 per barrel.
Now Belize is a unique country. Every country on God’s Earth especially those that have provided a high standard of living with low poverty rates have ALL done it by disciplining capital. In the beginning there was a distinct difference between the two major political parties – UDP and PUP. The UDP were for the most part servants of capital, especially foreign capital. Except for the late 1990’s when PM Manuel Esquivel tried to discipline capital, especially UK citizen Michael Ashcroft. But Mr. Esquivel was betrayed by the Belizean elites who for the most part sided with Ashcroft. The same betrayal occurred during the Musa administration and to some extent with the Barrow government. It is very doubtful if the current government will try to discipline capital both local and foreign as everyone and their grandmother knows who runs Belize – who is boss in Belize.
This lack of ability or desire to discipline capital means that the current structure of Belize’s economy will continue and with it continuous increases in poverty. Belize will not join nor attempt to join the ranks of industrial high standard of living countries.
Belizeans need to understand that a country that refuses to make the goods that it consumes is a very dangerous place to live. Printing too much money for non-productive uses always lead to inflation. But the sudden stopping of money printing always lead to recessions and suffering. The only humane solution to inflation is production – a full set economy. In Belize, even simple import-substitution is not allowed unless you are from the elite class. Belize is a racist society based on at top – white, yellow/brown and black at the bottom.
Now we have given a consultant (a young man who graduated from Lord Ashcroft’s University in Cambridge, UK) a job to recommend to government how not to increase the minimum wage even when we know that the current rates are causing 243,500 (58%) of our citizens to live in poverty. Don’t forget that in May 2022, the producer’s price index was up some 46% in the United States. This will work its way through the economy and by September – December inflation will hit some 40% which will be imported into Belize. Then, the poverty rate will be at some $ 6.23/hr. — way above the measly $ 5/hr. that we are refusing our fellow citizens.
And, lastly, the PUP should remember that the Belize City Council gave every low paid worker in 2018 a raise such that NO ONE gets less than $ 5/hour and with benefits, the average is $ 7.50/hour paid by the Council to its lowest paid employees. This should be across the board for all Belizeans if we are humans made in the image of our Creator. The PUP is the political party of social justice. The control by both foreign and local capital over the PUP must stop at once.
What we have in Belize and certainly in the so-called Western countries are crisis managers rather than leaders who boldly build great projects pre-emptively to service the needs of the future. We need new bold leadership who would certainly not be subservient to the banking system of gambling and globalization, nor subservient to the insane myths of “zero-carbon” feudal green renewable energy sources and other destructive beliefs against human intervention into nature. Shut down the central bank and make the National Bank of Belize live.
Another lost opportunity – A small unit to produce # 2 Diesel from Crude Oil with capacity of 10 million gallons per annum. It was sitting at Houston docks for the last several years. I was told government had no interest and I should leave it alone. (I am neither white, nor a member of the elites). This unit could have given Belize diesel fuel Independence and with crude from Belize fields the public could be paying some $ 6.00 per gallon instead of the $ 13.41 today.
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