Sense and Sensibility

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May 21, 2019

Village Council Elections are here once more.  Set to begin on June 23, 2019, the People’s United Party (PUP) is ready to contest eighty per cent of the total one hundred and ninety eight village councils country wide.  Village councils are charged with the efficient administration and improvement of the communities which they represent.  Regrettably this has not always been the case.  While the Village Council Act (enacted by a PUP government) provides for the appointment of the Village Water Board and the Village Lots Committee these are more often than not packed predominantly with inept political appointees and sidekicks.  This makes the equitable distribution of village lots impossible and the effective and efficient operation of the village water systems unachievable.  It appears currently that villages, and towns for that matter, receive assistance from central government based on the political affiliation of their elected officials.  It may seem that certain villages are castigated and funds as well as infrastructure projects and assistance for maintenance of roads and streets are withheld.

The PUP believes that this must stop.  Boards and committees must be established and allowed to operate free from political interference.  Villages must be allowed to receive the assistance they need regardless of the political affiliation.  The Village Council Act allows for the establishment of a Village Fund managed by the council.  Central government must therefore ensure that villages are allocated, from the national budget, at least the minimum that it will require to function and carry out maintenance on sporting fields and community areas.

In addition, village councils should be allowed to access monies from the Constituency Development Fund for community development.  Most national parks and archeological sites are located near villages in rural areas.  A reasonable percentage of these fees should be ear-marked directly for the benefit of the villages closest to them.  This would ensure that the beneficiaries of funds generated by tourism are those who are most affected by it.  Many villages especially in the North have established clinics in villages yet these are not fully functional.

The Barrow administration will try to make you believe they have love for rural Belize in the next few weeks as they campaign for Village Council Elections.  They will come to your door to tell you of all their wonderful plans… should they win.  Meanwhile ask yourself what they have done for rural communities in the last ten years.  Certainly, they have not provided technical or financial support to the farmers.  Neither have they lowered the prices on fuels that directly affect the agriculture sector of the country and raises prices of basic food products.  Quite the contrary fuel, electricity, water and internet have become more expensive.

NHI must be rolled out to the rural areas where it is needed the most.  The paltry stipend of one hundred dollars per month for Community Health Workers is not enough especially where clinics are not readily accessible.  This GOB has not invested any significant monies in the upkeep of sugar roads or even the road from Machakila. Yet they are happily squandering one hundred and ninety million dollars on a road to Caracol.  Despite the obscene amounts spent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yearly, there have been no new markets found for Belizean farmers to export products.

The truth is this.  The UDPs are more interested in the abdication of their leader, the succession of power and the ultimate ascension and coronation of their new leader. Belizeans, come in second as we all know.  There is an old saying that goes “out of sight, out of mind.”  Barrow has very seldom, if ever, taken a tour outside the city and into the harsh realities lived by the people in the rural areas of Belize.  The hardships that villagers across the country must endure and very often thrive in must offend his delicate sensibilities.

By contrast, Hon John Briceño has toured this country from North to South several times.  He has experienced firsthand the plight of our rural communities and also the beauty and resilience of the Belizean people.  The PUP understands the challenges villagers across the country face and has a keen sense of what is needed to alleviate the burdens they face.  Together we can ensure that the rural areas receive their just and proportionate share of government investment and resources.

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