Pictures surfaced recently of the past Deputy Prime Minister and Ex Minister of Lands, Gapi Vega. It seems then that he might be “imagining the possibilities” of returning to Cabinet as the Minister of Immigration. Belizeans are known to make light of even the worst situations in order to render them more bearable, but this just might be the feather that breaks that Old Red Camel’s bad back.
It is a given that for an economy to grow and its people prosper, a country must distribute its wealth equitably. The healthier the economy, the less income disparity must exist among its members. One of the ways in which our Father of the Nation Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price and the PUP achieved these just causes and empowered Belizeans was through massive land redistribution programs. However those days are gone, the current GOB redistributes land in their usual “UDP first, Belizeans second” policy.
The records show that during Hon Gapi’s term as Minister of Lands his close family and friends amassed land holdings in truly obscene quantities and in record processing times. It was too much to hope that the new and current Minister of Lands, Hon. Hugo Patt would operate differently. While everywhere in the North we witness pop-up Lands offices to deal with Lands issues, the occurrence of fly by night, one-stop Lands shops are the brain child of Minister Patt. This pilot project worked wonders for him in his own division and also helped to secure wins during the village council elections for his close allies.
However, there has been no official word from Patt’s Ministry on the Hilltop issue. The Belmopan City Council said the land was valued at five hundred and three hundred thousand, and sold for just four hundred thousand dollars. Hilltop is about 1.5 acres of prime real estate in Belmopan. This 1.5 could yield at least 12 regular sized house lots. Recently, and with the blessings of the Ministry of Lands the Belmopan City Council chopped up some reserve land, ear marked for a road, and sold it for one thousand dollars each. One thousand dollars is the social rate charged to low income families in need of a house lot. Hilltop then is of comparable value and by this logic either Hilltop should have been sold for about twelve thousand dollars or the road reserve was short changed by several hundred thousand dollars.
Land is one of four factors of production. Land is finite and thus limited, it determines agricultural production and industrial progress and prosperity. Land maintains the ecological balance and determines total production of a country and influences economic growth and trade. Land ownership in Belize for many signifies the only way to build home equity and to create wealth and improve their standard of living for their families and themselves. This is the reason that granting lots at social rates is important for those Belizeans who would not otherwise have a chance to own land.
Over time developed land increases in value and can be used as collateral for a variety of investments which raises the standards of living and collectively helps to drive the economy forward. The recent distribution of lots in Belmopan is less about development of land and even less about investment in our people. It is all about the using of government owned assets as tokens to appease disgruntled party affiliates to secure the next general election. Let us not forget the UDP “Quitar” policy, where lease land contracts were arbitrarily cancelled and redistributed to party cronies. The importance and value of land cannot be denied, there cannot be a double standard for pricing in the same zone. Belizean lands must not be proffered as party favours on the whims of feeble minded politicians. Basta!