It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…or is it? The fairly cool weather should have added to the approaching festive season. However, it is the deep freeze affecting the economy which is mostly of concern to Belizeans. Poverty already affects both Toledo and Corozal, who seem to heavily compete for first and second place as the most poverty stricken of the districts. No one seems to have noticed that the Sugar Industry and the Citrus Industry are in crisis. It is any surprise that these two districts are precisely those where the cold of Christmas will be most felt?
In Corozal, the UDP failed to avert the closure of the Papaya Industry, the closure of a Casino and are responsible for the reduction of the employment rates at the Commercial Free Zone to under half of what they were in 2008 under the PUP. Their track record shows that under their mandate, the Libertad sugar factory closed not once but twice. The UDP are trying to convince Corozaleños that they are responsible for the Corozal-Sartenja project currently under way. The finance for this project had already been identified and secured under the PUP in 2008. It was under the UDP that the monies were redirected for use on Albert Street in the Old Capital.
It has taken the UDP almost twelve years and a Taiwanese Government commissioned study realized by the OECC to grasp that investment and development in this area will yield the most significant socio-economic returns for the country. It was the Taiwanese Government then who had to tell Dean and his myopic Cabinet that Corozal needed this project, something the PUP had realized more than a decade ago. The lack of confidence in the integrity of this UDP administration, that the monies would not be siphoned off, meant that the Taiwanese had to bring in their own company to spear head the project.
The Corozal-Sarteneja Road is currently the only major development in the entire North, but it comes too late to save Christmas. The severe drought this year affected agriculture in the sugar belt. Plagued by worms, falling prices, and increases in production costs, and transportation costs the Cañeros are taking a hit. Harvesting is planned to start in mid to late January or maybe even February, the North will punish for Christmas. There are over two thousand families that depend directly on the Sugar Industry and tens of thousands more whose livelihood depend indirectly on it.
The South doesn’t fare any better, citrus greening, lack of capital, a decrease in production due to diversification have all taken their toll. The UDP Government has not heeded calls to intervene and inject capital in an effort to avert disaster. They have preferred to use Petro Caribe Funds to invest in Pibil Tacos and beach days. Once long ago Belize’s economy stood firm and tall on the strength of the Citrus and Sugar Industries. Agriculture was once our backbone, and its fall ushered in poverty, and misery. Over fifty million in losses are credited to the most recent drought and only a paltry two million in relief to be had.
This UDP Government has failed us more both in the North and in the South. It has rendered both these regions with the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition to children, and poverty and unemployment. The Scrooges in Cabinet are much like Christmas lights, they all hang together, but half of them don’t work and the other half aren’t too bright. They will undoubtedly wine and dine in fine style this Christmas Season while “Normal Belizeans” will struggle to make meagre ends meet. Belizeans must not forget these struggles when another season rolls around! #VOTEDEMOUT