By Hilly Bennett
The United Democratic Party has failed miserably in delivering its mandate given to the electorate almost twelve years ago. In the 2008 General Election, the citizens of Belize gave up their currency of trust for better government. The mandate for transparency, accountability and good governance has been trampled over by a corrupt UDP government led by Prime Minister Dean Oliver Barrow.
Transparency and accountability are the effective and essential components in achieving good governance. Empirical studies have shown that good governance is a necessary tool in regulating the economic growth for a country and the development of its people.
The festering phenomenon of poverty and inequality and a stagnant economy is indicative that something is awry in the area of governance in Belize.
Crucita Ken in her paper: “Belize: A Haven of Governance. Are we there Yet?” proffered that “Governance” means rules, processes and behaviours that affect the way powers are exercised at the government level. Governance concerns the way in which the government uses the powers given by its citizens to serve their best interest, and their developmental needs. Lest we forget that it’s “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Evidently, the Barrow led administration has had no regard for development of neither country nor people. Since 2008, the United Democratic Party has been plagued by a long list of scandals and corrupt acts—the land scandals at that Hotbed of corruption, the Penner passport fiasco, the Castro fleecing of Airport Authority monies to the trivial likes of his personal cycling team. The most recent allegation of involvement in the US historic real estate fraud, Sanctuary Bay. Also, the circumventing of the Contractor General Office to filch from the NHI reserve to build a storeroom is an example. Notwithstanding, there is urgent need to expand the National Health Insurance initiative. More so, considering the harsh increase in SSB contributions.
Ken, relying on Richardson 2007, identified that corruption constitutes a major impediment to democracy. It hinders the development of fair economic markets and it distorts competition and the rule of law. Additionally, corruption also undermines the people’s trust in government institution and political leadership.
Similarly, the late Kofi Annan Secretary General of the United Nations General Assembly characterized corruption as an insidious plague that undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violation of human rights and distorts markets, evades the quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish. Corruption erodes international confidence and discourages foreign aid.
In his book “The Pathology of Politics” Carl J. Friedrich writes: ‘Corruption is the kind of behaviour which deviates from the norm actually prevalent or believed to prevail in a given context, such as the political. It is a deviant behaviour associated with a particular motivation, namely that of private gains at public expense. But whether this was motivation or not, it is the fact that private gain was secured at public expense that matters. Such private gain may be a monetary one and in the minds of the general public it usually is, but it may take other forms. It may be rapid promotions, an order, decoration…..the gain may not be personal but benefits a family or other group-nepotism and cronyism’ the hallmark of the UDP corruption.
Undoubtedly, the UDP continue to cream this country, raping the country’s resources and placing it in control of their cronies.
Anwar Barrow was made CEO of BTL notwithstanding the lack of qualification for the position. Most lucrative litigation suits were given to the Prime Minister’s family or his law firm Barrow and Williams. Gasper Vega’s relative continues to be issued dubious contracts in the absence of a Contractor General. Rene Montero’s brother is a member of the circle of UDP contract hustle. Most of the vital positions in government and financial board responsible for the decision making in investments in the Jewel is top heavy with conflicts of interest and UDP cohorts. The country and its people, Belize and Belizeans, continue to suffer under the Barrow administration’s “powerful cocktail of corruption.”
It has been pointed out by scholars that where there is corruption, development cannot take place and where there is poverty, social justice is needed. In a paper “Growth Diagnostics” by economist Ricardo Hausman, Dani Roderick and Andres Velasco they identified “binding” constraints within the government structure which impacts negatively on economic growth and human development. A range of constraints, impediments, obstacles to development were highlighted in the 2010 Human Development Report for the Latin America and Caribbean region. Clientilism (vote buying), State Capture (special interest), wreck civic engagement and the culprit that encapsulates them, UDP “Blue Plate” special, Corruption.
Corruption has been followed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index since 2003. The corruption perception index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country’s or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of o (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Belize’s ranking is 29 reported in August 2019.
Certainly, the time is dire for the removal of this Barrow administration, the red hydra, for the current situation of wanton corruption to change. Belize urgently needs a more democratic government, one that respects the democratic principle and the rule of law. One that adheres to the essential elements that produces a good government-Transparency, Accountability and good governance.
Aluta Continua! The Struggle Continues!