At the beginning of the Year, Belizeans everywhere take the time to contemplate. The accomplishments and the failures of the past are carefully recounted and new plans and resolutions made for the New Year ahead. This year in particular is special because it also marks the beginning of a new decade and specifically for Belize, as it is an election year, a chance for the electorate to usher in much needed change.
The UDP who have been at the helm of Belize for more than a decade, can no longer deflect the responsibility for their ill-conceived policies nor the woeful results stemming from the clumsy execution of their duties. The last decade will be remembered for the intensification in the viciousness and frequency of violent crimes. In particular that women and children have become the primary targets of these attacks both cruel and vicious.
The Prime Minister boasts his administration’s free market and open economic policies. The establishment of an LPG monopoly, and a floor on the price of that most basic commodity must not to him seem in complete contradiction of these lofty ideals. Claims of investment in human capital go unnoticed in a country with yearly imports in excess of $5M in ramen because the current minimum wage no longer represents a living wage. These claims are a mockery because Belizean workers have not had an increase in minimum wage in the last decade and neither are they protected by OSH legislature because this UDP Government does not care about the human capital of this country.
The UDP is not big on human capital, they are all into infrastructure, because that is where they have truly invested. They have spent 1.5 billion on projects, and these were to be the motor to drive the economy forward. Contrary to what the Prime Minister claims the last quarter saw unemployment increase from seven to twelve percent; furthermore, because we have registered a contraction in GDP over the last two quarters, we are firmly in the throes of a recession. This UDP government is an enigma, strapped for cash that they have resorted to taxing the poor man’s tacos while in the same breath they have provided 90M in tax breaks for the rich and then turned around and borrowed 90M, which the poor working class, tacos-eating Belizeans, will pay back with interest.
Our public health system is in shambles, the last decade was witness to some of the most unacceptable debacles. We must never forget the death of the thirteen babies at the KHMH or how rodents infested the Western Regional Hospital’s incubators biting at the toes of a premature newborn. There are still major problems for Belizeans to access dialysis, and cancer treatment and screening. Recently, there were shortages of medication in the public health system that caused serious concern for Belizeans suffering from chronic illnesses. The Minister of Health, in the meantime, seems to have completely overcome the shame of it all and tries instead to combat all the shortfalls of his ministry by ringing in the New Year with lots of vigorous dancing and fancy fireworks.
According to Salvador’s President Bukele “There is enough money when no one steals.” Is it then a wonder why there never seems to be enough money in Belize? Well, at least not for the things that really matter or would be of benefit to the normal, average Belizean. The infrastructure that the PM is so fond of boasting about is sub-par and the contracts bloated. Any semblance of objectivity, propriety or democracy for that matter, in the tendering process has long been lost. It has been years since we last had a contractor general and the UDP’s favourite contractor, also Gapi’s favoured nephew, has been made a millionaire many times over.
Still the PM speaks loudly about his democratic government, seemingly very selective in his memories and refusing to recall the very undemocratic laws he enacted specifically in reference to monies he spent without the authority and knowledge of the House of Representatives. The “slippage” in his accounting of the people’s monies, and the failures to submit documentation in relation to monies spent. The last decade has been good… but by and large only for a very select few. It has been excellent for the Vegas who have made off with thousands of acres of land, hundreds of thousands of dollars paid from the taxes of peasants and not normal Belizeans. The Hon. Gapi even seems to be making an unexpected come back into electoral politics.
Given the fact that Senator Salazar’s schedule was cluttered with the Sanctuary Bay Scandal, which led to the closing of Atlantic International, we have been made to wait years for the report from the Senate Select Committee on the Immigration Scandal. Mr. Penner is now himself contemplating a comeback because he is sure that the report will suffer the same fate as the Writ of Mandamus. The Castros and the Hulses have also lived large and in charge leading a charmed life replete with impunity and entitlement. The “first family” have taken the lion’s share to be sure. Millions have been squandered on legal fees paid to members of the Barrow family. Preferred placement as Chairs of boards, committees and placement in top executive positions have been the norm. In his dotage, and with the smoothing of his grey matter, the Prime Minister can no longer discern where one ends and the other begins, and so Governance of Belize has become a well-rounded family business.
The New Year brings with it fresh opportunity for change and the promise that, present conditions notwithstanding, through hard work, perseverance and the indomitable Belizean spirit we will not only prevail, but prosper!