By Hilly Bennett
Dr. Osmond Martinez: Belize is in an Economic Depression!
On the Whip Talk Show on Tuesday the 4th of November 2020, Dr. Osmond Martinez, a professor with expertise in the areas of the economy, poverty and social development, highlighted the corrosive effect of the festering phenomenon of poverty and inequality on economic growth and development of the Jewel. Additionally, the United Democratic Party Government’s economic model, and their chronic appetite for infrastructure as the backbone of the country’s economy was criticised by Martinez for Belize’s economic woes being experienced presently. The professor cited the lack of return on investment in the ‘white elephant’ infrastructural projects as the culprit for the spiralling of the economy.
Professor Martinez proffered that although infrastructure is important the lack of return on investment and the point of equilibrium not considered by the UDP economic model renders it a total failure. Additionally, the UDP has failed to address the poorest sector of society as important to economic development.
The Encyclical Letter March 26, 1967 written to Bishops, Priest and the religious order by His Holiness Pope Paul VI stated: “The development of which we are speaking does not extend solely to economic growth. To be genuine, growth must be integral, it must clearly provide for the progress of each individual and of the whole man.” In this regard, an eminent specialist in the field has rightly and forcefully said: “we do not approve of separating the economic from the human or of considering development apart from the civilisation to which it belongs. In our opinion, great value is to be placed on man, each man, each group of men and human society as a whole.”
Economic experts including Dr. Martinez consider policies and practices that help narrow the gap between the haves and haves-not, between the rich and the poor are not only desirably ethical but makes sound economic sense.
When tasked by Vaughn Gill, Host of The Whip, to discuss poverty as it relates to economic growth under the lead of the Barrow administration, the Doctor made the alarming revelation on the present situation regarding poverty. The monies that was sourced to alleviate the conditions of the poor, the almost 1/2 billion Alba Petro funding squandered, funnelled to feather the nest of families and cronies.
Firstly, Martinez established what poverty is. Being poor is not being able to satisfy one’s basic needs – not having the minimum level of food, health, education, and other essential services. Interestingly, he submitted that people can be deprived of such things even when there is no shortage of them. Oftentimes a consequence of political spite.
Professor Osmond Martinez also pointed out that poverty can be absolute or relative. He explained how absolute poverty means having less than some predefined minimum level of a particular essential. For example, income. Relative poverty, means having less than most people, for example being in the poorest 10 percent.
Martinez stated that according to World Bank extreme poverty had decreased globally from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 195,176 million in 2008. However, in Belize poverty under the UDP increased from 126, 717 in 2008 to 195,176 in 2019 showing that in the last 10 years 68,8495 individuals had joined the poverty box. This means that 6,849.5 people per year or 18.5 people per day have become poor.
The income per capita, an important component of the wellness of the economy, shrank during the UDP administration. Income per capita in 2008 was 2.61%. However, in the year 2019 the income per capita was 0.42%. Therefore, income per capita contracted by 3.03% resulting in Belize becoming the poorest country except for Haiti. Dr. Martinez declared that should the trend continues Belize will replace Haiti by 2030.
Unfortunately, for the disadvantaged lot there is no light at the end of the tunnel under the present Barrow/Faber economic structure and will need to depend on the grace of God! Compounding the situation is that the UDP has no economic recovery plan post-COVID. There was none before and, consequently, the jewel plummeted to economic depression. In the first quarter due to a 23.3 percent contraction and debt to GDP is hovering 130%..
Fortunately, there is hope in a future People’s United Party Government and the leadership of Honourable John Briceño to avert the destructive path the red regime have forced upon the country and people. Dr. Martinez heralded the recovery plan unveiled by the PUP and insisted that if the document is ’executed ’to the letter, Belize will be on the road to recovery within three years.