Hilly Bennett

Voice of the Common Man
by Hilly Bennett

Upon being elected to office on November 11, 2020 the People’s United Party Government found the Haven of Democracy on a precipice of economic destruction. The state of affairs of Belize was in total disarray. The health infrastructure in shambles, rampant corruption, unabated crime and violence and no consideration given to the development of people. The economy was haemorrhaging from wanton neglect of sound fiduciary decisions. Evidently, a case for economic treason can be brought against Dean Barrow and all his minions.

In 2011, the Green Party whip, Trevor Sargent of Ireland, proposed a constitutional amendment to enact a new charge of “economic treason”, which would have potential retrospective effect. The Bill would amend the Irish constitution at Article 39 that defined treason-levying war against the State or conspiring to overthrow the organs of government by force of arms.

Sargent proposed two subsections:
2) ‘Economic treason shall consist of action that result in reputational damage for  the country, an unacceptable cost, or the loss of economic sovereignty, for the State’
3) ‘Nothing in this section in this section shall preclude the drafting of Legislation applying these definitions retrospectively’

Undoubtedly, the Barrow Government including its neophyte leader Patrick Faber have plunged Belize into serious financial straits, straightjacketed to obscene contracts and unsustainable financial obligations domestically and externally, exposing the Jewel to dire consequences. Consequently, there is the fomenting of public anger which is focused on the United Democratic Party’s wrongdoings including corruption, incompetence, and abuse of the people’s purse. The result is a demand that the culprits, who self-interest and greed has undermined the National well-being, shall be brought to justice.

During the recent Senate session, Senator Eamon Courtenay revealed, in the upper chamber, that fifty-seven million was spent by the UDP without the relevant legal authorities of the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act 2005 and Amendment 2010 in conjunction with the Belize Constitution. Assurance was made that the monies will be accounted for and the possibility of criminal charges being laid.

Similarly, in March 2019, Prime Minister John Briceno and Honorable Julius Espat filed suit against the then Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Financial Secretary for the misappropriation of approximately one point four billion dollars. The requisite approval from parliament was not followed thus violating the dictates of the Belize constitution and the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act of 2005. Admittance by Fin Sec Waight of the one hundred million “slippage” illustrated the UDP administration indifference to good governance. The Court ruled against the PM and Waight.

Compounding Belize’s economic woes has been the insatiable borrowing and reckless spending and the chronic appetite for meaningless infrastructure- roads that lead to nowhere and roundabouts. Inflated contracts were issued to a few set of United Democratic Party cronies which involved members of the Dean Barrow club, like Karen Bevans, the ten million Mirab building by the Public Utilities Company and John Avery et al, the Arguelles brothers and the truck driver Imer Hernandez creating what is considered “state capture” by the National Human Development Index Report. The UDP government was subservient to the whims and fancy of the individuals.

Notwithstanding the IMF mission advice that the wage bill is unsustainable Barrow continued to reject the sound recommendation. In his “swan song” 2020 budget presentation, Barrow boasted that he grew the wage bill by thirty five million each year for the past ten years an increase in salaries from 276.3 million in 2008 to 540.5 million presently . A contradiction to his “making every dollar counts” pronouncements in March 2020.

Although the black swan events, the COVID-19 pandemic, the floods and drought must be considered, it was the gross mismanagement of the country’s financials that disallowed a cushion for the unforeseen shocks.

It is the writer’s opinion that there should be an offense for financial treason. The offense should carry a mandatory sentence and huge fines, applicable to individuals of fiduciary responsibilities in government.

The Prime Minister John Briceño and the PUP Government is vigorously pursuing the Opposition’s financial irregularities with an indication that legislation and reforms are on the horizon. Amidst the darkness of the Dean Barrow destructive legacy we soldier on. Decisions will be made in alignment with the peoples’ mandate. These decisions will serve the interest of all and not a few.