As we reach the end of 1999, it is interesting to go over this past year and some of the reports about things, we thought were to help Development of Belize. The University College of Belize, Belmopan branch is making a start on computer technology subjects. They hadn't advanced enough yet to start any one year, or two year Computer Programming course certifications. And indeed, it is probably going to take some political salesmanship in the USA, to induce some industrial programming outfit to come down and take charge of starting a Computer Programmers certification educational course, like they have in Jamaica. Since this also involves GRANTS to cover lecturers for a year or two, plus accomodations; mixed with someone working in their self interest from overseas who will want to hire the graduates, the problems and initiation seem to be more in line with political and higher echelon civil service skills than that of a Dean of the local UCB college branch. Presumably it will come, given enough scope to someone from outside, who might have a little more drive and effort than that shown by most people in Belmopan government. A consultant, or hired expatriat, or some such is probably the answer.
A year ago, a report came out on the development list, asking if Prime Minister Said Musa was stonewalling political reform? The answer seems to be yes! The year has passed for the political reform committee and true to form, the PUP and the Prime Minister as spokesperson for the controlling political party have let the subject die a natural death. While at the same time, implementing all those cosmetic changes meant to assure the public that something was being sincerely being done about voter participation in government. 99% of the stuff proposed by the cabinet has been the usual charade and sham. The article in the REPORTER of November 21st, 1999 reporting on the Commonwealth Leaders Conference is typical. Lots of hot air and rhetoric about the problems of the day. Re-emphasizing the lack of women in government in policy making decisions, for one. Our own Prime Minister Musa speaking on the special place for 'civil society' in the political process. You can read this to mean, there will be no changes whatsover for political policy disbursement and reform in Belize. Our Prime Minister went on to talk about people-centered development at the conference. You notice how this says nothing, implies nothing, guarantees nothing and does nothing to distribute political power. The PUP are still monarchist centrists just like the UDP.
The National Police Force is still a colonial police force after a year of disasters. Answerable only to the political elite clique in charge of the party, which in turn is in charge of the cabinet, legislature and senate. What a farce! Hrmmpphh! Lots of police scandals as usual about this national colonial police model in Belize this past year and the usual weekly and bi-monthly announcements of reform and training and on and on, and on and on! Pure nonsense by a bunch of native Royalists wanting to retain power and the strings and methodology of keeping that power in their sticky little fingers. Consensual participatory democracy is a bad word to these Royalist party elites. They wallow in the privileges of the old colonial officers, which is now theirs.
Murderers continue to escape the death penalty, while a Caribbean Court of Appeals remains a dream on politician's desks. An interesting innovation is the Crime Fighting Commission for the port town of Belize City made up of impressive credentialed people from the local intelligentsia. Notably absent are any convicted criminals on the committee. How you can have a committee on crime without participation of people who know what is going on, escapes me. Unless some of the committee are 'hiding in the closet' simply because there is a three tiered justice in Belize. Those that can pay and have influence and those that do not. Those that are politically connected and those that are not. The ones who get caught and convicted, it would seem to me, might have some useful viewpoints.
The Central Bank finally made some kind of move in banking. The announcement was that the US dollar would be the currency of the Commercial Free Zone. A partial step in the right direction of developing the economy of Belize.
The argument about whether the port town, Belize City cruise ship tourist entrepreneurs should be financed by government taxes seems to have been settled in favor of doing so. While all the other tourist spots in Belize throughout the other five districts and towns and villages, have to fight an unequal battle with bank loans and mortgaging their houses and property to achieve the same goals. A very lopsided development affair and unfair advantage due to crooked electoral boundaries in the elections system, giving one town a disproportionate piece of the political power structure on the national scene. Those are the impressions one receives.
A nice change in government departmental operations. The switch from Permanent Secretaries who were tenured, politically correct and controlled civil servants; to a system of replacing these people with "Departmental Executive Officers" on contracts. The only drawback, the hiearcheal party controlled system and Cabinet Minister with discretion controls did not change, negating these preliminary changes. Nothing is expected to change in Belmopan, except it will be easier to fire someone who is not politically obedient to the party minister.
Musa and company ( cabinet party clique ) avoided and ignored the corrections to the Referendum Act, by not passing legislation enabling petition capabilities by voter/citizens throughout the country. They were sorely afraid of this consensual participatory democracy development. They successfully ignored challenges to change the gutted Referendum ACT, by staying silent all year.
The National Foreign Debt has ballooned to a BILLION DOLLARS in this first year. It can't be good! Cause it has to be paid back and not by those in political power today, who are doing the borrowing. Citizens are the co-signers for this debt and will have to pay it off, when the current crop of politicians leave office. Live high on the hog in the meantime though. Lots of foreign borrowing to expand a government based salaried economy. This has always been the downfall of Central European countries over the last 200 years. No leadership/management capabilities demonstrated this year in action by the PUP. Anybody can borrow and spend, even drunks down by the river bars.
The Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug invaded Belize and established itself. A big drawback to tropical agriculture.
Last but not least, the protection of the environment is in good hands. PACT the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, The Belize Audobon Society, The Department of the Environment (?) and the Belize Zoo. A lot of political fireworks throughout the year and the Audubon Society and the Belize Zoo played important roles in pushing forward a pro-active stance to protect the environment, much to the dismay of entrenched party politicians with other goals in mind. The fireworks were fun.