REPORT #198 Mar 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Essentially, the many studies both in politics and corporations point to the successes in the last thirty years of federated systems coupled with de-centralization, as the most successful models of democracy in nation building and social welfare.

Many of the dysfunctional democracies are studying these new proven success stories, with the idea they would like to apply these proven techniques to nation and economy building. The problems are many. Mostly ego's, party politics, cliques, turf wars and a host of personality disorders that hinder the application of new methods.

In Belize this is an old story. Federalism and de- centralization discussion has been around for a dozen years. But like many other small countries, the reality of dealing with power blocs, controlling political parties whose established members have vested interests and ego's that will not tolerate, or absorb new ideas, successful or not, have left Belize in the rearguard of any action plans.

Federalism means in Belize, that the National government has to be changed from population voting control, to geographical controls. Or in other words. If you are going to institute Federalism in Belize, you will have to form District governments of some form, even volunteer and give each district an equal vote at the level of national political decision making. Population representation in government will have to be relegated to local district politics in some form or other.

The problem with implementing Federalism in Belize, is resistance by the plantation mentality of colonial times inherited by the current crop of political masters, which are from the old colonial capital. No matter where you look, in Statutory Boards, Governing bodies. Trustees, Commissions, or the political party organizational process itself, the port town old colonial capital crowd are found everywhere, as cliques, dominating the process of government applications. The old boy and girl network of the old colonial capital prohibits tapping the experiences and native common sense intelligence of the people of the rural districts. Belize never will, nor can it be a nation, under the current plantation mentality of these colonial experienced trained educated townies. At least in the broader sense of widespread social equality and a sense of nation building identity and pride. To do this, and bring in the successful model of Federalism, will take a new generation and a new paradigm for governing.

The recent one year study by a Political Reform Commission composed mostly of townies from the old colonial capital bears out these conclusions. All they did was tinker with the old colonial plantation model of government. Leaving all the power and decision making in the hands of the townies. This one party, colonial, townie dominated model is the ruination of any ambitions to build a self sufficient nation of Belize. The voices of the districts have to be heard in equality, to achieve the more successful model of Federalism.

To give an example, let me quote from an experience I had, with a Federated Apple Growers Cooperative in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in my youth. I had the contract to tape record the meetings and transcribe them into typed minutes. The Federated cooperative was made up of many smaller cooperatives of apple growers. There are many kinds of apples. There are Delicious apples which we import at Xmas to Belize. There are yellow harvest apples and green apples which are cooking apples used for pies. There are crabapples and a host of other kinds of apples.

The problem in this particular year, that I remember, was that the crab apple growers cooperative market had collapsed. The recommendation was that they bulldoze all their orchards and plant Delicious apples, for which there was high price and demand. The problems hashed out at the Federal level was in how this was to be done. For growers of a cooperative to bulldoze their orchards and replant with Delicious apple trees was going to cost money and also take about eight years for the trees to grow and produce the first crop. How were they to live in the meantime and pay for this? The debate was heated. Those making money in the better apple growing cooperatives were greedy and didn't want to lose their profits by subsidizing the losing crab apple cooperative growers. After a number of days of raucous debate, a decision was made that the Federation of Apple Growing Cooperatives would pay each crabapple grower a certain amount according to the number of trees they had, the production records of the last several years and average prices and they could go ahead and bulldoze and replant. The Federation would pay, by taking money from the shared profits of other cooperatives to get them through the eight year period, needed to replant and get a crop.

From this you get the idea of what can be done with Federalism in a democracy and nation building in a place like Belize. The final work and decision making has to be local. The bills have to be paid according to some formula from the Federal national level. Only so do you spread social welfare among groups of diverse people with different economic interests throughout a nation. To successfully build a nation in Belize. We need Federalism and de-centralization in combination. To do this, the national government has to be changed to equality by geographic voting organization paradigms and the current population paradigm shifted to local politics in the district itself. How you go about making these changes are the challenge of your generation.

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