What seems clear, is that the statistics that come out of Belmopan are untrustworthy. Each party are putting their own spin on the financial numbers game. For the last three years, the UDP as the outgoing political party had one set of statistics, the PUP which was incoming had another set of statistics and what we are getting after 18 months after the election are another set of statistics. The best statistics seem to be those sent to the Belize Culture List from outside sources, like CIA reports, International Bank Reports, UN departments and so on.
What seems to be clear, is that we have to ratchet down the numbers. The annual revenue of government, while it fluctuates from year to year, seems to have a median range of $250 million to #350 million. A year and a half ago, we were talking about annual revenues of the government of Belize in the $550 million range. Obviously, any projections for future expenditures and foreign loans based on that number would have been wildly off and put the country into serious deficit problems.
A reasonable good average estimate for long range 10 year planning, seems to be a budget annually of $280 million. This would be in the lower end of expected earnings, provided nothing happens to any particular industry, or upset the apple cart too much. In a good year, revenues could go up to $350 million. But this is nothing you can count on. Conservately speaking, a budget on a steady five year basis out into the future, or even ten years. based on $280 million would seem to keep Belize into the black. In a good year, the extra income would lower debt quickly and build reserves. Some of it could be assigned the following year to added GRANT internal programs of the most needy types. Perhaps $30 million or so. However, it is the practice of the existing political parties in Belize to spend money in ADVANCE, before they get it. This is a ruinous practice and does not allow for unexpected downturns beyond the control of any government. A median government revenue, and allocation of the source of funds to loans, government maintainance and so on, would allow better fiscal long range planning. Leave any surpluses and reserves to be considered in spending, ONLY after you have them, not before you project to have them.
It is often argued that the money is not enough. Perhaps! Or perhaps we simply have to be more innovative and explore different ways of accomplishing the same goals. Local governments with local responsibilities at the district level are one idea. The plantation colonial model of governing we currently use is inefficient. That we know. It cannot and it has not yet in all the years since colonial times and self government times, provided the services that the townies in the port town of Belize City take for granted, to the producing 300 villages that earn the money for the nation. If the money flow is not sufficient by this plantation colonial model of centralized governing, perhaps indeed it is time to re-consider and re-structure how we do things. On the Development Issues we have many reports that explore different ideas. There are National Grants to District Government to City and rural commmunity systems. There is a federal setup, on Report 87, there are many reports on the Belize Electronic Resource and Development Library covering different such ideas. What we need is somebody in government to innovate and implement these things.
G.Price was of a generation that was creating a country. Esquivel followed and mostly was concerned with maintaining the status quo and plumping up his ego, but too soon after colonial plantation times to make any changes. Lindo and Musa are of a newer generation, but neither have lived up to any promise for ideas for future innovation on how to stretch, what seems to be a fairly consistant cash revenue flow on which we have to run this small country. There are always political rhetoric, spouting dreams and hopes and investment and other ideas. But these are castles in the sky, clouds blowing away on the wind as the sun sets. What we are and what we have is what we have. And what we seem to have is a country that is small, limited by a number of political factors to running on about $280 million a year at the latest estimates.
Good political leadership, would seem to be one that works within these realities. Either that or change the way we run the country politically.
That said, it does not seem, that anything is going to come out of this PUP term. Lindo does not promise anything. Musa promises but fails to deliver(political reform). It is probably going to take a new generation of young people into politics to turn Belize around. In the meantime, while we stagnate, it is only proper we stagnate with a conservative annual budget estimate and try not to get the country into too much foreign debt.