REPORT #428 September 2001
WHATS WRONG WITH THE PARLIAMENTRY SYSTEM OF GOVERNING?


Produced by the Belize Development Trust

The theory is that population representation represents the true interests of the population of a country, or a particular area. In England you cannot see the deficiencies quite so easily, because of the larger industrialized aspects of the country and population. You add to that, a Santa Claus in the form of a North Sea Oil Field, lubricating the economy and government, so that everybody with their hand out, can have a job and some cash flow, there seems no problem with the parliamentry system at all.

The truth is, that before the North Sea Oil find came on-line, England was almost at the point of revolution and civil war. The system was breaking down. Since then, they have got rid of the House of Lords, an anachronism holding back the creation of a true working democracy, but since then, the oil flow funds have eased the strains and things are in a state of status quo. There have been no changes to create a working consensual democracy with checks and balances.

England being so big, it is hard to see the nuances, the cause and effect on how the parliamentry system works. But in the Caribbean, we have lots of ex-colonies and Belize is as good a place as any to search out and find the difference between theory and practice. Belize in being so small, brings out the worst of the parliamentry system into plain daylight. Here we can examine the cause and effect of the theory in more detail.

In Belize, we have the usual parliamentry system. One winning party gets the government. The legislature, or parliament is made up of elected representatives, all of whom are in the winning party and get a Cabinet seat.

What really happens in practise?

1)Well, for one, we know that the two party system, in a winner take all government, polarizes society and the population. In a system that works by patronage of the winning party and that party operates by patronage of the leader of that winning party. It is a two layer system, that operates in the manner of rewarding friends and punishing enemies. In Belize, about 48 % of the population are basically disenfranchised. Though that has changed over the last eight years, there is actually no political constitutional framework from letting it happen. There should be! You cannot operate a governing system that works solely on good will. Cause if you get some rabid despot in there, in any cabinet ministerial system, you are going to cause trouble.

2) Couple that with the fact that population representation is highest in towns or cities, or old colonial capitals and you end up with a city running the country by sheer numbers. Surely a distorted view of the nature of national development? Usually, the poorest most ignorant sections of such cities, due to the population representation system actually decide which person will control the whole country. Their votes are bought. These bought votes and mafia political groups in the town by their sheer numbers can control a political party. Through patronage and intimidation of the few scattered rural representatives this city group then own the country to loot. It happens in Lima, Peru and Kingston, Jamaica and Belize City, Belize.

3) Development itself and economic growth comes about from the government enabling people to help themselves. Under the system in Belize, it does not work that way. In Belize, the Cabinet Minister, or elected representative for any rural area might get the controlling party to agree on a new school, a water tank reservoir, or something like that. Government contracts are given and the elected representative from this winning party comes home and announces, what he, or she has got for the community. The outside contractor comes in, builds the whatever, to the specificiation laid down from the centralized party controlled department and the keys are handed over to the community. See what we have done for you, shouts the elected representative.

We have to take some examples from the USA. This place is made up of 50 countries, they call STATES. They co-exist in a federated format. Each country, or state has it's own government. When it is decided to repair airports, like they wish to do in Belize right now. The Federal government decides on how much money is going to be budgeted for this item. It is then split up and given to the 50 countries, or states to carry out this work. If some state has more of a problem; then a special grant system becomes available, subject to restrictions on how it is matched with funds, or the work will be carried out and such criteria. But everybody, all 50 states get an equal share irregardless of population representation.

Not so in Belize. In Belize, the cabinet and the legislature are all one. The decisions are made in the Cabinet and rubber stamped in the legislature and again rubber stamped in the Senate of appointed people. Like right now, the cabinet is probably going to budget money to repair one, or two airports in the country. But there are six districts? Who gets the work first? Why the one with the most elected representatives representing population representation! That would be the Belize District. There is no distribution of an agreed amount to repair airstrips in the country, to each of the six districts, to spend as they see fit on repairing, or maintaining their airstrip.

The same story with a schoolroom. The party centralized government builds it, the elected representative takes the credit and the people of the community were marginally involved. For development to take place, you have to enable people to help themselves. Money for schools should first be given equally to each district government to be re-distributed according to need in their district. EVERY district should get money, an equal amount of money to repair or add on schools at the same time. Locals should contract the work out and build it themselves. It should not be done by the winning political party in a centralized controlled patronage manner up in Belmopan.

4) When it works this way, as it does in Belize, what you have is a distorted bias of overall national development. The Belize District because it has more elected representatives, gets more money spent on it, ( look at one town, Belize City ) than all other districts. The other districts are treated as trash! Look at the Toledo District. With just a couple of elected representatives based on population representation, the district has never developed. Or been allowed to develop, because no money has been given to them to develop with. Oh sure! There was the pig project. $5 million dollars spent on the Toledo District, of which the elected representative said, the Toledo District got only 4 pigs out of it, but no money. You have to give the money to district governments, who in turn, have to have formulas for distributing money around their district to small and larger communities more equally. Only that way can you get development. Locals must do it for themselves! People must be enabled to help themselves. This is development.

4) So development is about a different way of distributing national Federal money for development projects. It is not about a centralized party controlling everything, but allowing locals to have the money, to help themselves. Traditionally in working systems, States, or Departments, or in our case in Belize; the Districts should get about 6% of the average annual revenues of the last five years, given to them outright, to divvy up among the priorities they set themselves. Extra funds from the central legislature can also be distributed to any district that meets GRANT criteria intended to tackle larger problems. But distributing money by a biased population representation cabinet is not development of the country of Belize. It is distorted. Always will be. A shortcoming of the parliamentry system.

5) The position of the elected represented in a working democracy, is to debate and fight bills for allocations for budgets in the legislature. But not for their district alone. The debate should be for the six districts equitably and that is how the money will be distributed, ordered by the legislature and not by a cabinet minister, or cabinet. Cabinet Ministers are overall managers of departments. They don't mess around with deciding who gets money and who does not. This is done at the legislative level for the Federation of six districts and distributed to District governments, who in turn then do the same for their communities in their district. Cabinet Ministers and or elected representatives should have NO CONTROL over contracts or money. Theirs is solely a law making body and budgetary decision making body on a national Federated six district total basis as a single unit. It doesn't work that way in the parliamentry system of course. Which is why the Toledo District has gone no where in the past 30 years and the port town of Belize City with a heavy population, in a parliamentry population representation system has gobbled up hundreds of millions of dollars in that same time period.

6) To get a debate, you also need a geographic balance between population representation and geography of six districts. The Senate is supposed to provide this, but can hardly do so when appointed Senators rely on their income from party patronage. The Senate should be an elected body, two per district. You then balance the legislative debate on laws and budgets for the six districts of the nation, by the Senate which represents the geographic interests. The Senate of course should have one year longer than any elected representative to stop party patronage collusion.

6)Term limits are of course another widely used system of diversifying polical power. This frustrates cabals. Two term limits, no pensions are a good idea. A constant rotation of young new people in the political governing of the country. Electing one third of the legislative elected population representatives each and every year also stops collusion and corruption. It also sees a fresh flow of energy and ideas into the government.

7)A Prime Minister as a ceremonial person with no power is another good idea. An elected person from the public, or from the legislature is fine, but only one year term limit. Witness Jamaica and Belize with the same "for life" leaders for decades. Atrocious! This Parliamentry part of the system is a dictatorship based on patronage within a political party. It creates cabals, mafia groups and corruption.

These are some of the basics learned by studying Switzerland and their Cantons, and the 50 countries called States of the Federated USA. Both countries winning their independence and ideas of democracy from REVOLUTION against monarchists.

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