In a remarkable startling turn of events, a lone member of the PUP ruling party cabel, turns on his fellow pack of ravenous hyenas and snarls in frustration, with passion, patriotism and love of Belize.
Joining the Belize Development Trust, in what has been a representative lone voice in the wilderness for these past six years, and before that with, Development Issues project director, Ray Auxillou; writer of Civics and Government Books for students in Belize from ten years before that. Jorge Espat, Minister of National Security broke ranks with his fellowing looters of the autocratic "winner take all" parliamentary system, used in Belize, to declare that the system of governance in Belize is producing a DEFORMED country.
Ordinary people have known that for 30 years, but felt helpless to do anything about it. The system allows the rape and pillage of the treasury of Belize and exploitation for personal enrichment of any political elected representative, the patrimony of the nation. So the system was designed, by the British as it evolved and is still evolving under a Constitutional Monarchy aristocratic controlling class over in the U.K. Belize is not unique, the same ex-colonial exploitation situation model of government, exists in most of the Americas with exception of Canada and the USA. The root of this is; population representation and appointed people in government.
With passion, patriotism and a whistful note of youthful idealism, the Minister of National Security expressed his desires for building a nation with more equity and social justice. In a plaintive note, he explained his disillusion with the current system of governance, that obviously he has currently learned first hand, does not work.
Here at the Belize Development Trust, we would like to tackle possible solutions in this report, to the agonizing soul searching cry of a disillusioned political party elected representative; as he lists his frustrations with the ineffectiveness of ruling democratic parliamentary systems, versus participatory consensual governing systems.
1)Minister Espat is in the wrong system of governing. People must be empowered to help themselves! Minister Espat is in a ruling system. Where a small group control the nation's resources and finances and tell people what is good for them. In Development and if you do not know what that is, study the Belizean Northern Fisheries Cooperative that has been around for more than 30 years! You give ordinary people command of their own resources and let them make their own mistakes and figure out how they want to run their business and their lives. Nation building is no different. People have to be involved! Not told what a pack of looters in the capital are going to give, or do for them. There is probably no more blatant example between comparing the past 30 years of the Toledo District and one town, the port of Belize City. Under the parliamentary system of rulers, the port city with it's population concentration under a population representative system has had, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on that one lone town of more than eight such towns in the nation of Belize. Compared to what for intensive purposes are seemingly an invisible number of villages to central government, of about 287 communites and a dozen other towns. There are still dozens if not more than two hundred villages, without sanitation, guaranteed clean water, primary schools with trained teachers, and on and on. Services that one port town take for granted bought at the expense of an exploitation model of governing; that rewards towns and exploits and rapes the countryside to do so.
2) Minister Espat as Minister of National Security should know what he is talking about when it comes to crime and policing. Yet he says; that despite unprecedented investments in the national police force, crime continues to rise. Despite investing in the National Police system of colonial methodology, violence too increases and we note, for 40 years, the newspapers have announced with fanfare and front page scandalous headlines three or four times a year; year after year after year after year, that the National Police Force is being fixed, re-organized, receiving more training, money and equipment to make Belize a safe place. to no avail!
3) At the Belize Development Trust, we have been saying for years, that the political controlled national police system does not work anywhere for the benefit of citizens. A police system has to be responsive to the citizen voters at the local level. On a two year ELECTED cycle. Comparative politics teaches us that! So, Minister Jorge Espat, there is your solution, except your RULING PARTY of exploitation refuse to face the facts. They like the system because it can be: a) controlled, b) it is traditional, c) they can use it through promises of political favors and promotions as a party machine for intimidation and repression of opposition viewpoints.
4) Despite so-called high rates of economic growth ( e.g. 10% last year, with which we would argue is a false creative bookkeeping figure); the patriotic disturbed Minister of the Cabinet says he is distressed to see increased poverty and misery.
Dear Minister, please peruse the 430 or so Development Issues Reports on the Belize Electronic Resource and Development Library if you want ideas! In a nutshell, poverty and misery are tackled through several well known mechanisms. Personal responsibility is one! It takes about 13 years for co-operatives and credit unions to teach their members personal responsibility, through trial and error mistakes, done the hard way, by themselves. In the small nation of Belize, personal responsibility also means local government and local distribution of a portion of the national government revenues as in the 50 countries, or states that make up the USA. This amount in Belize taken from worldwide comparative studies is 6% of the national revenues per district as their own operating funds to divide up as they will in local departmental budgets. An additional 6% should be given on a grant basis, decided nationally by the legislature and a working Senate, through budget grants for specific projects in the six districts, but by department needs available on an equitable basis. What do I mean by department needs? If the Legislature decides that schools need additional grants for teacher training, or additional classrooms, then GRANTS would be administered by Belmopan to all six districts evenly. Districts that need the extra GRANTS, or their portion of such money, would apply according to legislature set rule of law to qualify according to set legislature parameters. ( not by Ministerial favor ) Perhaps some districts would not need such GRANTS and their portion or share of the money would simply be unused and go into national surplus for the next year. If they need more than that, such as in Belize City, then they have to figure out locally how to supplement that available money, or other ways of achieving their desires and solving their own problems. That is called personal responsibility. Not like as present, wherein the Cabinet and the Ruling Party mostly come from that town and thus gobble up all the national revenues at the expense of the rest of the nation by Cabinet administrative decree. You can't build a nation that way. You can build a plantation though, with Belize City being the ruling ranch house.
5) "Ruling party overwhelming victories, yet an uninspired democracy!" You are confusing things here, young man. While in this ruling party system, you can get overwhelming votes, it doesn't mean that building a nation will be successful. On the contrary, this parliamentary system is built by the U.K., for exploitation and plunder. As in aristocratic supporters in a monarchy and their connected sychophants and business connections needed to get things bent by the ruling party, who control the permits, licenses and the laws. There is no satisfactory system in existence, but the one we are using is about lower middling on a scale of 1 to 10. Not as bad as many African tyrannies, but not as good as in Switzerland, or the USA. Read our Development Issue Report on 'Capitalism, and Free Enterprise' and see if you get an understanding of the operational results when you are dealing with human nature's worst aspects of ego, greed and power. The answer is in the checks and balances of the political framework. The ability to build a political framework that denies control to a political party, but satisfies the need of the entrepreneur, tempered by the quality of life aspects of not ruining the local environment. This is a complex issue, and never ever totally solved; but certainly the current parlimentary model used in Belize, does not even come close to working, as you have found out.
6) Broken homes: If you had ever founded a Credit Union or Cooperative, you would find that such self powered groups, look after their members, because of the intimacy and knowledge of their members. They build social success and tackle poverty through intimate knowledge and personal experience. Which comes back to establishing local governments and local management, so that the functions of governing are personal. When the clerk across the counter is your neighbor over on the next block, she or he, knows full well your family life and circumstances. National rules are not needed to conduct government business then, because the clerks are part of that local society and fully aware of your needs and limitations. A committee of your neighbors is going to treat you with the respect and a good judgement of your abilities.
7) " Unprecedented borrowing": Again, it comes down to local committees and knowledge in a local government. Some loans are practical. Many are not. But a committee of your neighbors would know the circumstances better than any centralized absentee clerks in a far away town like Belize City. Both Credit Unions and Cooperatives have learned over a dozen years to manage loans for their members very well indeed. With much success in fact.
8) "Brutal Force of politics": It is the ruling parliamentary system that is at fault. The political framework without several layers of government and local governments on an equitable geographic balance, to population representation. The answer is to start changing the political operating framework. Dilute and isolate the effects of political power and share it out more widely. This never stops greed, ego and power lust; but does make such incidents and abberations minor and local in nature. They thus don't effect the nation as a whole. Just local tempests in a teapot. Currently there are Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants requiring bribes it is alleged, for performance of their duties. There can be no public faith in the system when this is public knowledge. If your rulers are crooks, then everybody has the right to be a crook too. There has to be a system to catch and punish such senior government criminals. Once you get that, you get respect for government and the nation. You get law and order, with a minor percentage that will always be criminal. Right now, the citizen feels that if Cabinet Ministers can screw the system, why they can too. Wouldn't you feel that way too? No respect for a government and the nation, because there is no punishment for rulers.
9) Marginalized society and limited labor force: Prosperity, freedom and peace come from local government and local responsibility. There needs to be a way to live and let live. Jealousy and greed will effect always local government, but it is less damaging than when political control is administered through a ruling class, elected or not, in only one level at Belmopan. We have to turn Cabinet Ministers and Department Heads into MANAGERS, not rulers. We need a different political framework.
10) The sale of public assets becoming private monopolies is a complex one. Private enterprise can administer services better than a central government. But there needs to be checks in such a system. This is usually through competition. At the moment, a ruling political party twists the system according to bribes and influence. With a multi layered system and open licenses and permits available on a standardized set of parameters set by either legislatures, or district commissions, or town councils; then licenses and permits become as common as buying a bus ticket. Available to anybody to try. Customer demand and profit will be the natural selection in the market place. This is not the whole answer, but a good start. I have no problem with the divesture of public services on contract to private enterprise, or outsourcing of government services, so long as competition is permited and the government makes a fair level playing field.
11)" Existing political system creates an uninspired political culture, stale discourse and myopic perspective and predictable partisanship!"
Of course this is true! We need a change in the political framework by making changes to the Constitution. More elections and more layers of government, with the legislature and Senate involved in the debate about budgets and laws in the broad sense. Limitations by term limits, staggered elections to stop corrupt self serving party cabals forming. There are many good ideas in the Belize Development Issues Reports.
12) "Globalization, trickel down economics is a damned failure:" Not necessarily! You misunderstand the differences and effects between a ruling party looting system, in which population representation gets the goodies to the towns, to the detriment of villages and rural farms. And the effects of many more local governments, given budgeted financial amounts on a regular basis from the legislature, creating a sense of personal involvment and responsibility. Versus a political party ruling system that fights to garner the most resources for their constituency in order to get elected again. In which elected representatives must deliver things to prove they are doing their job, like schoolrooms and such. In other words, the power of an elected representative to get government money to build a schoolroom for a village has to be removed. The money has to be distributed on a regular basis to locals and the decision and contracts to build the schoolroom have to be by local decision making committees. The elected representative has to stop being Santa Claus and turn into a lobbyist for needs of the community they represent. When many such representatives have the same lobby, then the legislature would see the need. And decide to finance this idea, but on a six district divided equitable basis. Regarding globalization. Belize is too small to have any effect on the bigger world. We must simply be able to change constantly to meet the circumstances forced upon us. A commercial world export outlook is needed to do that. Globalization is like the wind, or a rain squall. We can do little about it, but prepare to deal with the effects.
13) As to development of the nation overall. Once you turn the responsibility over to local governments and committees and give them a guaranteed monthly flow of finances from national revenue to conduct those functions. Then conservativism comes in naturally! Some will make mistakes. But over time, a dozen years experience says; mistakes will become less. After that, you get slow, but steady growth and social programs on the local level from personal knowledge, involvment and responsibility. Belize will see growth through personal involvment down to the smallest level. The mistakes of two men in a ruler system, like the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of your ruling PUP party, being able to gamble the total financial resources of the nation, on a win or lose theory, will not happen this way. Growth is much slower, but steady and the trendline curve will slowly creep up. It levels off at the capacity to be able to utilize the human resources fully. Then education will be one of the changing parameters on how effective the use of limited human resources are utilized. We have talked about general averages of annual government revenues before on Belize Development Issues. Having the Legislature make departmental national budgets with a check and balance of geographic interests by an elected Senate using 5 year and 10 year averages, will bring things back to normal and within what we can afford. Ingenuity, imagination and innovation will have to find solutions to problems that we cannot solve within our annual government revenue resources. This is conservatism and steady growth.
Authors note: Here at the Belize Development Trust, we invite Jorge Espat to become one of our Board of Advisors! Patriotism, idealism and sincerity we can always use. Out of two political parties in Belize, only this one voice has broken with the ranks of exploitation politics, in a desire to put building the nation first.