One wonders at the scandals, and the poor performance of both the major political parties in Belize, one has to contemplate the reasons why this governing system does not work? We could call the current Prime Minister Said Musa a small town provincial lawyer who is an expert in the British political system and accuse him of various skulduggery and ulterior get rich motives. But is that necessarily true as an assumption from his performance? It might be, except for the fact that if Dean Barrow the Opposition Leader becomes Prime Minister in 2003 elections, there is not any real expectation that anything will change, or be different.
Therefore one has to look deeper into things, and decide why? Is it really because the port town with it's myriad seats in the Legislature controls the political party, that in turn controls the country? There are probably numerous reasons under this Constitutional system why government in Belize does not work and why both political parties have been unable to make it work, or change the results.
I think what happens is that the political parties and their leaders are working inside a box. They are restricted and confined to knee jerk reactions in predictable ways to events as they evolve, most of which catch them by surprise. Other than the first two years of their five year terms when they are implementing their manifestos, the rest of their terms can be assigned to dealing with one emergency catastrophe after another. Hardly good planning, or use of longer range foresight.
It's not easy to pick any particular thing, that is effecting the lack of development in Belize, or the growth we should be expecting, or desire. There are so many faults in the system as it stands. But we can of course tackle some of the more obvious ones. Let's take a look here, at some of the straight jacket systems we are using, that inhibit the development of democratic consensual government.
Take the Legislature! Supposedly this body is a debating body and horse trading body, designed to give elected representatives from 29 different constituencies within Belize, a chance to argue for their areas that they represent. Their job is to argue for their contituency and try to get budget bills passed to cover improvements in their districts. When the legislature does not do this, the whole system collapses and you end up with what we currently have; which is government by decree, by a minor cabal of four or five individuals in the political party in control. What makes the Legislature inoperable, is that each member of the winning party is also appointed a Cabinet Member, with a department over which he decides policy and has the power of Ministerial Discretion and in effect departmental rule by DECREE. Now in a democracy the Legislature is supposed to be a CHECK and BALANCE to the wishes of a Cabinet. But if the winning political party members in the Legislature are also the Cabinet Members, then the system collapses. Conflict of interest and absolutely no CHECK AND BALANCE. In effect, the Cabinet becomes the governing body of the country, not the Legislature and because it is composed of only winning political party members, it also in turn becomes subject to a CABAL of a strong group within the party. This is usually from Belize City. Because they get to talk to each other almost every day. While other Cabinet Members from Toledo or Corozal rarely, if ever see each other and swap opinions and ideas outside of the weekly Cabinet meeting. So the port town Cabal within the winning party are the strong group within the Cabinet due to proximity of living circumstances and opportunity. They talk things over and dominate the Cabinet Meetings. Witness Ralph Fonseca who has made so many mistakes in his two terms in office, that he has literally caused the country of Belize estimated losses of over $500 million dollars. Due primarily to his ability to influence the CABAL from his location in Belize City and then the Cabinet when it meets with outdistrict representatives in Belmopan. The outdistrict members have too little knowledge and no chance to organize; to oppose wild eyed contract negotiations and crazy schemes pushed by Ralph. The Legislature which is supposed to do this function has been cut out of the picture twice over.
The problem is CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Not necessarily a criminal one of intent, but rather one of misunderstanding how human nature works. The Legislature composed of both parties is supposed to run the country by LAWS and BUDGET ALLOCATION ACTS for each year. It doesn't take a fishermen like me, to understand that if you take the majority winning party of that Legislature and make them Cabinet Members, you destroy the ability of the Legislature to work, or function in it's role. This is a CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
Elected Representatives of the Legislature have a unique job to do. That is promote the interests of their constituency. There are at present 29 of them. They are not supposed to be political heads of Government departments. The CABINET on the other hand is not a governing body supposed to run by Ministerial DECREE. It is a Collegial MANAGEMENT BODY. The Cabinet cannot be composed of Elected Representatives. That is STUPID! Even this uneducated fisherman can see that. The CABINET should not rule. Rather the function of the CABINET is simply to supervise the daily operations of the Permanent Secretaries who run government departments. But Cabinet Supervision is limited to staying within the LAW as enacted by the LEGISLATURE. The Legislature is supposed to rule the country by laws and various budget ACTS. The Cabinet function is to see that those budget ACTS and other laws are complied with by Civil Service Permanent Secretary Department heads. In our system, the CABINET rules the country, and the CABAL within a party rules the party and through them the CABINET of the country.
It should be the LEGISLATURE that rules the country! The Cabinet also has the job of forwarding RECOMMENDATIONS for budgets and laws to the LEGISLATURE, but the Legislature which is supposedly made up of ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES have the job of debating the merits of such BILLS, or ACTS. The final decision is that of the LEGISLATURE. Under this current modus operendi. The same people are in the CABINET and the LEGISLATURE. They decide in CABINET what they want and then rubber stamp it again by majority party vote in the LEGISLATURE.
It is OBVIOUS even to this stupid uneducated fisherman, that the CABINET has to be made up of different people than that of the ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. Or else how will the ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES get to debate and fight for their Constituency, including those OPPOSITION members in the LEGISLATURE. Who should be in the CABINET? The CABINET should be a seperately ELECTED position by the public at large. Usually CABINET posts in a FIVE YEAR Legislative system are elected only for two years. This is a CHECK AND BALANCE against the formation of crooked groups and alliances in the governing system.
In earlier reports we covered the SENATE. But the last CHECK AND BALANCE for the LEGISLATURE which is dominated by one majority party, is an ELECTED SENATE, which is ELECTED at the end of the third year of the FIVE YEAR LEGISLATIVE term. Senators can run for two years, or three years, depending. But they have to be ELECTED, to provide a CHECK and BALANCE to the LEGISLATURE.
Suppose a group within the CABINET and the majority held LEGISLATURE connive and get together to push through some weird personal legislation? Musa and Fonseca have been doing this for ages from appearances and news in the media. The last prevention from this happening is an INDEPENDENT SENATE elected on a different cycle to the majority winning party controlling the LEGISLATURE.
It is human nature to connive and consolidate. Our current Prime Minister Said Musa is a prime example. When he said he wanted the SENATE to expand from 5 members, reasonably balanced, though APPOINTED not ELECTED; it was easy for him to get pushed through in this system, a rubber stamp expansion, to 8 Senators all appointed. Of which under his new rules, his majority party now controlled the SENATE with five appointed members. This of course is human nature at work. Feeling he was facing too much opposition both within and without his party, he passed a SENATE expansion that basically enhanced his dictatorial powers. This is the opposite of the horse trading between SENATE and LEGISLATURE, that goes on in a CONSENSUAL DEMOCRACY. The cynics and critics charge that our Prime Minister is head of a GREED BASED SELF ENRICHMENT CABAL and that is why he did it. True or not, it was a CONSOLIDATION of POWER into his hands. DICTATORIAL in nature, for whatever reasons?
Now Belize has a Legislature compromised, by a LEGISLATURE that does not do it's function composed of Elected Representatives, because it is a RUBBER STAMP. We have a SENATE that is also a party controlled RUBBER STAMP by appointed majority party hacks. The CABINET is in VIOLATION of ETHICS by being composed of ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES and thus bypasses the horsetrading debating aspects of democratic debate and LEGISLATIVE RULE that has been emasculated. The party in turn has been CASTRATED by the small CABAL within the ruling party, both by the proximity of the port town ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES who meet outside of CABINET functions due to their proximity and thus have an advantage over the other Elected Representatives who go home to their remote districts each time and are thus isolated. The NEW LEGISLATION pushed through by the PRIME MINISTER has made him virtual DICTATOR since his own party members cannot resist or object, because they lose the right to WALK ACROSS the AISLE and go Independent, or join the other PARTY in OPPOSITION. Since the PARTY LEADER also controls the KEYS to the TREASURY and in turn approves and signs job positions and expenses and trips abroad for ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES in his party, the whole country of BELIZE is NOW DEFACTO a DICTATORSHIP run by our PRIME MINISTER, Said Musa.
He didn't need COMMUNISM after all. Our Prime Minister accomplished the same goal of one party dictatorship by subverting the Belize Constitution to become DICATOR. I wonder what is next? Block wardens?
Secret Police? We have a CHARADE of DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT in Belize, just like in Guatemala our neighbor. The outer FACADE with all the pretty titles and crap like bi-cameral legislature and all that. But in reality, we have a DICTATORSHIP. Will there really be an election this coming year? To keep the FACADE the Prime Minister will probably hold one, but can the ELECTION be stolen? Even if Dean Barrow and the UDP became the owners of our country in a landslide election, would they change the system to a Consensual Democracy, or keep the reins of power for EGO and GREED? Big questions and about nine months to see the results. Either way, Belize is in the bottom tier of useless governing systems.