REPORT #69 June 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust
Bits and Pieces!

It is now eight months since the PUP have been in office. It would be nice to do a check on how well they are doing. Possibly we should let them have another month, to make it 3/4 year.

There are only two main issues for Belize, on which the actions of the PUP count. And since Musa and Fonseca are pretty much carrying the ball alone, for the whole country, they also, out of the couple of dozen PUP elected representatives are the only ones that really count too.


Issue One: Is Said Musa's ( Prime Minister and PUP party leader)! How well has he managed to implement local government in a decentralized manner and give autonomy in more layers of multiple governments. In short terms, POLITICAL REFORM! To his credit we have the Village Councils ACT. I'm trying to think of anything else, but can't seem to find anything. So, at least he has made a start. Oh! I didn't forget the importation of Cuban doctors thing. A very good sideline, but in the long term, this is just a small blip on the history of Belize and a pimple on the skin of improvement of Belize over the long term. A sort of makeshift patch solution to an ongoing problem of socialized medical service. I think the contracts are for two years, whether these doctors can be induced to stay as immigrants in Belize is something else.

For 3/4's of a year, his work on political reform, the most needful long term changes of how we govern ourselves, his results are below average. Certainly not up to his capabilities. I think he has promise and the capability to do better. Perhaps he will, over the next year. The Political Reform Commission is promising, but at this point in time, we don't know whether to take it serious or not, from a political ruling party gambit. Generally speaking, it is a consensus that he has been concentrating on the trees instead of the forest. Time to re- focus on longer term goals.

ISSUE TWO: This one is Fonseca's (Minister of Finance )responsibility. Economic improvement accompanied by the reduction of the National Debt. We don't have any figures, but going into office the PUP said the Government was broke, but had an annual cash flow of $600 million a year and a national foreign debt of about $650 million. While there has been a change in atmosphere for business, which is a credit to Fonseca and the possibilities of building 10,000 homes through the secondary foreign mortgage market holds promise for construction contractors, some fundamental building blocks are not there yet. Such as bonding and licensing of contractors at different levels of credit guarantees for the work they perform. There are probably others to protect banks and citizen customers.

I certainly do not want to belittle the work of these two men. They, after all, are the guys in the trenchs struggling with the day to day problems as they arise. It is easy for them to become sidetracked with non-essentials in an emergency reactive style of political party autocratic rule to the basic game plan needed. Quarter backing, or coaching from the sidelines as an armchair watcher is a lot easier. The results on Fonseca's work are as of yet, unknown. We have no current figures on the level of the National Foreign Debt at the eight month mark. The main thing is the national debt. Has he succeeded in reducing it, while at the same time improving the economy through different strategms? There are a host of tools at his disposable, including legislation reform for economic improvement.

The article in the Reporter newspaper by Nigel Avilez prompts this review of the performance of the Belmopan PUP government, which for all apparent purposes seems to reside solely on the shoulders of these two men. A limited decision making policy brain bank even with experts and committee studies and not a very happy state of affairs at all.

Investigative Reporter, Nigel Avilez covered Fonseca's role in the PUP government as Finance Minister in very good lay persons terms. He explained, how people who use credit, or credit cards get themselves in trouble. If you owe $90 to the local grocery store for your family food needs and then go splurge on credit for a new television set, this is sort of an unessential in your life and bound to cripple the future of your family. Nigel wonders in his article, how the PUP could promise 10,000 homes, when the government was broke and owes $650 million in foreign debt with a population of only 220,000? He then points out, that the PUP have sought more credit and gone into debt more, on the 10,000 home business. A $100 million from Taiwan, $46 million from Trinidad or something, another $12 million loan for new schools and maintainance fo existing schools. Nigel points out that these loans are not in the productive sector, which borrowing could be justified because of enhanced exports, or foreign exchange income generation.

Indeed, the whole concept of political reform hinges on financing the productive sector through self autonomous rule, on equal terms with the service and merchandizing non-productive sectors. At the moment, the politics of Belize gives little or no encouragement or service to the productive sector. Certainly not in votes or equal political power.

Nigel goes on to explain, that this whole sort of thinking is only going to make a short economic working bubble, that will eventually leave Belize in worse shape than before over the long term.

Political Reform and economic reform are two intertwined facets of the same problems facing Belize. The future of Belize lays squarely on the shoulders of two men. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. The Prime Minister is going to be measured by his success at changing the way Belize is politically structured, to gain more efficiencies and cost effective government. The Minister of Finance is going to be measured by his quarterly reports and success at reducing the National Foreign Debt of Belize, while as difficult as it may sound; at the same time increasing economic activity. If he cannot accomplish this, then he will the wrong man in the wrong place. The rest of the cabinet are basically confined to routine operations of the country. Before you get pessimistic, it pays to consider that the previous government failed at this same task. In fact, they were accused by newspaper reporters of being a lackluster caretaker government and essentially had no answers or ability to tackle the problems facing the future of Belize. At least this newer government of a different political party are trying! For that, they get credit.

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