To change the system structure will take a neoliberal from outside the two major organized parties controlled by the intellectuals of the port town Belize District capital. Insiders, which in Belize mean intellectuals from the town of Belize City, the old capital of the British Colony, are unlikely to dismantle the state-interventionist development model that benefits the vested interests of the port town hungry intellectuals. In a country like Belize blessed with so much opportunity, the intellectuals cannot bring themselves to go out into the districts and make their fortunes through hard work, in a manner suitable to an agricultural country.
Market reform is more likely in a structure that will dislodge the dominant role of this one town, the capital of one district, that rules the other five districts in a set of chains that seem unbreakable. The idea has come after 30 years of Independence, to change the representative structure of political control to geographical representation for the next 25 years instead of the population representation currently favored by port town intellectuals. The rural districts need equal representation in parliament, or a mix of systems in a check and balance format.
The two major political parties of Belize are highly institutionized and controlled by cliques of intellectuals from only one port town in the Belize District, the ancient capital of the British Colony. The UDP is less institutionalized and can be categorized as a party of GREED and PERSONAL ENRICHMENT. The PUP the other major political party has the SAME FLAWS, but shows much more institutionalization. Strong parties make their cadres climb a long ladder of positions before they reach national office. In Belize, a very small country, it follows a similar course, but is more into establishing career politicians in organized networks. The strong party of the PUP can block the ascent of populist, or revolutionary mavericks. While the current leader of the party, Said Musa and Prime Minister showed promise of being the equal of, and possibly superior to his predecessor George Price; the results in the first year in office have been extremely disappointing. Whereas George Price would grab the bull by the horns, so to speak and forge ahead in dramatic breaks with tradition through use of intuition; the current successor to the party leadership showed similar promise; but so far has failed to deliver what the country needs for Economic Development. A complete break with the inherited political structure is needed, and the new party leader is failing to deliver what the country needs. Another nine months should tell, but breaking with tradition does not seem to be his forte and his filling of the shoes of the party leader before him seems to be only a shadow of the needs of the nation of Belize for the future. This does not take away from him, his hard work, ambition and intellect. Just that it is judged misplaced by outside observers in maintaining the status quo.
Lacking in the new PUP leadership, is discipline and pragmmatic commitment. The PUP and the UDP have excelled in copying and perpetuating the failed policies of two hundred years of centralized European style parliaments. These two Belizean parties and particularly the PUP give patronage hungry favorites and rent seeking interest groups access to decision making and thus undermine the universalist market rules, and help to maintain privileges of a special class citizen. They have developed a two class society in Belize. This creates a distaste for politics and a reluctance for patriots to enter what is obviously a dirty mafia style business.
While campesinos, farmers, small investors, fishermen and others from the other five districts, know from 'common sense' that a rollback of central planning and state intervention is needed to liberate market forces from political interference, the less practical intellectuals of the old capital, who dominate the nation through a rigged set of electoral rules are looking out for their own self enrichment and trying to use their intellectual ideas to live off the proceeds of the rural producers in the six districts, who may be less intellectual, less educated; but infinitely wiser in pragmatic decision making.
The rural district people though less educated and with smaller vocabularies, have the common sense to blame the patronage- orientated intellectual politicians from the port town and government officials for the cancerous growth of governmental activism in regulation and production; which in their rural view undermines efficiency. The intellectuals in the port town and the newer capital of Belmopan are blamed for grandoise expensive schemes and a rising national foreign debt that is mortgaging future generations of producing Belizeans with ever needed rising taxes to pay for them. Yet all the while, the rural producer wants simple things. Like an office in his village to get a truck license, a place to file his income tax form, get a passport, or fill a pothole in the street, or a bulldozer to grade the road nearby and dig out a boulder that is denting his oil pan. A telephone line or electricity also would not go amiss. Belize could easily tone down the large scale schemes and grow at a more moderate comfortable slower pace, more fitting to the abilities of a small population. Certainly the quality of life would rise.
State owned, or controlled enterprises including monopolies under one regulatory disguise or another, are another impediment to Belizean development. The trouble with monopolies and state ownership of enterprises that do not operate like private enterprises, are that State controlled enterprises are used politically in Belize for the needs of the current government. Usually financial needs. The situation of state owned enterprises or quasi privatized monopolies in Belize is also geared to advancing the needs of the current political party in power; as the government and these state enterprises are usually exploited to create a situation where these same enterprises will create problems for the next government that inherits, while making the current party in power look good.
State-controlled enterprises are used, or created to be used for public employment. State ownership becomes a good way to buy votes, by keeping the enterprise afloat and therefore party supporters employed at the expense of the other five district rural productive sectors in Belize. This is an exploitive policy by port town intellectuals and anti-growth for a self sufficient nation of Belize. The rewards are often tenured appointments and high salaries above the norm of the majority of the population net incomes. In Belize, this is sometimes one hundred times greater net income, than is experienced by a productive small entrepreneur in rural areas. An artifical setup. The higher the salaries, usually the higher the value of services to the party in power. In Belize, the parties and particularly the PUP make as many government appointments as possible to maximize gains. Even if it means mortgaging many future generations of Belizeans with taxes on production from rural districts. Future production in an uncertain world economy is by no means guaranteed. The drawback to this scenario is that appointments made by one party in power for a five year cycle become worthless to the next party assuming power. From the standpoint of the appointee, he or she, hopes to make enough money at inflated incomes above the average norm of rural producer entrepreneurs in five years; to establish some sort of business income to pay for the five lean years.
A new innovative twist to this scenario in Belize, is the offering of gratuities, or tips, to political aspirants who fail to get re-elected. The tips from this last election came to about eight years work and net income for an average producer entrepreneur in the rural districts. A very fine return indeed! This does not count additional annual pensions for what should be temporary politicians giving public service as a sideline in such a small population and country; which of themselves represent three or four times the average net income of a producing rural entrepreneur. Politics in Belize is a lucrative setup by local standards of incomes, arranged by the party intellectuals from the port town that dominate the political process around the nation from only one Belize District, of the six national districts. Exploitation is hardly the right word. Rape is more descriptive from a national development perspective!
The use of state controlled enterprise job patronage repesents a double gain for the party in power and a double loss for the party in opposition. Using the hiearcheal structure designed to maximize GREED and SELF ENRICHMENT, it is little wonder that Belize cannot develop economically, or achieve any self sufficiency. Population census figures show this should in reality be an easy achievement with perhaps a different more country style standard of living. Higher in quality, lower incomes, but less work and more recreational activities.
One of the setbacks to Belizean Development is the built-in incentive to assign government contracts, in which the sunk costs are raised to high investment levels. The rationale is that the higher the current investment is, the less likely it will be for the opposing party and future operator of the nation of Belize for five years to discontinue the project. The longer the contracts and the more specific the provisions spelled out, the less will be the incentive for the future (political party) owner to break it, or deviate from it. Though this is usually a dramatic situation confronting each switch in party government for five year cycles, much covered by local media in the port town of Belize City.
The net result of this type of Belizean contract assignments over time, is micromanagement, risky projects, uneconomic projects and a more rigid labor intensive structure than would befit a private investment enterprise for discretionary purposes.
Both parties are guilty of singlemindedly insisting on new projects requiring huge capital investments, supposedly for their discretionary aims. Sometimes state controlled enterprises give revenues in excess of tax receipts. The propensity is to encourage and increase state control in Belize because of the revenue and tax aspects of revenue, benefiting the political party in power and giving them discretionary funds to buy political support and votes. Even when it makes more sense for the government to get out of the business for Belizean Development purposes. Both BEL and BTL are examples of these type policies.
Public investments tend to be investment poor. (BTL and the Toledo District hill communities is an example ) The skimming or rake from the enterprises to benefit the needs of the current party in centralized power take precedence over actual national development. In the case of patronage jobs, the sale of a public enterprise, or legislation allowing competition would require layoffs to reduce government overstaffing. This would financially effect the party in power.
Democracy has paradoxical consequences in state controlled, or operated enterprises in Belize. While quasi privatization occurs, efficiency or control does not necessarily improve. State ownership is not inherently inefficient, or lacking in control. Rather it highlights the problems inherited with cyclical party ownership, or centralized government control by a party. It is the inability to achieve a rationale performance because of the demands by a political party who is in temporary cyclical ownership of the enterprise. Temporary party owners in Belmopan are interested in acquiring profits and taxes and jobs for the short term, instead of working for the future of Belize the nation and any potential long term benefits. The hierarcheal structure of resulting party ownership thus defeats development of Belize.
The new horizontal governing structure proposed by the Exploratory Committee of the Belize Reform Party is supposed to tackle these problems. The horizontal governing structure with checks and balances should more distribute party controls to local party representatives instead of centralizing and consolidating them as done under the current structure; which is to the detriment of future Belizean development under the inherited central European failed hiearcheal political power structure designed for exploitation and failure by the historical record, presently in current use in Belize.
It may not be that the new leader of the PUP political party in power lacks the iniative to break with the traditions of the past, like his mentor did, the party leader before him. It may be simply a case of not being aware of the underlying causes that creates development performance in Belize, or lack thereof. Most persons in the thick of things, swamped with the micromanagement concerns of the current hiearcheal political structure are only peripherally aware of the cause and effect of the actions of their party in policy making and the structure which is governing their actions. To break with tradition and seek success for the nation of Belize, a step back, pause and time to consider ACTIONS, the structure in which ACTIONS are taken and the seeking of newer more democratic successful methods of operation is needed. Basically, the use of distribution of political power, the assignment of autonomy, means a shift in the way a political party in Belize operates. Gone will be the current dictatorial style hierarcheal structure and a more loose independent political party representative on the local scene will gain more responsibility.
Democracy assumes there will be a divergence of interests. Not only between political parties in Belize, but temporary shorter term governments with members of the same party following the legitimate pursuit of different objectives on their local district scene. The current very overlong term five year cycle of political party changeover and the control they have over state controlled enterprises, the more they undermine state ownership in this cyclical long run. The only capability of function and investment by state ownership is because of the large investments required. BEL electrical power distribution grid for example. State ownership is not inherently bad, it is the cyclical requirements of changing five year party cycles in a hierarcheal structure that makes it inefficient. The gains from current party ownership of state controlled enterprises and planned problems to be passed on to the next political party owners are what create the inefficiencies.
The UDP never had any foresight, or future plans for the nation of Belize in development. They have always been a simple caretaker style exploitive party. But nowadays there is little distinction between public and private behavior of both major political parties to the outside observer, which includes the current party in power, the PUP. From an outside observer's viewpoint, the only subject of interest to government officials is a view of GREED AND SELF-ENRICHMENT, during their current term of exploitation, or rape of the economy. That future Belizean generations will be burdened with suffering for their current self gratification seems not to worry them at all. They will be retired or dead anyway. Historically, this is the repeated history of central European parliamentary hierarcheal systems over the last 200 years. At some point the debt comes crashing down in the form of wiping out savings of the population, devaluations and inflation. And actual nation wide development never happens.
From colonial days up until recent times, it has been the habit of centralized dictatorial governments around the world, to keep their rural producers ignorant and information limited. This is true also in Belize. Yet research shows that development in a third world country comes with better education and the ability to know and understand what is going on in their government. If this can be matched with local participatory government, then living standards rise and family wealth increases and social problems and criminality drop. Belize was once ruled by a colonial government and in partnership with this government the Catholic Church ruled alongside, as a default government. In recent years in Belize, the Catholic Church has received competition from Evangelical creeds and growth of Protestant congregations. The power of the Catholic Church has receded as a substitute government, yet old habits linger on. The Catholic Church in Belize is a hierarcheal structure and has never supported or promoted self government, local autonomy, or greater participatory democracy. One would assume this may be a worldwide phenomena, but it is not so. In Zambia the Catholic Church has been very formative in fostering community participation through discussion groups and development projects among the rural base congregations. Indeed, the role it is playing in Zambia in encouraging horizontal local governing linkages among parishoners for political participatory democracy, challenges the hierarchical institution whose rigidities block the formation of social capital. Nearly all the church associations in Zambia are operating programs of Civics education at local levels nationwide. The subject of the rights of citizens are foremost in local churches. Wish it could happen in Belize. An interesting phenomena in Zambia is that most voters do not carry party cards. The citizens prefer non partisan nonalignment. This is also accompanied by low voter turnout. In Belize, the two major political party elites continue to use parties to divide the population. Between us and them attitude. Colored flags, slogans and hatred are common among the rank and file. The party system in Belize is contrary to Belizean Development and pro-political party development and partisanship. The party elites continue to encourage limited education among their rank and file voters, counting on their ignorance to allow themselves to be regimented and brainwashed with slogans, so that voters are ill prepared to make an informed political choice. This is consistant with top-down ruler/leader single-party wins the government rule worldwide. It is easier to control citizens and their behavior when they are ill informed. Such a system is good for a party based on greed and self enrichment opportunism, but lousy for a nation needing development.
Angry with the UDP for failing to implement political reform during their term in office and unhappy with the pace of progress of political reform promised in what appears to be an excercise in DOUBLE SPEAK by the PUP. A small group of citizens are gearing up for a contest in the next elections in four years, as a Belize Reform Party. No one, apparently wants to really enter the political arena, but progress and Belize Development is going to have to be won either by a political contest for the minds and hearts of the voters, or by armed revolution which is the historical result for such events. The only other solution is that the PUP will show leadership like they did under George Price and break with tradition making a new political operating structure for Belize. The next nine months will tell if the PUP have any intention of reforming the political structure of Belize. Hoping that they will, the Belize Reform Party Exploratory Committee has published it's second rough draft of a manifesto. If the PUP want to adopt it, that is fine, but failing that, it will be the subject of contention in the next elections.
Belize Governing Restructuring.
1) To be an elected body with a gender quota. One female and one male Senator from each of the six districts.PARLIAMENT
1) Reduced elected representatives to two years service.CABINET
1) Will be limited to six cabinet posts, by direct ballot from the national population.PRIME MINISTER
1) The Prime Minister will be elected by popular ballot on a national scale.LOCAL DISTRICT GOVERNMENTS
1) Local District Government will be comprised of a District Commission of seven independently elected members.CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW LEGISLATION
1) Establish legislation calling on a 20 year cyclical review of the Constitution to bring it up to date to modern times and social issues.THE ISSUE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND COMPENSATION
1) Cancell all gratuities (tips) and pensions now existing for elected politicians. The subject must be debated and restructured under the new style of governing, with compensation set by the revised Belize Government.BALLOTING
1) Balloting will be set up, so that it can be carried out, if necessary, up to four times a year at local voting stations. 2) Prohibit the advertising of party affiliation at balloting stations and areas. 3) Re-vamp the electoral divisions legislation and districts.LEGISLATION TO BOOST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
1) Abolish the income tax.POLICE SYSTEM RE-STRUCTURING
1) Pass legislation authorizing District governments, town governments and village governments to elect their own police chiefs and hire their own constables. There will be some matching grants set by a sitting committee of the parliament. Needs to be passed as legislation. Police chief elected terms wil be for two years.DEFENSE
1) District training militia's will be established for the defense of the country, with mandatory service for all adults between 18 and 45 years of age.CRIMINALITY AND CRIME
1) Revise the gun laws, to allow all people to own guns who wish to.GENERAL STUFF:
1) Make the Justice of Peace position, a license. Available to any qualified applicant for a fee.