By Wellington C Ramos
There was never a time in my country of Belize’s history, where a general election was so important like the one that is coming up on Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
I have always listened to many of our leaders speaking about what they would like to accomplish for the citizens of our country during their tenure in office. I have never heard any of them committing themselves to provide full-time employment to all of our citizens. They know that If; the citizens of our country are unemployed; they will not be in the position to provide for themselves and their families and this will leave the burden on the government. A caring government should always make full employment its top priority.
Any government that does not have this issue on the top of their list is embarking on a wild goose chase. Maybe, if the governments of Belize had this issue at the top of their agenda when they first came into office, crime would not be escalating in Belize at the rate it is today and our people’s living conditions would be much better today. I have looked at several studies over the years and it is documented that there is a direct relationship between crime and unemployment.
When a government has failed to provide meaningful employment to its citizens, a majority of the criminals will use that reason as a justification to commit crimes. Knowing my Belizean people, a majority of them will say but how come when we were growing up, we grew up hard and did not have to commit crimes. Well, we grew up in different times and this new generation is a lot different from the people who grew up during our time. A majority of our young people are exposed to different issues that we were not exposed to when we were growing up. The issues that they are currently exposed to, are what shape their thoughts and influence their actions. Some things as parents and guardians we have control of but a majority of them we lack control over.
The common cry in Belize among some people is that; this young generation is lazy, and they do not want to do anything but beg, sell drugs, be gang members and steal. There might be some truth to this, but time and situations have changed in our country, in all the other countries in the Caribbean and the rest of the world also. It is not the responsibility of the private sector to provide full employment to the citizens of a country. That burden of the incentives lies on the government. This happens through a long-term plan that gives incentives to private businesses to invest their funds in the economy.
Businesses will then have the opportunity to make profits for themselves and expand their businesses. A person that has money to invest will not spend his or her money until they have evaluated a government’s incentive package. If they conclude that there is nothing in the package for them, then they will just sit on the sideline and hold on to their money until the government comes out with a package that is favorable to them. Most businesses are attracted to tax incentives, inducements and business loans. In Belize, there were several of these given to political parties’ cronies, who were not legitimate businesspeople over the years and the taxpayers’ money went to waste. The Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is allegedly bankrupt.
Some of these businesses and individuals, still owe the Belizean taxpayers and they are not being pursued their outstanding debts due to their affiliations with The People’s United Party (PUP) and United Democratic Party (UDP). This is a huge revenue loss to the people and country of Belize that we cannot afford. That same money owed, could have been given to a legitimate business owner or used for programs to provide jobs to many of our citizens. Giving businesses reasonable tax incentives for hiring people is a wise thing to do. The incentive should be measured and monitored because it will take away from the government’s revenue.
The UDP government of Belize years ago came out with a comprehensive plan to combat crime. It was impressive but it did not work. If that plan was backed up by a similar plan to deal with unemployment, land reform, lot acquisition, housing, farming and small business loans, it will be difficult for them to lose re-election. Belizeans are tired of seeing foreigners come into their country and given lands, while they are asked to fill out applications wait for years and never hear back anything from the lands department. Plus, when they go to Belmopan there is no record that they ever applied for any lot or land while watching the foreigners. Squatting, taking lots and lands at will, living in their new homes and forcefully taking lands to do their farming. If Belizeans do the same thing, the police and the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) is called to remove them from the lands.
Even when you own a lot or land in Belize, it takes you years to get Certificate of Title, a document introduced to replace the Fiat system to show legal proof of land ownership. The lands department in the country of Belize, is totally disorganized, mismanaged, inept and presumable ‘corrupt’. This has been the case under PUP and UDP for years where they look after their, family, friends, cronies and rich foreigners’ interest only.
There is enough land in Belize to give every Belizean citizen living in Belize, the United States and abroad a lot and farm land so that they can own a part of their country and be proud citizens of Belize, so what is causing this big delay? The ministers of trade, industry, labor, agriculture, commerce and foreign affairs must now get together and formulate a comprehensive package to tackle unemployment investments and development in Belize. I have not seen any statistics on what Belize’s unemployment rate is. I estimate it is over 25 percent.
With the current coronavirus pandemic, it has increased to the point where the applications for unemployment benefits are more than what the government can deal with. Whenever the government releases its poverty rate, despite the conservative number, it is always alarming and this is because of the unemployment situation, which has a major impact on most of the citizens’ social and economic conditions. If a government of Belize can get a commitment to establish about three large industrial factories in each district and offer lots and farmlands to a majority of the unemployed residents of Belize City to build a home and do farming elsewhere, the country of Belize would become a more prosperous nation.
Belize City is old and is suffering from serious urban decay and decline. I lived in Belize City many years ago and it is a different City today. During my time it was the best place to live and enjoy yourself.
To live in a City just to say you live in a city, where you do not have a job, a lot or a home and you feel unsafe and insecure is not worth it. A person should always aim to get a job and then own a lot and a home to live with his or her family. In real estate, a person who has a home is always looking for a peaceful, quiet and enjoyable environment to live. I still believe that our country of Belize can be a better place than what it is today but for that to happen, we need to get the Belizeans who are nationalistic, committed, qualified and possess the human resources to be at the helm of our future developmental planning to make it happen.
Most of Belize’s human and financial resources live in the United States. The sooner the political parties and the government of Belize tap them, the faster they will have many of our problems resolved. For any Belizean or government to think, that we can survive without their resources, they are making a huge mistake. The current experience is demonstrating this reality. The lines at the financial institutions to pick up money are long. Before America became a powerful nation in the world, the founding fathers sat down and planned out America’s future and a path to world dominance.
Unlike, our country of Belize where there seems to have been no planning for our future economic development and sustainability for years to come. Both the PUP and UDP have our country with a debt of $3 billion since our independence 39 years ago. None of these political parties, have presented us with a comprehensive plan as to how they intend to pay off their accumulated debts over the years.
Yet, they are coming around again with another manifesto, to tell us what they are going to do for us and our country if we continue to re-elect them when they know we are broke. My people, this is the most important election in our nation’s history. We cannot afford to continue selling our votes to the UDP and PUP, to give them power and control over our children and our lives no more.
They have had too many chances and have failed us severely. We need to now give the Belize People’s Front (BPF) a chance. Why? Because UDP and PUP have been given eight chances since independence and nothing much have changed with our living conditions. Five years is many years and when we multiply it by the time they have served as our government it is about 40 years. We cannot live on false promises, hopes and dreams when we have our bills to pay and our families to take care of. Some of us have a cell phone with no minutes to make a call to get help. They are no longer our elected representatives but civilians just like us because the House of Representatives is now dissolved.
It is now left to each and every one of us to decide if we want to re-elect or send any one of them to Belmopan. I know that there were times during the last five years when you wanted to see some of them, and they did not want to see you. You can make your life much easier, by voting them out of office so you do not have to make an appointment to see them again. The decision on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, is in our hands.
Please do not keep changing these people back and forth to replace each other and expect any significant changes. If you make that mistake again, I can guarantee you all that your situations will not change but remain the same. Who is going to be the Belizeans in our country and abroad, to sit down and plan out our peoples’ and nation’s future? I ask that it begin with us on election day. If they do not have a plan to pay off our debt, they are not serious about solving our problems.