Belize unsustainable debt burden

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Wellington C Ramos is an Adjunct Professor History and Political Science, Educator and Columnist

By Wellington C Ramos

When Belize achieved self-government from Great Britain under the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1964, it was the government responsibility to formulate a Long Term Sustainable Economic Comprehensive Plan (LTSECP) for the people and the nation’s future. The British and the government of Belize knew the United Nations were ready to approve Belize’s independence. The Belize government also knew that gaining independence meant, less dependency on Great Britain and taking care of the people and the nation.

If a country does not have the means to take care of itself, it should not ask for independence. If the Colonial country is forcing them into independence, they should demand a financial commitment to sustain their economy over a period of time until economic growth is achieved. The government of Belize requested independence, without the economic means and with the Guatemalan threat still hanging over the people and nation.

On September 21, 1981, (17-years after self-government) Belize accepted independence from Great Britain and life has not been the same since. Before independence, we were surviving on the assistance received from Great Britain. The British government gave an annual subvention. They also committed troops because of the Guatemalan threat.

After Belize achieved independence, the British relieved themselves from financial and military obligations. In 1984 the PUP called elections. The economy was not doing great and the Belizean people voted the PUP out of office for the United Democratic Party (UDP). Guatemala began reasserting its claim on Belize. The Esquivel administration focused on several economic reform policies, to grapple with the nation’s debts while hoping for growth. Paying off debts while struggling to achieve growth, is the most difficult task for any government to face. It takes time to build an economy to make it sustainable.

Belize has great economic potential with its natural resources and people, but there must be a plan of action. On September 4, 1989, the PUP was elected, winning by a margin of 15 to 13 seats.

Irrespective of which political party governs Belize, a Long Term Sustainable Economic Comprehensive Plan (LTSECP) is needed.

This plan should be focused on the following:

  • Maximizing natural resources to produce goods and services;
  • Pass environmental laws and indigenous land rights;
  • Invest in education;
  • Issue small business loans;
  • Decrease dependency on foreign goods;
  • Campaign finance reform;
  • End nepotism; End corruption;
  • Provide incentives for job creation:
  • Increase foreign reserves assets;
  • Right-size the public service (government employees);
  • Reduce the debt stock;
  • Facilitate investment opportunities;
  • Include citizens who live abroad in the country’s development.

Belize has a small population and a program that includes these issue will work for the people and nation.

Since independence in 1981, replacing UDP for PUP back and forth – have not made any significant change in our people’s living conditions and paying off our nation’s unsustainable debt.

Belize cannot continue to borrow money and expect to solve its financial problems. Reducing the current $4 billion debt must be a priority. With the amount of money owed, there is little to show for it. This is what we call wasteful and reckless spending of taxpayers money.

On the other hand, it could have given every Belizean man and woman a small loan of $50,000.00 to start/own their businesses, created jobs for the unemployed Belizean, build affordable housing for the homeless, granted free education to every child in Belize.

Only a few Belizean families and businesses have benefitted from the nation’s huge debt. Now, the government want all of us to make sacrifices. What type of democracy is this?

Teachers and civil servants are on strike to stop the salary decrease and increment freeze. The government, teachers and civil servants will all reach a compromise soon, but that will not resolve the nation’s problems. It does not matter how you slice the cake, debts have to be paid when owed and the government cannot pay their debts and sustain these salaries.

It is the government’s responsibility to solve the problem and not the teachers and civil servants. The problem is that the UDP and PUP play musical chairs managing the nation. The result is the same – more debt. The unions have been supporting these two political parties for decades.

The teachers and the civil servants should look towards a new political party to govern Belize. If not, they will be doing this over and over again. When you find yourself doing the same things, over and over, you must change the way you are doing things, and find ways to fix particular issues.

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